What It’s Like To Be Blind; Part 1

At one point or another, we’ve all considered what it would be like to live blind.

Inevitably, this curiosity prompts individual experiments in which we attempt to simulate sightlessness. And how are these experiments conducted? By closing our eyes and attempting to walk around the kitchen, living room or whatever environment we happen to be in. But there is a problem with these experiments; they are almost always aborted about 5 seconds in, due to the massive psychic distress caused by having to operate without our usual means of orientation. So our eyes open, we dismiss – or rather, ignore – our immense lack of resolve, and go back to our lives without giving blindness another thought for months, or even years, at which point we repeat the experiment, likely with the same results.

Obviously, little is learned from this experience. It’s too short a trial period to do anything but confirm our belief that being blind is exceedingly difficult and we love our eyesight and all that it does for us.

But what if instead of simply closing our eyes – leaving ourselves an easy out – we plunged ourselves into a world unlit?

Enter: Dialogue in the Dark, a blindness simulation developed in 1988 by the German, Andreas Heinecke. Dialogue in the Dark has traveled the globe in the 23 years since its conception, and is now exhibiting at the South Street Seaport in New York City.

Visitors of Dialogue in the Dark choose one of the exhibition’s two paths, both of which emulate a series of urban environments, including crowded supermarket aisles, busy subway stations, and city streets—in absolute darkness.

The catch is, participants have guides. They are led by the blind.

On its website, Dialogue in the Dark promises “to challenge everything you know,” and that’s what a blindness simulation should do. It should deconstruct your notions of what it means to see and not see, so that those notions may be rebuilt and improved, giving you a new appreciation of your eyesight, your lesser-used senses, and of the visually impaired members of our society.

I have a Dialogue in the Dark ticket punched for this Saturday at the South Street Seaport in New York City. Check back next week for my review.

Until then,

All the best,

Anders Ophair

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