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Shedding light on life for the visually impaired

Exhibition aims to tackle prejudices by offering a different view of the city's sights and sounds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 4:52am

Waves lapping lazily against a Star ferry; the scent of damp grass and humid heat permeating Hong Kong Park; crossing a busy street to shop for hardware in Tsim Sha Tsui - these are not novel sights to the average Hong Kong resident, but how might things change when these sights cannot be seen?

"Discover Hong Kong in the Dark" is a 75-minute experiential exhibition that defamiliarises "the unique elements of Hong Kong by bringing it into a dark space", according to Ramona Lam Mung-wa, customer experience manager at social enterprise Dialogue in the Dark HK Ltd (DiD).

The tours are guided by visually impaired employees, and are set in an interactive environment designed to tackle prejudices and show what life is really like for blind people in Hong Kong.

DiD is working with Birket Engineering, the electrical and software engineer for Hong Kong Disneyland. Birket designer Tim Swieter said he was "glad to find people that want to apply the skills of storytelling and technology to bring awareness to this issue".

Alex Chan Chi-kong, a DiD workshop trainer with only 2-3 per cent of his vision left, said the government did not do enough to support the visually impaired in Hong Kong.

"Barrier-free facilities are provided in the MTR and on most pedestrian footpaths, but there still is much work to be done, particularly in private properties," he said.

Chan said there was also a lack of support for visually impaired people within tertiary education and job training.

"Western universities offer a lot of support for translation of books into electronic or Braille format, but in Hong Kong, the process is inefficient and slow, often leaving a lot of students waiting and forcing them to delay their curriculum," he said.

"Before the handover in 1997, the British implemented many inclusionary volunteer programmes and translation jobs in support of the blind, but things have remained stagnant since then," Chan said.

Debby Shing Ying-chui of the Social Alliance Communications Consultancy is organising the event. She hopes to spread a "positive message of social change in the media".

Eunice Hui Lok-see works part-time at DiD. She remains optimistic that more will be done for the visually impaired.

At the end of each tour, she tells the participants: "Now we are going back to the light, back to your world."

"Discover Hong Kong in the Dark" runs from July 1 to September 30 at Shop 215, 2/F, Nob Hill Square, 8 King Lai Path, Mei Foo, Kowloon.

Prices for adults are HK$150 for weekdays and HK$180 at weekends. There is a half-price discount for students, seniors and those under 18.