During a tour of Dialogue Experience, your sense of sight is immediately taken away from you, leaving visitors to solely rely on their other senses: hearing, smell and touch.
Founded by Dr Andreas Heineche in Germany in 1988, it is a social enterprise, led by visually impaired individuals.
Visitors are placed inside a completely dark room. A visually impaired tour guide will guide visitors through the exhibit, where they will need to cross roads, buy groceries and complete other day-to-day tasks.
Three of our junior reporters visited Dialogue Experience Hong Kong to take part in its 75-minute Family Tour, which was designed to help people feel what it’s like to live without sight.
Dialogue in the Dark is a unique experience that brings to light the important role played by the visually impaired in society, and shows how their inability to see the world the way we do is not a disability, but a strength.
It was extraordinary to be able to experience the feeling of complete darkness. No matter how wide our eyes were opened, they were as good as being closed. I was slightly uncomfortable at the start, since I was forced to rely only on my four other senses. Although, along the way, we were able to recognise things, not by seeing them, but by how they felt, what we could hear, and what we could smell. I feared the darkness; since I couldn’t “shine any light on the situation”, all I could do was visualise the way things were.
Coming out of the tour was highly disorienting. I realised I should truly cherish the light! The tour did leave me shocked at how incapable we think the visually impaired are. They may just be stronger than any of us, being more in touch with their other senses instead of sight. This made me realise that we shouldn’t underestimate those around us, and left me astounded.
Parul Methi, 14, King George V School
Can you imagine seeing nothing but black for more than an hour? In a nutshell, that’s the Tour in the Dark. You shouldn’t expect to see much (literally), but you can definitely learn a thing or two about how the visually impaired manage without their sight.
For most of us, our days are filled with flashy colours and shapes. We rarely think about what life would be like without our sense of sight. In fact, it’s something we often take for granted. The Tour in the Dark allows you to step into the shoes of a blind person, and into a world where your guide and your walking stick are the only things you can use to navigate. You might feel scared when you first enter the dark. I panicked when I realised I could open my eyes and still see absolutely nothing. Keeping them closed definitely helps with the nerves.
But I was glad I stuck around until the end. When I left the tour, I had a new-found respect and empathy for the blind community: your tiny snapshot is their everyday reality. You gain a sense of understanding and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the gift of vision.
I highly recommend the Tour in the Dark to anyone who wants to see the world from a new perspective. You won’t see anything but darkness, but intellectually, it will be an eye-opening experience.
Joy Lee, 15, South Island School
His name was Daniel, and I’ve never been more happy to hear someone’s voice. I had never even interacted with a blind person before, let alone felt so dependent on one.
“Hello!” a voice called from the darkness. “Follow my voice!”
So we followed him and he didn’t stop talking for a second, constantly calling each of our names to make us feel safe.
How do you get to know someone if you can’t see them? This may be a reasonable question for those with perfect eyesight, but there was an easy answer if you’ve been on the Dialogue tour. Daniel was full of stories. After his brain surgery which left him blind, he said, his worried mother would follow him around on the streets. He would pretend he didn’t know she was there, so as to show his mother he could get around perfectly fine on his own.
Light is often associated with enlightenment and hope; darkness with doubt and evil. However, our world, full of people with 20/20 vision, is rife with bias towards the blind. In the darkness, we were able to cast away prejudice, while Daniel was empowered to share his life experiences. As Daniel simply put it, “In the darkness, there is equality”.
Iris Lee, 15, Hong Kong International School