When I first heard of The Blind Cafe, I have to be honest that I was a little uncertain if I wanted to do it. I would be spending two hours eating dinner with strangers in complete darkness. I read more about the cause and pushed myself to move past my uncomfortable feelings to experience a truly incredible event. I work with several people with disabilities, including two who are legally blind, and I wanted to see if I could try to experience the world from their view, even if just for a few hours. We often take for granted things like vision, and I really wanted to get the most out of this experience.
When I got there, the very friendly staff greeted me and gave me the low down on important questions (yes, I could ask for help if I needed to go to the bathroom). I was given a glass of Chardonnay while I mingled with other curious dinner guests while we waited to go in the unknown darkness. The outgoing blind host introduced himself, and I could tell from his sense of humor that the evening would be fun.
We were led in groups of eight people to a table by putting our hand on the person’s shoulder in front of us. When I say it was dark, I mean completely, 100% pitch black. I can’t remember the last time I haven’t been able to seen my hand in front of me, even in the most remote camping spots. It was a challenge to gather my senses about where I was and what hallways I was going down. I felt completely lost and held on to the poor girl’s shoulder in front of me pretty tight so I didn’t lose my train of people.
The host sat us down by showing us with touch where our chair was, and I could feel a plate of food in front of me. I could hear voices from the tables around me, and could only make a mental guess about how the room was laid out. It was such a strange feeling to eat a full dinner without having any idea of what was on the plate. Everyone tried to help out when they found something on the table, such as “the spoon is in the middle” and “there’s a water bottle to the right of the plate.” Many of us had gotten a bottle of wine to bring with for the dinner. Let me tell you, the challenge of pouring red wine in a cup in the dark is not easy!
I started feeling around my plate to attempt to detect what was there. I tasted what had the texture of potatoes, carrots, and tofu. There were also some surprisingly delicious flavors that were possibly Indian. I was able to use the spoon with ease, but had a hard time lifting up some of the bigger and heavier items. One of the things I took away from the night was that for maybe one of the few times in my life, I stopped eating when I felt full. I couldn’t see what delicious food was left on my plate, so wasn’t tempted by the imagery and really trusted my body’s physical feeling on this one.
After dinner, we had a Q & A session with the host. He very openly and humorously answered questions we had about being blind. A few interesting questions he answered: Being “blind” doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t see out of one or even both of their eyes – that vision is just very, very limited. They don’t necessarily need or want help crossing the street. They can still do things like ride bikes or watch TV (although it may be up close, and they may have to pause it several times to gather what’s going on). No, their other senses aren’t super powered just because their vision is low.
Our host had such a positive attitude on life. He made it very clear that being blind isn’t an “end all,” but simply a disability. He doesn’t feel bad for himself, and he really doesn’t want you to either. To him, it’s simply a struggle that he’s adapted to, and he doesn’t see how it’s any different from other struggles people have in every day life, whether it’s physical or not. He brought up how one of the worst things to deal with is when he’s out with friends and they bring up his blindness. He’s aware he’s blind; he wants to talk about current events, women, and The Walking Dead instead.
We then listened to some music for about half an hour, which I found very soothing. It made me realize how I need to take more time out for myself, by myself, with no distractions to really reflect on my life. We are so glued to our cell phones or the TV sometimes that we don’t have time to think about what’s important in life. In the complete darkness with no phones allowed or visual stimulation of any kind, all we could do was think and reflect.
At the end of the music, a very dim candle came on and we all slowly looked around. It was so crazy to see how the room was actually laid out compared to how I “felt” it was. I thought I was surrounded by a wall behind me and to my left, but actually had a lot of space. It was fun to see the people’s faces at my table that I had been talking to. We had a conversation during dinner about what we thought some people looked like based on voices (most of which were wrong when the lights came on).
This event was really got me thinking. We often take our good health for granted, especially things like being able to see or hear. We tend to focus on small things in life that aren’t going well, but if someone who’s blind can even rock climb (amazing!), we need to change our perspective. I highly recommend this event if you get a chance to attend one in your city. It will give you a new perspective on how you look at life!
This post was sponsored by The Blind Cafe, but all opinions are my own.
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