Today for a cohesion activity, our entire office trooped down to Ngee Ann Poly for a Dialogue in the Dark.
Basically what happens is this: They give you a blind man's cane and stick you with a tour guide, who is also visually impaired, then throw you all into this pitch black room with no source of light at all. So you're basically blind for the hour as you maneuver your way across terrain that blind people usually have to go through in real life: a park, Clarke Quay, a food court and a city street.
Honestly, I've had this idea before. We almost come up with something similar with CMPS (Hey! Remember that?) a couple years ago. I've always thought that people don't design with handicap-friendly features more often because they don't have any idea how difficult it is being disabled. I had been toying with the idea of wearing a blindfold for a day to test myself, or maybe even doing it for a charitable cause. But I've never had a good friend (or understanding family) to manage the safety of this dangerous operation.
This experience was totally worth it. I have been completely in the dark once before, crawling through underground tunnels in Vietnam, but that was nothing compared to today's experience. I found it very interesting to attempt to move around like a blind person. I believe it's much easier, physically, to do so if you could see before but got blinded somewhere along the way, because you're familiar with shapes and stuff so you could probably visualise everything you're feeling or hearing. I can't begin to imagine what people who are blind from birth think when they feel or smell or hear. What visualisations come to their mind?
Being blind was one experience, but being in a group of other newly blind people was quite fascinating as well. One thing I noticed is that people tend to talk louder when they can't see. Perhaps it's because they feel the need to compensate for the loss of one sense, or the small narrow corridors which amplified the sounds, or maybe it was just my ears compensating for the lack of sight. The other thing I noticed is that we always need to know the person we bump into, whether from in front or behind. It might be a carry-over from normal society, where you need to apologise profusely for such rude behaviour. Or maybe it's just a security thing, that the fear of bumping into something or someone who isn't any of your friends gets exaggerated in the dark.
All in all, I think it was an awesome experience. I'd definitely go for it again, but by myself. It gets crowded in there.
Best case of "blind leading the blind". Ever.
The Edna Man