I remember when I was a little girl and we used to play this game, “would you rather be blind or deaf.” I think at that young age, I had no idea what I was talking about, it was just something we used to think about at school. But turn the clock forward 30 years and I got the opportunity to visit the Dialogue in the Dark exhibition at Sci-Bono in Newtown which put things into perspective for me and enabled me to give it some serious thought.
In a nutshell, the visitors are led by visually impaired guides through a series of specially constructed and totally darkened galleries, where sound, temperature, wind and texture in the completely dark environment allows one to learn to interact by relying on other senses.
Sounds easy, right? Wow! Nothing prepared me for the experience. In the first few minutes of entering the exhibition, my whole body screamed inside and I wanted out! I was frightened. I panicked. Nothing prepared me for the experience. I was quite surprised how I was forced to rely on my other senses. It was completely dark. Even with my eyes wide open, I could see nothing. Nothing…
It’s an experience I cannot describe. It’s an experience that only once you’ve been through the exhibition, can you really understand what it must be like to be blind. It was an eye-opener (eish!) to see (yikes!) what blind people live with every day of their lives and how we take the smallest things, such as a walk through a park and buying a drink at a bar, for granted. Try doing that as a blind person.
The experience was so humbling too and I have a renewed appreciation for my sight. I learnt something about myself. Being forced into a situation such as that, I realized how quickly and easy it was to rely and trust others, something I don’t typically do. But being blind, you have no choice. I also found a sense of comfort in holding on to someone and constantly hearing their voice – Completely opposite to how I cope.
In future, I’ll think twice when seeing a blind person because their lives are a lot more challenging than what we realise. They’re also a lot stronger and braver than I am. That’s for flippin’ sure!