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Dark Experience: A Taste of Life for the Visually Impaired

May 01, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

When was the last time you experience the complete darkness and how long has it lasted?

Have you imagined what life will be like under the complete darkness?

This April, the Equal Opportunity Unit offered a special tour for HKU students and staff to have a taste of life in complete darkness. With an aim of calling attention to the visually impaired, the tour took place at the Dialogue in the Dark Experiential Exhibition (DiD) in Mei Foo, giving young people a feel of walking, thinking and living in the dark.

The tour started off with some background information about visual impairment, and the Hong Kong Government’s efforts to help the visually impaired. Visitors were also introduced to the basic rules of Braille and taught how to translate English words and numbers into Braille.

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The tour began in groups of eight and and each member was given a guide stick. Everyone was reminded not to bring any devices that emitted light or sound, but we were encouraged to bring some notes for the possible purchase of goods during the tour.

What made the tour unique was that roles were reversed: here, the visually impaired led the way of the sighted. With the guide’s help, the sighted explored the places which were familiar without the use of sight.

In total, there were five settings we explored including strolling along a park, taking a ship at the ferry pier, walking on a normal street in Hong Kong, “watching” a movie in a theater and enjoying drinks in a coffee shop. Members were encouraged to make full use of other sensory organs to feel their surroundings.

The tour was an eye-opener for many of the students, who made optimal use of other senses such as hearing, smell, touch, taste in such complete darkness. The experience really helped in looking back of the lives of brightness we have, and reflecting on what society can do to give better assistance to people with visual impairment.

In my group, throughout the tour, the guide was well-prepared and engaged every member with intensive verbal interactions. At the end of the tour, students were very curious about how the guides put together such an experience.

“How did the guide recognize everyone as his or she spoke? How did the guide know the route to the next destination?… When people finally arrived at the setting of a coffee shop, the notes they prepared worked. But another question: how did the cashier recognize notes in complete darkness?”

The 75-minute tour ended, leaving the participants with all kinds of puzzles. But then came the most valuable part of tour: sharing session.

The trained visually impaired guide who had spent the last 75 minutes with the group was officially introduced. He shared his life as a visually impaired person in Hong Kong, highlighting how the government’s efforts have aided people like him. Other members of the group also shared their feelings in this experience.

“I haven’t touched a car and figured out the shape of so many objects so carefully since I grew up…This brought me back to my early childhood when other senses accounted for more proportion than now.” he said. Other members also expressed their concern about the difficulty of being a visually impair.

When it came to the Q&A session, whoever raised questions, the guides recognized them with great smiles. “Ah, Hi! I remember you.”

At the end of the sharing session, DiD also demonstrated a normal, proper procedure of giving help to the visually impaired in circumstances such as helping them at the crossing. Group members responded that such an experience made them realize the value of being sighted and more importantly, what can be done to make the people who need to live in the dark better off. Inspired by their resistance and optimism towards life, the students pledged to take actions to help the visually impaired.

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(Credit to Joza Kot from the Equal Opportunity Unit)



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