Dialog in the Dark: Your Senses Will Never be the Same

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During a recent visit to Atlanta my family and I toured the amazing exhibit “Dialog in the Dark,” already viewed by thousands in 22 countries and over 130 cities throughout the world.  It’s the most interesting show you will never see.

In this ground-breaking exhibition, a visually impaired guide leads participants who are fitted with canes, on a journey through a series of darkened galleries created to replicate everyday experiences. Without familiar sight clues, visitors learn to “see” in a completely new way with their non-visual senses.

This truly remarkable, life-changing journey includes experiencing a garden, grocery store and restaurant, all without eyesight.  My brother, mother and I smelled the flowers, shopped for vegetables, and bought beverages, all in pitch-black. We were forced to feel, touch, smell, listen and use our muscles and joints for information because our eyes simply perceived no light.

As many of you know, I have been interested in vision for over 20 years.  This extraordinary experience, which deprived me of my dominant sense, was extremely challenging and informative.  At first I strained and stretched my eyes, trying to make sense of life without light.  Finally, I found that closing my eyes gently was the best way to tell my brain to stop trying to process this sense. Soon after I closed my eyes, I was astounded to find myself rocking back and forth.  Clearly, my brain needed some movement sensation to stay alert in the total darkness.

With my eyes closed, and my body rocking, I was finally able to concentrate on the other senses.  I felt the ground change from grass (in the garden) to concrete (in the grocery store) to carpet (in the restaurant).  My guide helped me use my hands instead of my eyes to choose groceries, find money to pay for my purchases, and to listen to my working senses that gave clues to where I was in space.

I knew I depended upon my eyesight heavily; taking it away left me seriously impaired. However, more than ever, I was keenly aware of the difference between eyesight and vision.  Even though I could not “see,” I was “seeing” in my mind’s eye by using touch, hearing and movement. I could “see” the slope of the ramps, the shape of the vegetables, the blooms on the plants.  What an amazing human brain that can turn sensory experiences into visual images!

Know anyone in Atlanta?  Visiting there any time soon?  Be sure and check out “Dialog in the Dark.” According to the brochure, “it’s an experience certain to awaken your senses, challenge hidden prejudices, and deepen self-awareness by breaking through stereotypes to promote respect and tolerance in an engaging and lighthearted way.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Go to www.DialogTickets.com to see where else to view this traveling show. Anyone interested in those with disabilities, and students of all ages should be required to experience this hour-long trip that lasts a lifetime.

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