By Nicole Davis

After 25 years, ​39 countries, and 132 cities, the worldwide social enterprise phenomenon

​Dialogue in the Dark is now open as a permanent exhibition at Harbour Town Docklands, Melbourne.

Dialogue in the Dark™ is an immersive experience in total darkness through which, led by blind guides, guests interact and communicate relying solely on their other senses. Visitors to the exhibition lose the sense they rely on the most – their vision- as they touch, feel, hear and explore the unseen and learn to “see” in complete darkness as they discover an iconic Melbourne like never before.

Guests are armed only with a white cane while a blind guide provides skilled leadership through life’s everyday challenges and activities. Within a 60 min tour experience, guests will discover how to orientate and move themselves in the dark, identify the world around them through the other senses and collaborate without sight.

In Australia, Dialogue in the Dark ™ has partnered with Guide Dogs Australia (GDA) whose mission is to provide independence to Australians with low vision or blindness. Karen Hayes, CEO Guide Dogs Victoria has led the way for bringing this globally renowned exhibition to Australia.  “This is a wonderful opportunity for GDV to be able to offer meaningful job and social inclusion opportunities for people who are blind and vision impaired, and ultimately, for the sighted community to really take a walk in the shoes of someone with vision impairment,” said Ms. Hayes.

Guides range in ages from 21-55 years and are from all walks of life with one thing in common; the desire for independence, inclusion and gainful employment opportunities. “I always had difficulty accepting the term ‘disabled’, says guide and Positive Vision Educator Maribel Steel.  “We are just in the limelight, but everyone has a disability in this life. ‘Teaching the sighted what they are capable of without sight will go a long way in changing perceptions of how we live.”

“The general public is often hesitant to engage with us,” says guide Francois Jacobs. ‘There is an apprehension of what you should and shouldn’t do. ‘I look forward to teaching people that they don’t need to have a glum view of the blind. ‘Blindness is just another attribute and as soon as you can cope with what affects your life, the happier you will be.”

The first Dialogue in the Dark™ experience opened in Germany in 1989. Founded by Andreas Heinecke in 1988 he was asked to develop work training for a young journalist who had lost his eyesight. With no previous experience working with the disabled, Heinecke questioned how life could be lived fully with no vision and then understood the prejudices that the sighted can hold. Understanding the true potential of a person living with vision impairment, he designed a whole body experience for the vision impaired to lead the fully sighted through everyday life. Each exhibition caters to a customised and detailed version of the city in which it is located via unique sounds, landscapes and attractions.

Workshops for corporate and school groups are available for more hands-on experiential and non-visual perception teaching. Led by blind or vision impaired facilitators, groups are encouraged to work together to enhance problem-solving, communication, team-building and social skills. For more information visit www.dialogueinthedark.com.au


Article first appeared in SourceKids