Have You Done It In The Dark? Dialogue in the Dark™ Opens In Australia!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live without sight? Now you can experience it – if only for an hour. Dialogue in the Dark™ is an Australian first (opening in Melbourne to the public at the start of June), and it’s easily one of the most amazing encounters of my life.
This groundbreaking new immersive exhibition is a partnership with Guide Dogs Australia, and will no doubt radically alter perceptions about what life is like for the visually impaired. It plunges visitors into total darkness, abruptly forcing them to rely upon all their other senses in order to navigate their way around everyday scenarios.
Several replicated Melbourne environments have been custom-built in the facility at Harbour Town in Docklands. They include a tram, a city intersection, Birrarung Marr’s park and bridge, the Queen Victoria market, and an apartment, but if you ask me, I might as well have been walking in circles inside a cupboard, that’s how extreme my spatial disorientation was once I didn’t have any sight.
One of the best aspects of Dialogue in the Dark™ is that it’s a complete reversal of roles: people with sight are led by blind guides. The guides have a difficult task – to translate an alien world without images to the temporarily blind participants, while demonstrating how their lifestyle is in no way poorer to ours, merely different.
Our guide was a jovial middle-aged man, whose friendly and funny banter made our group of seven feel at ease as we edged our way into the pitch black, each with a white cane in hand. He was also open to fielding any questions we had, either about the tour itself or something more personal about his life without vision.
We took our two teenage daughters along, thinking it was a great social experiment that could increase their empathy, but not realising how much it would impact us as adults too! I found myself constantly fighting a fear of the unknown that threatened to overpower me at every step. Was I about to bump into something? Was I going to touch something that might hurt me, or something I might break? Even the physical and social aspects that we take for granted of avoiding touching or colliding into other people became impossible, as we fumbled along in the dark, with lots of cries of “Oops, sorry!”
The sound of our guide’s voice was the only thing that kept us on track, as he issued simple instructions such as, “Keep to the right of my voice” while we moved from room to room and tried desperately to make our own internal picture of where we were.
Dialogue in the Dark™ is a ‘whole body’ experience, with your awareness of sounds, smells, textures, temperatures and tactile sensations all heightened. It also tests your ability to interact and communicate with other participants, which can feel like a foreign concept in this day and age of ‘heads down’, where we are glued to mobile phones and social media!)
The first Dialogue in the Dark™ experience opened in Germany in 1989, and to date has employed more than 10,000 vision-impaired guides across 39 countries. It’s suitable for children aged 9 and over (accompanied by an adult), and all participants must leave any light emitting devices such as mobile phones and watches in the secure lockers at the entrance to ensure the experience really is in total darkness.
While it’s not the cheapest thing you’ll do this year, it’s certainly worth it for the unique insights that you simply can’t get anywhere else.
More than nine million sighted people around the world have completed the Dialogue in the Dark™ experience. Are you game?