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Monday, October 10, 2011

"Dialog in the Dark"

I recently attended an exhibit at the NYC South Street Seaport called "Dialog in the Dark" where for 45 minutes or so you go through the exhibit experiencing what it's like to be blind.

Of course, 45 minutes of experiencing blindness could never approximate the actual experience of being blind. But this exhibit does an amazing job, giving you a sense of what it's like.

Before you enter the exhibit, you are shown various videos about blindness and you are instructed on how to use a cane. Then, you enter into a waiting area where your blind guide, who will be leading you through the exhibit, greets you. Our guide was a wonderfully patient and upbeat man, Kerry. From the sound of our voices, he was able to identify each of the seven of us.

Then, the lights dimmed slowly and we found ourselves in total darkness. It was so dark that you can't even see your own hand in front of you--let alone the person who might be ahead or behind you. Using our canes, we listened for Kerry's voice as he directed us to move forward through an open door. He assured us that he knew every inch of the exhibit and that there was nothing to worry about--he would help us get through it.

The feeling of being totally blind and dependent upon a blind guide was surreal. Using our other senses--hearing, touch, smell--along with Kerry's help and our canes, we navigated our way through various "places," including Central Park, Fairway grocery store, the NYC subway, Times Square, and a cafe.

Although your rational mind might know that you're really in any of these "places", the exhibit is so true to life that your emotional mind and your imagination put you in those places. The "subway" felt particularly real with the sounds and motion of a moving train.

It's amazing how you can lose your sense of time when you're in total darkness and you're focusing so deeply on just trying to get from Point A to Point B.

To get a sense of what it's like to get around NYC as a blind person is truly an unforgettable experience that all adults should try. I won't give away all of the experiences in the exhibit because I highly recommend that you experience it for yourself. But one of the unique things that all of us experienced was that, by the time we were almost through the exhibit, we were each using some internal sense beyond our ordinary senses to navigate around.

Afterwards, Kerry sat with us in the "cafe" and answered questions. He told us about his own experience of losing his sight when he was a teenager. Amazingly, he was very positive and upbeat with a jovial sense of humor. We were all quite moved by him. From the reviews that I've read, there are 16 blind guides who have been trained for the NYC exhibit and it has been said that all of them are excellent.

At the end of the exhibit, the lights come back on again slowly. We were all grateful for our sight and we came away with a new appreciation for how challenging it is to get around NYC as a blind person.

If you're concerned about your safety, you're told before you enter the exhibit that they have special cameras throughout the exhibited where people are watching--just in case someone falls down or gets in trouble. But Kerry told us that thousands of people have come to the NYC exhibit as well as their exhibits around the world, and they have yet to have an incident.

This exhibit was developed by Andreas Heinecke, a German journalist and filmmaker. He was awarded the Ashoka Fellowship Award for his work as a social entrepreneur. In his 2008 TED talk, he talked about what inspired him to develop this exhibit.

To find out more about "Dialog in the Dark" and their various exhibits around the world, go to their website: http://www.dialogue-in-the-dark.com.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.