DINING IN THE DARK

An organization in our area is putting on this fund raiser called:
“Dining in the dark.”
The patrons are blindfolded in an attempt to demonstrate what it might be like to be blind. They are blindfolded for the entire meal.
I must admit that I am not “all up in arms” about it like some of my friends.
They are angry because they feel that it does promote a negative picture about what it must be like to be blind.
they have a point.

Sure, we all want sighted people to know what it is like to be blind. We certainly want some empathy. But, mroe than that, we want some understanding that (with the right training and modifications) we can excel just as our sighted peers.
Most sighted people won’t get past the fear and anxiety of being without sight. The cost is $150 a plate.
Here are some opinions from my friends in the nfb.
I’ll try to condense.

From T & H:
We (myself and my wife T) have been a member for around 1 ½ years and not seen a comparable blind awareness opportunity proposed by the NFB. So, I think it is great that Bosma is doing this (even if only in that regard). You may think this is a great way for people ridicule and make fun of the blind. You need to remember that these people are paying $125 a plate; they are paying to help support a cause that is important to them and to have an experience. These people are more likely to enjoy the experience (and take home something positive from it) than to poke fun. People pay good money to swim with sharks; it is easy to point and criticize while you are in the boat. So, let them try it.
It seems like a lot of people think that Dining In The Dark would provide negative perceptions of the blind to attendees as well as people they come into contact with afterward. My theory is those [negative perceptions] are, more often than not, brought upon us by our own:

… … (T Says) I think what is most poignant to me is that this dinner could be a very positive opportunity. I know that many in the NFB are vehemently opposed to such endeavors, however, I think that you have to start somewhere. I am saddened to think that some ideas I or anyone else may have proposed for future awareness opportunities would fall on deaf and prejudiced ears (for instance: setting up an obstacle coarse and providing sleepshades at a fair or providing blind simulation via pictures or tactile objects;

… … I think it is also important to remember that no one is putting on this dinner with the intent to invoke ridicule or to bring about negative afterthoughts. I believe it would be best to reserve judgement of the fundraiser until it is completed lest we jump the gun… …

From D:
[was upset at the media’s portrayal of those who opposed this dining event]
So, let’s fight fire with fire. Let’s conduct some high profile public awareness activities of our own.
Though It would be a humongous undertaking, and I don’t even pretend that I know what would go into getting a training center started, I would love to see us start an NFB training center in Indiana. Does the national organization provide funding for such undertakings? Let’s take some of that money away from Bosma, and provide blind hoosiers with some real training and hilosophy. Let’s give them some training that is going to mean something.

From K:
the very training center used by Indiana’s blind/visually impaired residents raising funds through fear, and miss conception. Seems to me this just promotes the same old blind person as walking in Darkness, and no matter what the intention, that is exactly how the guests will see this(for themselves.)
Maybe we could have a Video montage made of the collective days in the life of a Blind worker, cook, parent, and any number of other things, if not strictly for sail, than at least presented via the media, at a big event such as a big dinner served in the normal style, of course. I can tell you I’d be more than willing to help with any segment of such a presentation.
Walking in Darkness has not been my state, and I have never seen a day in my life I can remember! Walking in Darkness simply doesn’t exist for those who’re willing to change what it means to be blind!! 🙂

From S:
I reject Bosma’s efforts to make something sensational about dining blind.
Just think for a moment: Suppose one of the guests spills her steak and
potatoes into her lap.
That person will be sure she could not accomplish the simple task of eating
a meal; so how could she go out and work if she became blind?
She would have experienced a totally embarrassing, humiliating situation,
and that is what she would carry away.
We all know these embarrassing, humiliating events can and do happen; but
they are not the norm, and we pick up our flattened pride and move on.

If this person were to experience blindness for a longer time, say three
weeks or a month, by that time, she would have gained some proficiency, and
had enough positive experiences to carry the day.
Then she would have enough respect for the process of learning that is
required of all of us, and she might be more likely to consider a blind
person as a candidate for the next job opening in her company.
But with all due respect, this understanding would be very hard to come by
in one evening.
I totally understand those who are deeply offended.
I see the hypocrisy of this organization not using sleepshades for teaching those (who are going blind) learning blindness skills, but being perfectly willing to use them to raise funds.
However, I do also believe that we who are blind are often blind-sided by
what we do not see, and cannot observe; and I do think we need to have an
open, understanding mind.
I don’t necessarily believe that people will come out of this experience
with a negative view of blind people, if it is framed properly.
There has to be a balance, and I’m not sure Bosma is close enough to the
right balance to suit me.

From R:
As to the Dining in the Dark concept; let me give you some background on it. and set tables cook meals, ect.

It became a novel concept when it came to America and we changed the whole concept. We now have sighted customers dining in the dark and dawning sleepshades.This is suppose to give them an experience of what it is like to be blind.
We in the National Federation of the Blind have always opposed the use of sleep shades on a short term bases. The reason is because it promotes in the user fear, anxiety, and amazement at being able to accomplish this task. The NFB has worked hard over the years to dispel the misunderstandings and misconceptions people have about blindness and blind people. We have worked hard to show the general public that we are the average person doing the average job. We don’t want to be looked upon as being amazing people for completing the simplest task.
When well meaning sighted people sell our disability instead of our abilities to the general public they do a dis-service to all blind people. This negative impact promotes hopelessness and helplessness. We as blind people are conditioned to believe in this concept of learned helplessness and we in turn become that in which we believe.
The National Federation of the Blind believes in high expectations for blind people. Therefore it is not out of our realm of thinking that “a blind person will one day go to the moon” because we have members of our organization aspiring to be an astronaut.

From P:
I agree with V, They could have showed blind people working. They could
have had blind people talk about how they are living their lives just like
anyone else. The truth is they just want to make money and they don’t care
what it does to the image of the blind.

My thoughts:
I must concur with R, P, S and K. While the intentions might be to show people what it is like to be blind, their methods will not yield any result except loads of pity and money.
One of my biggest problems with this event is that although they serve the blind community:
they teach them life skills, how to cook, clean, make a meal, balance a check book, make a resume, get a job, etc.
Why couldn’t blind people plan the entire event?
They could have had blind people doing the cooking, serving, cleaning, planning, speaking, public relations, fund raising, etc.
But, after talking to some blind people who work there;
the blind aren’t even involved. They knew nothing about this fund raising event.

After talking to Imran, he was not as upset over this issue. He did agree that they were probably doing this whole dining experience only to make money. And, he did agree that there should be more blind people involved… … ahem, (one blind person would be an accurate description of “more”). But, he thought that we should debate with them quietly.
From what I know, R., our state president has tried and it has not resulted in any changes.
Imran does note that this money will go to help blind people. It will benefit blind people and this is a good thing.
I agree, but at what cost to blind people: their dignity?
And, how much will it benefit blind people? Certainly, it will help them receive some services that are useful. But, will it insure that they will be equal to their sighted peers socially, financially, physically and emotionally?
I know that Imran thinks that the pursuit for dignity is sometimes a pursuit for those who don’t have to worry about “surviving.” Such thoughts and actions are luxuries for those who don’t have to worry about food/shelter/etc.
He feels that such growth will come after the most basic needs are met.
And, in Pakistan, many times, these needs are not met.
Let’s talk about blind people in Pakistan.
Many don’t know braille. Many parents don’t think that there children can do much of anything.
It is not uncommon to see a blind beggar.
Many blind people in Pakistan don’t have jobs. They just don’t have many opportunities.
Yet, I see Imran’s friends.
Now, maybe he has the richest most posh blind friends.
(I guess that I can say this because Ali, Farhan, Salman, Azghar or Naeem) won’t be reading this. (smile) I mean, maybe his friends are those who can afford a computer and learn to use it.
After all, he did go to a private school for the blind.
He and his sister did get an education. Their father thought that it was necessary. I am proud of his father for not writing his children off when he learned of their disability. Their father had faith, determination and wanted something better for his blind children! They went to a private blind school in Lahore. (I should ask him before posting the name of the school, although this article would give it positive press).
From what we hear, this is rare in Pakistan because many of the schools are not as fervent in their desires or expansive in their equipment or financially able to provide their blind children with such an education.
Some obstacles are due to culture, some to economics and some to public and familial attitudes. But, Imran and his sister did receive such an education. They went to regular university and received a degree in economics in Pakistan.
They excelled.
But, not all do.
And, I am quite proud of his friends — the ones who have little to no opportunities, yet still strive for success…. those who continue to look for a job, even when prejudice attitudes are high … … those who learn the computer and programming on their own because there is no agency to teach them… … those who find resources and learn to network just so that they can access information, just as their sighted siblings and friends — (Way to go Ali, Azghar, Naeem, Salman and Farhan). ?There are even a couple of women who also have the desire to excel! (WOOHOO). and Imran, who has done all of this and continues to assist others in this endeavor. I am proud of what he has achieved and what he continues to do for his friends and any other blind person who he comes in contact with. He always tries to find them resources and ways for accessing information and reading.
I love and admire his dedication to assist other blind people in their struggles for knowledge!
That speaks to the servant in me.
And, this makes me think about the library that we talk about starting. We want to start a library for the blind.
This library would provide braille books for blind people to read.
Well, the fire is once again ignited.

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