Close your eyes and attempt to read this.
You can’t? Can you?
That’s what life is like for the visually impaired.
Guided by a visually impaired tour guide, small tour groups are led through different rooms in total darkness that feature everyday situations.
Upon entering the exhibition without the assistance of a white cane you instantly feel for the walls as the light behind you disappears.
The carpet turns into gravel and you walk into a big tree you didn’t notice in front of you. You slowly feel your way around and find a bench to rest on. You discover you’re in a park.
As you exit the park, you enter an area where the guide instructs you to sit down on a bench. The floor begins to sway as you feel a light spray of water on your face and the sound of the ocean fills your ears.
The ‘boat’ docks and you enter a door into a cabin. There are multiple rooms to explore.
The most interactive part of the tour is a visit to the market. The group is given time to have a feel for which vegetables and fruits are available at the market. As the guide instructs you on what item to pick up, you are told to find the bicycle parked somewhere in the market to dispose of the produce into its basket.
Nevertheless, the tour is not all fun and games. The most difficult situation you are put through is manoeuvring your way across a road. It’s difficult to pinpoint the perfect moment to navigate yourself to the other side guided only by the sounds of cars and trucks passing by.
On the other hand, the most relaxing and sensory-bending part of the tour is the ‘music room’. The group is instructed to sit down on the carpeted floor as classical music streams throughout the room. Amazingly, the timbre of the music is more distinct than at a concert or listening to music on your iPod because the visual distractions of your everyday life have been removed.
The tour concludes with a bar where you can buy non-alcoholic drinks and snacks. The bar person tells you what items are on the menu, you order and then you pay.
Before exiting the exhibition, the items you bought at the bar are consumed during a round table discussion where guests ask the tour guide about the life of a visually impaired individual.
The tour goes for over an hour, however with no clocks or watched around it feels like you’re in there for 10 minutes! You leave the darkness in a state of confusion…..
Overall, the exhibition is a mind bending experience. I found myself continually bumping into my friends because I was unaware they were standing in front of me; you had to rely solely on following the guides voice and feeling your way around. If you felt lost the tour guide knew where you were by your voice.
Conveniently located within the same vicinity is the Invitation to Silence exhibition, where groups are guided by hearing impaired individuals.