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August 09 Edition Cover

A life-changing experience

31 Aug 2016

A life-changing experience Image

After nearly 30 years, the internationally-acclaimed social enterprise Dialogue in the Dark is coming to Australia and, more specifically, to Docklands.

When the Australian version opens at Harbour Town Shopping Centre early in the new year, it will mark the 40th country where the ground-breaking exhibition can be experienced.

In other countries, the experience is incredibly popular, with waiting lists being common. So Dialogue in the Dark will be a great cultural attraction to bring visitors to our suburb.

A visit to Dialogue in the Dark is to experience life as a blind person. The venue is completely dark and participants are guided by blind people through simulations of iconic Melbourne locations.

Founder Andreas Heinecke explains that the purpose is to facilitate social inclusion for blind and other disabled people.

“With dialogue, there is no darkness,” he said.

Mr Heinecke said the experience was life-changing for many. The roles of able-bodied and disabled are reversed during the session.

“In the dark you are so happy if you recognise something within your own context,” he said.

He said that sighted participants felt enormous gratitude to their blind guides during the experience. The guides also benefited through increased self-esteem and paid employment.

“Gratitude and admiration evolves from that: social distance changes into interest and pity into respect,” he said.

“Dialogue in the Dark gives a fresh impetus – one that alters thinking patterns, makes stereotypes disappear and creates a new accessibility to the unique world of blind people.”

“One’s own values and ideas are questioned, limitations are experienced and, through the encounter with people of another culture and life-reality, a dialogue is developed that goes far beyond the visit of the exhibition.”

The exhibition will be housed in the former Laser Tag space on level 2 near the Melbourne Star.

In Australia, Dialogue in the Dark is being created and managed by Guide Dogs Victoria. The organisation expects to take possession of the Harbour Town space shortly and begin construction in time for a March opening.

Anticipation surrounds the choice of Melbourne icons to be used in the exhibit.

A betting person would expect, perhaps, Flinders Street Station and a Melbourne tram. Mr Heinecke playfully suggested that maybe a kangaroo would not be out of place!

 

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