Community event raises funds, awareness for visually impaired
Dining in the Dark
Blindfolded dining helps community members learn about disability and raise funds for the disabled community at Dining in the Dark.
Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2016 11:19 pm
In a dark ballroom, the Bryan Valley Center for Independent Living will serve up a three-course meal and new appreciation for the visually impaired.
Dining in the Dark, hosted by BVCIL, invites the citizens of Bryan-College Station to eat diner in complete darkness this Saturday. The annual event, which is in its fifth year, is used to educate the community on the lives of the visually impaired as well as raise money for BVCIL.
Kaitlyn Kellermeyer, an economics senior, helped train the volunteers working the event.
“When the event begins, people are lined according to table number and brought behind a set of blackout curtains,” Kellermeyer said. “Then they’re asked to hold onto each other, like a locomotive, and they’re brought into the ballroom which is completely pitch black. Everything but the exit signs are covered up.”
After being escorted to their tables, their server, a blind or visually impaired member of the community, greets diners. Servers will also give diners tips on how to feel their way to their food while they start their appetizers. Entrees are brought out, as well as dessert later on.
“The idea is that you get to see what it’s like to eat in the dark,” Kellermeyer said. “You get to interact with actual blind people and members of the visually impaired community about what their lives are like.”
The funds raised from this year’s Dining in the Dark will go toward better facilities for BVCIL. In past years, the funds were used to purchase a van needed to transport members of the BVCIL community. Tracey Forman, assistant director of disability services at Texas A&M, said Disability Services helped coordinate the event as well as supply volunteers.
“It’s meant to be a combination fundraiser and awareness activity,” Forman said. “A lot of people will tell you it’s a no-no to mock someone with a disability. You tend to not put someone in a wheelchair and say, ‘This is what it’s like to be put in a wheelchair.’ This is facilitated by the visually impaired. Almost all of the people who are servers are blind or have a visual impairment.”
Before being escorted into the dining hall, guests are given the chance to participate in a raffle and an auction, as well as an open bar. There are also several stations set up to educate attendees about the visually impaired.
“We have a couple of stations where people can learn about being visually impaired. We have a place where you can sit down blindfolded and get used to a place setting,” Forman said. “We bring some equipment that people who are visually impaired use like magnifiers, braille information, examples of tactile maps, how they identify money, and other things that the visually impaired use to interact with the world and the things they use to do that.”
The food served is intended to challenge the sense of smell and touch. Forman said that rather than serving burgers and fries, the food is supposed to confuse the senses. For instance, smoked grapes were served at the event two years ago.
“You can put yourself in someone’s shoes while you’re actually interacting with the people who live their lives like that,” Kellermeyer said. “With all the campus inclusion stuff going on there’s been a lot of talk about inclusion and accommodation and acceptance, and I feel this a way for people to get a first hand account of what that feels like.”
“Dining in the Dark” starts at 5 p.m. at The Hilton on University Drive. Tickets can be bought for $75 at the door if more are still available. Live music will be played by Drew Womack during the meal.
Source: The Battalion