In February, I went to “Dialogue in the Dark” in Shenzhen with my friends. One of my friends told us about the social entrepreneur, Andreas Heinecke, the founder of “Dialogue in the Dark”. Originally he worked at a radio station in his hometown Baden-Baden, Germany. One day he was asked to develop a work training for a young journalist who had lost his eyesight in a car accident. This working opportunity made Andreas and the young journalist good friends. Andreas started to understand the special group of people that he had never been familiar with before. His friend was a very optimistic and humorous person, quite different from the stereotype that people often have towards those who are blind.
Andreas realized that there was deep and widespread prejudice about blindness that blocks blind people from having an equal opportunity to receive an education and enter into the labor market. That’s why eventually he became a social entrepreneur to create “Dialogue in the Dark”. It was originally an exhibition, held by a stony road. In recent years, new formats such as “Dinner in the Dark” and business workshops in the dark were developed.
Of course when my friend introduced me about this exhibition I did not understand what it was really doing. We arrived at Chegongmiao station and found the correct place. After being equipped with a blindfold, we went inside. Completely dark, you cannot tell whether your eyes are open or not. A tour guide led us through roads. At first we were in a state of panic, without any sense of direction in the enormous darkness. But as time went by, we got used to the environment, and I felt that I became more sensitive without relying on my eyes. The tour guide led us to touch the water, the leaves, and the bamboo. Different objects have different tactile qualities. Afterwards, we passed by a newsstand where we scrambled to find pens and postcards and strove to write some words without being able to see.
I must say that it was so difficult, and when I finally saw my postcard I could not even verify where I wrote my words. We also touched the braille on the postcards, which consisted of several dots. Next, we went to cross the road. That’s the first time I noticed that there were different sounds that played while standing for a red or green light respectively. Across the road was a vegetable market. Different fruits and vegetables have different kinds of scents, which you can only smell when they are so close to your nose. The tour guide asked us to guess the weight of different fruits and vegetables and most of us failed to guess accurately.
Eventually we had a small talk with the tour guide. He said each one of us can ask him a question. I asked that if this job was open to blind people and he answered that he was blind. All of us were surprised. He then introduced himself and revealed that it was just a part time job for him. He had heard about this place about two years from the internet and came to work here. He graduated from the special college and worked full time as a masseur. We asked him a lot about his life. He was quite satisfied with his life and told us that his life was becoming easier as a result of technological progress. For instance, with VoiceOver he can use an iPhone and search the Internet. He even showed us his watch- the dial plate could open and he could touch the hands to know the time. Finally, we ended the trip and went back into the light. He smiled and said goodbye to us and went back to the darkness.
For those who interested, this place provides tour guides in both Chinese and English. If you also want to have the experience, just book the time via their Wechat. It is located a building near Chegongmiao station Entrance C. Apart from the regular tour, it also provides “Eat in the Dark”, “Musical in the Dark” and leadership & team building workshops.
For more information on attending Dialogue in the Dark events here in Shenzhen, please see the official website here.
Reported by Floy Chen