My unique experience in Chengdu Dialogue in the Dark


Eric Zeng's picture

Do you know how many Visually Impaired (VI) people are there in your city?


Have you ever imagined that if one day you are one of them, what would your life be like?


Do you want to try even once to live in the dark, and experience the city that you used to know well without using your eyes?


You may not know what the world would be like without seeing it.


However, believe it or not, from 1988, with the help of Dialogue in the Dark, there are more than 9 million people in the 36 countries all over the world who have experienced the life of being a Visually Impaired people.


Who is Dialogue in the Dark?


DiD in Chengdu
Briefly, Dialogue in the Dark is a brand of Dialogue Social Enterprise, which is a non profit organization founded by a German called Andreas Heineck. They offer exhibitions and business workshop in total darkness, aiming at provoking a change of perspective for the participants.


Chengdu Exhibition is one of the 14 Dialogue in the Dark exhibitions now running in the world. Me and my manager, Harley were very pleasant to visit this new exhibition on this Tuesday.


Before starting our incredible journey in the dark, the staffs at DiD Chengdu have shared the 3 main goals of their organization, which are inclusiveness, awareness and empowerment. They want everyone who has experienced DiD could increase their perception to themselves and show more respect to the others, especially the disabled and vulnerable groups.


She also told that all the guides in DiD are also VI people. Dialogue in the Dark has already offered more than 9,000 job opportunities for VI people.


My Experience in DiD Chengdu


This visit is totally different from pretending you are blind and getting some ideas of what it is like to be blind. In fact, for most of my visit here, I can see absolutely nothing - even not my hands in front of my face or the legs of the person I keep bumping into, which is Harley.

Darkness scares us, because we are all afraid of the unknown things hidden in the dark. Even I knew that I was 100% percent safe in here, all the paths I walked through were carefully constructed and have been thoroughly vetted to minimize danger, I was still too scared to keep walking. Then there was a guide asking us to follow his voice.

I started trying to swing my cane clumsy in an arc on the ground in front of me - I was taught to use the cane in this way before entering this dark world. I could hear Harley and our guide keep talking in a distance which was very close to me. This eased my nerves and made me feel very safe. I started to wave my right hand and tried to touch something.

Learning How to Use Canes in DiD
Then I heard the bird singing above my head, and water flowing in somewhere next to me. Without a visual sense, everything seems slow down. I tried to feel the surrounding environment by using my hands, ear and any other senses I could use. It was so peaceful here, and I believed that it was because there was no interference which came from our eyes.

This was the first time during the visit I realized that VI people could still find the beauty of the world without seeing it.

We are meant to try to “see” those scenes most familiar to us, and ignore the things we do not care about. However, in an absolutely dark world, the feel of gravel underfoot, the sound of an approaching train, the scent of coffee, or the shelves stocked with goods that can be distinguished only through smell and touch. This makes me keep creating the images by using my imagination and define the world in a totally different way.

Then the guide used his voice to lead us to explore this dark world. Voice, smells, wind and the texture of all the things in this world have become the medium for me to perceive the surrounding environment. I was no more fear about the dark, but would rather like spend more time staying here.

The difference between the DiD in Chengdu with the others is that this exhibition has been endowed with the unique characteristics of Chengdu city. Our guide let us guess where we were by touching the surrounding things. I think I got the right names for most of the places.

The whole journey took us about one hour, and I must say, the experience is so intense and the method so simple that it is surprising how unique and fresh it feels.

The 3 Reasons I Recommend DiD to You

DiD Map in Chengdu
For my personal opinion, the exhibition is very suitable for those who have spare time during their Chengdu tours, and do want to spent the time to find some experience fresh and meaningful. It offers you a great opportunity to explore and define this city in another way.

Here are the 3 benefits I want to share with you after visiting Chengdu DiD:

  1. An alternative way to explore yourself: Usually we shape the world we used to know mainly by using our sight. When we see something, we see it in advance: we know we can approach it; we can assess it as we move forward. 

    As I said, when I first lost my sight in the dark exhibition, I was to scared to move my feet. Sounds help us anticipate, but in this strange, darkened space, even voices seem to float in a void. We don’t know what is about to happen; we aren’t sure where we have been. 

    With the help of the VI guides, we learn how to use the cane in our hands, our ears and even our noses to explore this unseen world. We need to trust all of these senses, but not just rely on our eyes. 

  2. Help you build a closer relationship with others: DiD believes that the darkness will remove the gaps among people. As Andreas Heineck once said: "The exhibition encourages teamwork, trust and understanding and allows visitors to gain a greater appreciation of the power of communication and the abilities of others."

    This concept has been proved quite effective. During these years DiD have also provided a service called Business Workshop to help many companies promote their staffs' communication and teamwork ability in the total darkness.

  3. Without your visual sense, you will find everything is hard in the beginning. This visit will increase your respect, and educate you to appreciate how great you are. 

It is a short journey in DiD Chengdu. However, it educates me a lot about the self-recognition, respect and communication. 

"The only way to learn is through encounter." The German Jewish philosopher Martin Buber was right. This place is definitely worth your time to visit. 

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