01 May Dialogue in the Dark – An interview With Peter Collins, Director of Operations
Dialogue in the Dark™ is an immersive experience in total darkness through which, led by guides who are blind or have low vision, guests interact and communicate relying solely on their other senses. Visitors to the experience lose the sense they rely on the most – their vision- as they touch, feel, hear and explore the unseen and learn to “see” in complete darkness while discovering an iconic Melbourne like never before. (www.encorepr.com.au)
What were some of the main drivers behind the creation on Dialogue in the Dark?
Dialogue in the Dark is a sensory journey set in total darkness. At the beginning of your tour, you are provided a white cane and led in to the darkness where you first meet your guide. Your guide is a person with blindness or low vision. For the next hour, you are then taken on a tour of Melbourne using your other senses; hearing, touch, smell and even a little taste.
Dialogue In the Dark was established In Germany by Andreas Heinecke over 25 years ago. The whole-body, immersive experience is designed to help the public adopt a new perspective by navigating everyday challenges in absolute darkness, with the skilled assistance of guides with blindness or low vision.
At the same time, Dialogue in the Dark provides employment opportunities for people with low vision or blindness: a community who frequently experience challenges in finding work. The first Dialogue in the Dark experience was held in Frankfurt in 1988. To date, we have employed more than 10,000 guides with low vision or blindness across 42 countries, including here in Australia.
Guide Dogs Australia holds the licence for Dialogue In the Dark in Australia and our goal Is to create meaningful job opportunities and training as well as providing visitors with an understanding of blindness and low vision.
What should we expect when attending the event?
The Dialogue in the Dark experience is a fun and immersive way of seeing Melbourne in a completely different way. During your tour you will be challenged to overcome they preconceptions you have on how you move through the world and show you how your other senses help you navigate some familiar surroundings.
What life learnings do you envision people taking away from the event?
One of the best parts of my job is engaging with guests once they have completed the experience. People are often overwhelmed by the feeling of accomplishment in completing the tour as well as humbled by the experience. We have received all 5/5 reviews on Facebook and Trip Advisor where people have commented on their personal feelings of overcoming their preconceptions on the darkness and blindness. Our goal is to give people an insight on how people with different abilities see the world in a different way.
How has dialogue in the dark helped the vision impaired?
As mentioned, Internationally Dialogue in the Dark has trained and employed over 10,000 guides with blindness or low vision. Here at Dialogue in the Dark Melbourne, we have started with our first 25 employees and aim to Increase this over the coming years.
It has been shown In other countries that a city hosting a Dialogue In the Dark encourages more mainstream employment understanding, better building and town planning as well as an overall empathy and understanding of the blind and low vision community.
After 25 years of success, what does the future hold for Dialogue in the Dark?
Internationally, Dialogue in the Dark have launched new sensory tours such as Dialogue In Silence (where tour guides are people with hearing loss or deaf) and Dialogue In Time, a sensory experience which addresses the aging process. Additional sites for all types of exhibitions are being established all over the world which will create more employment opportunities and help spread empathy and understanding of the way that people communicate and move through society.
How can people get involved?
You can visit www.dialogueinthedark.com.au to purchase your ticket and experience this unique experience. We also run workshops for corporate and business groups which you can also find information on this site.