Headed off to Harbour Town (Docklands) and gave Dialogue in the Dark a go. The concept was developed in Germany back in 1988 and has since grown to being "shown" in 42 countries with Melbourne recently starting up.
Harbour Town Docklands
So what is it? Well, it's a unique experience that aims to raise awareness for those living with blindness and also creates employment opportunities. Arrived knowing that we would be walking around in the dark, but with no real idea of what to expect. For a start, it's all indoors and safe - no real danger of running into a door and breaking your nose (unless you were really clumsy, but then that could happen in the light as well).
We were each (there were 4 of us in our group) given a white cane, warned to not wave it around too vigorously (shin whacks to be avoided) and led into the dark where we were introduced to our lovely guide Beth. And off we went, visiting a "park" and various other Melbourne iconic spots (won't give away too much). At first, you just want to hang on to the handrail and your eyes are straining to see (it really is pitch black) but after a few minutes, it becomes easy enough to let go and feel your way around.
Stop and say hello to the team
The surprising thing is that you do start to listen to background noises and quickly work out voices and where people are. If you're claustrophobic or don't like bumping into strangers, then it might not be your thing, but I found it interesting. By feel, we were able to pick out all sorts including fruit and veggies as well as ordinary things found around Melbourne. No nasty surprises.
Beth took us back to her "apartment" and I could swear there was the smell of baking, but apparently no it's just the senses playing suggestive tricks on us. We then just sat and chatted and she was happy to answer our questions about her blindness (she actually has a small amount vision) and what it's like living with vision impairment.
It's a humbling experience and certainly makes you appreciate sight and that we sometimes take our senses for granted. Is it worth doing? Absolutely, it helps to break down barriers in a fun and friendly way.
Oh yes, one thing I wanted to know, should you offer help? Would it offend a vision-impaired person? Beth advised that sure, there is nothing wrong with going up to anyone and asking if they need help. She did say, please don't grab them by the arm (or any body part for that matter) though, without speaking first.
Dialogue In The Dark has partnered with Guide Dogs Australia
A tour in the Dialogue in the Dark experience lasts for around an hour and happens in complete darkness. All tours are organised in groups of up to eight people and lead by experienced and specially trained guides who are blind or partially sighted.
There are lockers available for you to leave your belongings and you are asked to leave phones, Fitbits or any other device that may emit light in the locker prior to entering.
Sessions run throughout the day, except on Mondays. Check the website for times and details.
Tickets can be purchased here. Ticket can also be purchased at the venue. Ticket prices are between $19.50 and $43.30 and discounts are available to RACV members.