Dining in the Dark: Learning about Vision Impairment through Eye to Eye

On Wednesday, Mar. 13, Laurier’s Eye to Eye club hosted its annual “Dinner in the Dark.” 

Dinner in the Dark is a three-course meal hosted by Wilf’s in the Hawk’s Nest, where students have the opportunity to “dine without the sense of sight [and] heighten [their] sensory experience.” 

According to Hillary Scanlon, co-president of Eye to Eye, “the event aims to provide sighted participants with insight to some of the ways in which people with vision loss and blindness experience different aspects of their daily lives, [like eating].” Scanlon is a fourth-year student majoring in Global Studies with a minor in Arabic. She has been involved with Eye to Eye since 2015. The club was formed back in 2014 by students Jack McCormick and Dana Toameh. 

According to Scanlon, this student-driven club “aims to eliminate stigmas associated with vision loss and blindness through various events.” Examples include a blind soccer tournament, speaking engagements with individuals such as the CEO of the World Blind Union and accessibility hack-a-thons.

Eye to Eye’s Dinner in the Dark is not only a great social event, but it also “provides participants with an opportunity to engage in empathic practices.” 

One of the attendees, fourth-year Global Studies and Sociology student Brooke Dietrich, has attended Dinner in the Dark for the past two years. Dietrich believes that events, such as Dinner in the Dark, begin the conversation about making spaces more accessible.

“While wearing a blindfold and eating the dinner doesn't exemplify a person with visual impairments lived experience, it is a good way to open up the conversation on how individuals who are sighted can be more inclusive,” Dietrich said.

“For example, instead of saying, ‘I am setting your drink down here,’ a more accessible way to say it is: ’I am coming on your right side with a glass of water. I have set the glass of water to the right top side of your plate.” 

Upon arriving at the Hawk’s Nest, Dietrich was provided with a blindfold, a name tag and escorted to a table. Once seated, Dietrich introduced herself to her table mates and navigated pouring a glass of water. She was then presented with salad, spaghetti and cheesecake. This proved to be both a challenging and interesting learning experience. 

“It was difficult to navigate the spaghetti … because I couldn’t figure out where the rest of the food was!”, Dietrich said.  

When I asked Scanlon how events like Dinner in the Dark lessen the stigma associated with vision impairment, she responded that “we hope that people come away with the idea that people with vision loss and blindness are still able to participate in all aspects of life, but that they simply go about it in a different way.”