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Using Darkness as Their Tool

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. City Express got in touch with Dialogue in the Dark, one of the first physical spaces in the country that aims to create an inclusive society for the visually impaired, to hear their side of the story

Published: 03rd December 2014 06:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd December 2014 06:05 AM   |  A+A-

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HYDERABAD: Picture this! You are seated at your computer and a newly employed colleague asks you the way to the washroom. You might respond saying, take a left and then right, without even looking away from your screen. That’s how simple it is. Imagine, if the colleague is visually challenged. It is not that simple. Surely, most of us would not even know how to respond.

Visual impairment is only one section of the total population with disabilities. With no sign of inclusion of this population into the mainstream, we all become challenged when it comes to dealing with them.

“There is hardly any exposure to fully-abled people while they are growing up. Suddenly, if you ask them to behave normally at a much older age, it becomes difficult,” points out Sudha Krishnan, COO of c in the city that offers a unique experience for abled people – a glimpse into the life of a visually-impaired individual.

The concept that emerged in Germany, had become an instant hit after it entered Hyderabad in the year 2010.

First in India, it is owned by Ace Experiences Asia Pvt Limited, that partners with National Skill Development Corporation(NSDC) and the focus of this collaboration is to create an inclusive society. Dialogue in the Dark is unique in more than one way. While the place gives first-hand experience of the world of visually-impaired, it also throws light on their otherwise unnoticed capabilities. “These visually impaired individuals are trained in such a way that it improves their confidence and self esteem, considering that though they are educated, they are not skilled enough to suit regular jobs,” informs Sudha.

Once individuals with an impairment of 40 per cent (as per the government’s order), are identified, the next thing that they look for is basic communication skills. “Once we test their potential in at least one language we prepare them for the role of the exhibition guide,” explains Sudha.

Apart from exhibition tour, Dialogue in the Dark provides a restaurant experience with a surprise menu and also corporate training workshops with darkness as a medium for team building, developing leadership, skills, managing diversities and also team bonding.

One such trainer, is 25-year-old Rohit Gowlikar, who has been with Dialogue in the Dark for close to two years now explains, people who have attended corporate workshops have shown surprising results. “I have experienced people’s changing behaviours. They discover hidden potentials -- like some who are quite shy outside tend to take lead while they are in the dark,” he says. An Economics graduate from Osmania University, Rohit, though got selected for a number of positions in various companies, was rejected only because of his impairment. That is when he got into Dialogue in the Dark.

Sharing what the trainees undergo, Rohit explains, “They have to be comfortable in darkness and orient themselves to the space. We draw the plan on their palm and that’s how they get an idea.” They are then trained on ensuring safety of the people and also connect the concept of Dialogue in the Dark  He, apart from training exhibition guides, also trains people for corporate workshops. He shares the experience of meeting so many people is a worthwhile one. “I have wheeled physically challenged individuals, pregnant women and small children. Each individual comes with a set of emotions. I try and understand the background of individuals and then engage them accordingly,” he says. He further adds that the experience of providing this experience to children is the best.

“The main aim of Dialogue in the Dark is not just to make people understand the struggles of the visually impaired, but to empathise and give them a glimpse of how sharp our other senses are. I am glad I am able to share this with the next generation, that too at a much younger age,” says Rohit.   



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