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The Blind Cafe: How Darkness Facilitates Social Change and Awareness

Have you ever dined in the dark? The Blind Cafe has been hosting pop-up community dinners featuring music and discussion since 2010, all taking place in pure darkness. The goal? Providing a multi-layered experience to change how people interact with one another by removing visual cues, as well as to spread awareness and understanding about the blind community.

The Blind Cafe is a non-profit organization based out of Colorado. While the idea of serving dinner in complete darkness is not necessarily new, the Blind Cafe has incorporated several other components into their events to make them a vehicle for positive social change. Each event begins with dinner served at community tables of 6-8 people, where guests are given a chance to get to know one another without the ability to make judgements based on visual cues, promoting genuine connection among strangers. After dinner, the wait staff, who are all legally blind, share their experiences and offer a Q&A session for the guests. Following the awareness component is a live music performance, during which a band plays for the guests (still in complete darkness) and allows the attendees to emotionally connect to the music, without the distractions of sight, cellphones, or self-consciousness over how others may be perceiving them.

While the organization is clear that they are not “simulating blindness” for seeing guests, they do provide a chance for people who’ve likely never intentionally experienced darkness in this way to get a glimpse of how other senses function in the absence of sight. It also gives the attendees an opportunity to explore how not having sight can actually enhance social connection, and in this case, musical experiences as well. Dates and tickets for their traveling events can be found online; for anyone looking for an eye-opening insight into how we interact with others and experience the world around us, consider giving one of these dinners (or a similar event) a try.

ArticlesKatherine Stark