Wednesday 30th October 2019, The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) had the pleasure of being in New York on October 23rd to bring its Dine in the Dark initiative to the UN, where nearly 60 UN ambassadors, policy makers and leaders from global nongovernmental organisations took part. The event simulates what it is like to be blind because all the diners wear blindfolds for the entire meal.
The event was co-hosted by the Global Coalition on Aging, the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN along with three leading organizations addressing vision loss. It was sponsored by Novartis.
Chis White, NCBI CEO said ‘the Dine in the Dark is an unforgettable experience. It is an interactive and fun evening out that is guaranteed to stay with you as you gain insight, perspective and understanding into the lives of those living with vision loss. It was an honour and very timely to host the event at the UN given the recent launch of the WHO first ever report on Vision. It reinforces the need for greater priority to focus on quality eye health care such as accessible screening and treatment across the globe especially given the majority of sight loss cases are preventable.’
The staff were trained in advance of the event, guiding them on the importance of verbal communication with the diners on where their cutlery, glasses, napkins etc were situated.
The menu was curated by Christine Ha, the first-ever blind contestant and winner of MasterChef USA. She began her cooking career after being diagnosed with a central nervous system disorder that led to almost complete loss of vision. For her, the Dine in the Dark experience puts sighted people in her shoes and makes them aware of the types of challenges those who are blind or vision impaired come across on a daily basis.
‘At the UN, ambassadors and other global decision-makers gained a first-hand appreciation of our sense of sight and what we can and should be doing to promote eye health for all,’ explained Ha.
Many of the guests described how isolating the experience is because of their inability to pick up on non-verbal cues, how intently they listened to conversations and the challenge of not spilling food or drinks.
Vision loss can affect anyone regardless of wealth or background yet with early detection, diagnosis and treatment it is largely preventable. The numbers of people who are blind and visually impaired will rise significantly, as the prevalence of visual impairment and vision loss increase with age. As the WHO declares the Decade of Healthy Ageing from 2020-2030, investment in quality eye health care needs to be a core aspect of this.
For more information on upcoming Dine in the Dark experiences in Ireland check out www.dineinthedark.ie