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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Dining in the Dark to impart daily struggles of the visually impaired

Eating is an experience that employs every one of the senses, and one event at A&M will gauge the effect of robbing one part of the equation from mealgoers – their sense of sight.
Dining in the Dark, an event intended to raise awareness about living with a visual impairment, entails exactly what the name implies – eating in the dark. The proceeds of the event, which will be in the MSC’s Bethancourt Ballroom Sunday evening, will be donated to Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living.
The event will begin with a silent auction and guests will then be led to dinner, where the first course will already be set and guests will begin a meal without knowing what exactly is on their plates.
“Part of the experience is not knowing what they are going to eat,” said Lauren Long, event coordinator and Class of 2012. “Of course, guests let us know about any allergies they might have. We have to work hard to make sure there’s no light coming through from anywhere so they get the full experience.”
Adding to the awareness, the wait staff is made up entirely of blind members. Long said she recruited the wait staff from Insightful Connections, a student organization that works to raise awareness of visual impairment, and from people she knew when she was a student at A&M.
“We chose blind individuals to serve as the wait staff because they’re more accustomed to adapting to the situation of serving food in pitch dark with little to no practice,” Long said.
After the meal is concluded, event coordinators hope guests will take advantage of the occasion to ask the wait staff about living with their disability.
“It gives guests an opportunity to ask questions that they wouldn’t normally be comfortable asking someone who is visually impaired,” Long said. “It really helps bring more awareness and understanding about their situation.”
The event required extensive preparation by the committee to work out the logistics of event. Light canes, usually used by blind individuals, will be provided for guests to move around the room with.
“There’s a lot to think about,” said Melissa Padron, president of Insightful Connections and senior psychology major. “We had to figure out how to serve everyone in dark, or how people were going to go to the restroom and still come out with a safe outcome.”
The committee also advertised the event through radio and television outlets.
“We contacted the radio stations and did an interview with them and were able to put out a [public service announcement],” said Kristin Valadez, committee member and senior animal science major. “We had to think about how to explain this to the community so they’d be more apt to come.”
Padron, who is blind herself, said she enjoys educating people about what it’s like to be visually impaired. Dining in the Dark is about blindness as well as partial blindness, she said.
“I consider myself blind even though I still have some vision and can still see color,” Padron said. “Not everyone who considers themselves blind uses a cane or a guide dog. Either way, it’s still a hindrance in our daily lives, even when it’s something as simple as eating.”
The event on Sunday is scheduled to coincide with the kick-off date for Texas’ Disability Awareness Week. Valadez said everyone she’s talked to about the event has had a positive reaction.
“I think it’s neat how we put this dinner on because it’ll bring awareness to something that people don’t think about on a daily basis,” Valadez said. “It’s a good way to spread the understanding through other people.”

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