THE UNSEEN CONVERSATIONS: DIALOGUE IN THE DARK

IS PERCEPTION A REALITY? True for most not for some. Wikipedia worded “senses” as a psychological capacity of organisms that provides data for perception. Typical humans have 5 basic senses: sight (vision), sound (hearing), taste (gustation), smell (olfaction), and touch (somatosensation). 

What if one of the basic senses were taken away or were not in existence in the first place; does it makes us less of a human? Obviously not. The biochemicals in our DNA will be able to ascertain if one is a person or a cat. 

So then, how does one function day to day without one or two of their senses? That’s where Dialogue in The Dark comes in. A social experiment enterprise from Germany founded in 1988. Participants spends a moment of their time manoeuvring through a series of obstacles and challenges guided by facilitators in the dark to gain a moment of unforgettable experience. 

What was ‘perceived’ before by the participants to be a simulation of how it feels to be a person with sights disability; turned out to be completely something else that they gained by the end of the day. Trust and teamwork were the main focus of the experience. The skill to adapt in an uncharted territory is key. Empathy rather than sympathy. Understanding and walking in that person’s shoes rather than feeling sorry for those individuals. And most importantly, unlocking and using unknown and unused potential and senses within one self what they will achieve after completing the session.

                                   

Dika Students experiencing Dialogue in The Dark on 12th June 2019

Organized by Ms Venus Lim, Dika students were transported into a reality far for them yet so close to their community. We sat down with 3 students, Tiffany Liaw (TL), Nandini Vijan (NV) and Edmund Chin (EC) to share their thoughts and insights after Dialogue in The Dark session:

  1. What were your expectations of Dialogue in the Dark? 

TL: I expected it to be more scarier since I was actually afraid of the dark if I’m alone. It was chaotic but an amazing experience.

NV: At first, I thought, I was going to experience and learn the difficulties of how the blind people live and manage their day to day routine.

EC: I actually expected it to be fun and enjoyable as I have never experienced any activities in the dark before. So, I was quite excited!

  1. And your overall experience after the session is over?

EC: Completely change my expectations. I felt really uncomfortable especially a moment where I lost my friend in the dark during our walk. I remembered being so lost and a bit anxious. Once I found them, I felt much better, because I have friends close to me and I felt safe.

TL: It was stressing and fun at the same time. Having friends around made me feel a little safer. 

NV: What I discover was that teamwork helped me the most especially my teammates. When we were walking around in the dark to the sitting area, because everyone was communicating with each other, it really helped me navigate in the dark. 

  1. What have you learned from Dialogue in the Dark?

NV: I think sometimes it’s okay to just trust people. We should always remember to help those in need and if we can, fight for people with disabilities’ basic rights!

EC: What I learned today is about empathy. Sometimes we just need to trust people. Not everyone is a bad person or will harm you. Every person is not what you initially think, take time to learn about them. I also learned about how you need to quickly adapt to your surrounding and not take it as an obstacle or dead end; just something different that you have to do. 

TL: We are so blessed with our senses and take it for granted. We complaint on small things and forgot to look at the bigger picture. They may be blind, but they can guide us without fail. What more for us who has so much, imagine what we can do.

As humans, we tend to focus on the problems or the negative side. Rarely, in a difficult situation, we see the silver lining. For a person with sight disabilities, we only see them as “helpless”, “incomplete”, “blind”. But what about “trust”, “leadership”, “teamwork” and “other potential”? These are the unseen conversations that we have to start. And it can only start with us having that conversations.

MEET STEVEN

With a great sense of humour and a passion for living life to the fullest, Steven Looi Yuong Chiat is not just your average facilitator at Dialogue in the Dark. In fact, he was a judo Paralympian, the first certified blind scuba diver (and he was part of a group of 29 divers that made into Malaysia Book of Records for Most Number of Disabled Participants in a Scuba Diving Expedition), an avid swimmer, a tenpin bowler, a tandem cyclist, enjoys playing chess and darts, travelling, and loves to go karaoke clubs. Did we mention he is also a motivational speaker? Safe to say, his years of experience and profile will put most of ours to shame.

Before joining DID, the 37-year-old, was working in a travel agency for 5 years and active in various organizations like the Malaysian Association for the Blind. He decided to join DID in hopes of educating the public that there’s more to life than just what we see or what we lack. 

Visually impaired, Steven began losing his sight at the age of 14 due to retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic disorder that involve a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina. Despite it all, he has maintained a fairly regular (extraordinary) life; what being the first certified blind scuba diver and all. His passion for sports and challenging activities proved that humans can accomplish anything that they set their minds to. When asked what was it that made him loved scuba diving so much, he simply said “It felt relaxing, to hear other sounds in the sea.”

In comparison to what he had to go through and growing up, Steven mentioned that though there have been improvements made for the visually impaired community, for example, a lift with braille buttons or voice activated, it is still a slow progress. There are also incomplete government projects such as the tactile pavements that are not available in all of the places, including busy areas where it is most needed. 

Steven also gave a cheeky advice to those who wants to be a good Samaritan: “Please ask us first before helping, thank you for being considerate but don’t simply grab our hands or cane.” He also reminded us to be grateful and appreciate our eyesight, that we can still see the world.