How it feels to be blind.

Imagine a world with no color and all you can see is black. Imagine a life where everything is unknown until you use all your senses other than sight to figure out what it is. That is how it feels to be blind and that is how I felt for 90 minutes while visiting Dialog in the Dark in Hamburg, Germany.

The entrence to the museum "Dialog in the Dark" in Hamburg, Germany!

To be honest I am not much of a museum person and when I go I will most likely see things in a whole different manner. Kind of like what happened when I went to the Lourve and saw Mona Lisa. As for Dialog in the Dark, I had never heard of it and probably never would have because it is not in the guidebook or any must do list for Hamburg. I am currently staying with one of my readers (I know awesome, but more on that later) in Hamburg and after I mentioned I was not much of a museum person she told me about Dialog in the Dark and told me I must do it. After she told me what it was I was sold. I thought wow what an awesome concept and that would be interesting to experience.

So what is Dialog in the Dark?
“Dialogue in the Dark is an experience in total darkness where, led by blind guides and trainers, one learns to interact and communicate by relying on other senses. The sudden withdrawal of eyesight challenges everybody. While participants stay for a short while in pitch darkness, they are emotionally immersed and confronted with own limits. Blind people are the “sighted” ones in this environment and can demonstrate their capabilities better than their sighted colleagues. This reversal of roles guarantee reflection, the discovery of the unseen and the need of communication and cohesion The experience provides an innovative and powerful tool to understand one’s limits and respect the other, reinforcing a collaborative mindset and emotional intelligence. ”Dialog in the Dark

A random eye poster that was in the museum.

Upon arriving I knew this was going to be a very interesting experience and one that would enlighten me with a new view on things. After waiting in line a bit to get my reserved ticket I realize a blind gentlemen is helping me. I give him my information pay for my ticket and then he prints my ticket. Something that would happen in any museum, but the whole time I kept thinking “wow he’s doing this with out being able to see”. They call my group and since I do not speak German I have my own tour guide who will be by my side the whole time and translate for me. She is also blind and was a sweetheart. Before we started she asked if I was wearing glasses, I mentioned I was and she told me I needed to take them off and would get them at the end. I asked why and she said “it’s not going to matter once you are in there it’s going to be pitch black and you wont be able to see anything.” I giggled and thought wow so true. We are then handed a walking stick and are taught how to use it and then the tour begins.

As we turned the corner I saw the last bit of light I would see for the next 90 minutes. I stood there with the rest of the group in pitch darkness. I couldn’t see a thing, but could hear everyone giggling (my self included) and trying to find ourselves wherever we were at. We were then asked to please be quite and were told we were in a warehouse and needed to find our way around and when we bump into an object need to touch and feel it and find out what it is that is there. I made my way around the warehouse and was able to identify all of the objects (I wont say what they were in case any of you every do this). We then made our way to the next scenario and are told it’s a park. As we are walking through the park we are able to feel trees, different plants and things you would find at a park and even hear nature playing in the background. As we entered the next room the strong smell of cinnamon feels my nose. We are asked to feel around and tell him where we are. I start touching everything I can and notice I am touching vegetables. I immediately say “we are at a supermarket” I was correct.

We are now midway through the tour and for some reason I am starting to think I am seeing lights around, but I know it’s impossible. I also for some reason keep putting my hand in front of my face to see if I can see it. Of course I can’t and I know it, but for some reason just keep doing it.

Piece of art that children made that were placed together in this pattern to make a picture.

We are now at a busy intersections cross walk. We are told we need to listen carefully before we can cross the street, because we do not want to be hit by a car. We stand there silently as we hear a chaotic intersection then you hear the noise settle down and know it’s time to cross the street. I made it safely to the other side. From there we are taken yet again to another room and this time the scenario was a boat ride. To get on the boat we had to cross a bridge. I was so scared because it kept moving and swaying back and forth. You could feel wind blowing from every direction and once everyone was seated on the boat we enjoyed a short boat trip. Where did we go or what did we pass by I have no clue because of course I couldn’t see anything? The next room was an empty room and we were asked to sit down on the floor and enjoy the mini concert. As I sat there I kept imagining myself actually going to a concert and not being able to see the performance.

After the concert we visited a bar. I think this was the most interesting part of the whole tour because we actually were at a real bar. They had some music playing and we were able to order a drink and had to pay with real money. I of course ordered a beer handed him my money got my change back. I immediately thought wow what if he handed me back the wrong amount of change… I would have no clue. Even though I knew they wouldn’t, but I still thought it. After the bar we were done with the tour taken to another room where light came back slowly, my eyes were burning and actually hurt from getting back in the light. It was nice though to be able to see again.

This was by far one of the most interesting museums I have been to and something I would recommend each of you doing if you are ever in Hamburg or in any city where a Dialog in the Dark venue is (complete list of cities here). Even though I have horrible vision (i use glasses) I’m thankful to be able to see. It’s something we take for granted, but is such an amazing gift to have. Now I want you to think about any of these scenarios that I am sure you have done a million times. Like going to a park, going to the super market, crossing a street, enjoying a boat ride, going to a concert or even going to a bar. Now imagine doing them with out being able to see. I know the thought of it seems crazy, but its what I experienced for 90 minutes and how blind people experience it every day.

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  1. This sounds like such a cool experience! I’ve never heard of a museum quite like this. Here in Toronto we have a restaurant where you dine in the dark and experience what it would be like to be blind. I know similar restaurants are springing up around the world. But getting to experience all the different scenarios you did (like walking across a bridge, crossing the street, and going to a club) would provide such a broader perspective than the restaurant can.

    • Audrey it was just amazing… it really put so much into perspective. I think eating in the dark would be hard as well, but you are right it’s these small scenarios that give you a broader perspective of how it would feel to be blind.

    • What’s the name of the restaurant? I usually go to Toronto at least once a year and I would love to dine there.

      • Since I don’t live in Toronto I have no clue, but I think in most cities it’s called Dinner in the Dark. I would say try googling it. Should be fun!

  2. I’ve never heard of this place before. Sounds crazy!
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  3. Thanks for sharing this story! Sounds amazing.
    During the 90 minutes…did you notice any one sense in particular becoming the dominant sense, or did they adjust according to the “scenario?”

    • Your welcome… it was such an amazing experience I had to share it.

      Thanks for asking that question I completely forgot to mention it in the post and I did think about it. It found it funny that during each scenario different senses did play a bigger part of it then others. For example in the market I used touch and smell more, but during crossing the street I used only sound to make sure I got across safely. So given the situation some play a bigger role than others.

  4. Grace Tippetts says:

    People who are acclimated to blindness actually are rather high functioning. What a great way to remind us how how dependent the rest of us are on vision! It also makes you wonder how highly developed your other senes would be without the gift of sight.

    • Exactly Grace that is so true, we are so dependent of it that it’s something we don’t think about as we go about our daily tasks. I do wonder how highly developed our other senses would become if we did not have sight. Even during the 90 minutes I already was using sound and touch more than I have ever done before.

  5. I wasn’t aware of these museums, if I’m in one of those cities in the near future I’ll make sure I visit one. I’ve been recommend the noir restaurants many times, a friends went to one in London and said it was a great experience. I believe they have one in Berlin if you’re close!

    Great write up on the museum, it makes me want to go!

    • Thanks Colin for the comment. Hopefully soon you are near enough one of the cities that offer it and are able to go. The experience is just amazing and eye opening. I’ve heard of that restaurant and I am actually going to Berlin in a fe minutes so I will check it out once I am there.

  6. Wow what an intense experience!

  7. Thanks for sharing about this! Definitely unique and sounds worth trying. I was imaging the bar scenario and any time you have to pay for something. We don’t have difference sized dollars in the US like many other countries and with a credit card you can’t see how much you’re signing for. I’m curious how that’s all managed!
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    • Heather it was so unique and definitely worth trying. I love that you mentioned that because I luckily was able to tell right then and there that I got the right change back because of the Euro comes in different sizes, but I would have had no clue at home… Also I dont know how they manage credit cards or how they do it. Crazy when you have to start thinking about day to day task and how to do them if you were blind.

  8. Wow. This is so cool! And thanks for posting the link to their other venues. I’d love to check out one of the museums in Asia.
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  9. Wow, that is awesome. It sounded good to begin with just the concept but including things like the crossing and bar situation is great. Must give you a good perspective ons some of the difficulties.
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  10. What an awesome experience! I’d love to do something like this!
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  11. I’ve heard about Dialog in the Dark in Atlanta but I’ve never been to it. This sounds pretty amazing!
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    • Oh Ali you sooooo should have done it. Well next time you visit you must. I love that I used the word visit cus you are now in Germany!!!

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