The Observatory

Dialogue in the Dark - Revolutionising the way Australians perceive blindness, promoting diversity and inclusion for all.

Karlie Gartner

After more than 25 years, 132 cities, 39 countries and over 10 million guests, the phenomenally successful global social enterprise that is Dialogue in the Dark™ opened its doors at the District Docklands in Melbourne in June 2017.
 
Since its launch in Germany in 1989, the millions of visitors to Dialogue in the Dark have been led by thousands of blind guides through this immersive experience in complete darkness.
Dialogue in the Dark entrance credit to Michael Gazzola
 
Caption: Dialogue in the Dark entrance (credit: Michael Gazzola)
 
Armed only with a white cane, blind guides provide skilled leadership through life’s everyday challenges and activities, providing an imaginative, educational and entertaining experience. Within a 60 minute tour, guests progress from initial disorientation and learning how to navigate through the dark, to the joy of perceiving and interacting with the world through the other senses and collaborating without sight. Our guides enable visitors to feel comfortable and safe during this enlightening experience.
 
In Melbourne, Dialogue in the Dark has partnered with Australia’s most trusted charity brand, Guide Dogs Australia (GDA), whose mission is to provide independence for Australians with low vision or blindness. Karen Hayes, CEO Guide Dogs Victoria has been instrumental in bringing this globally renowned experience to Australia.
 
“This is a wonderful opportunity for GDV to be able to offer meaningful job and social inclusion opportunities for people who are blind or who have low vision, and ultimately, for the sighted community to really step into the shoes of someone with vision loss,” said Ms. Hayes. “People can expect to feel exhilarated, empathetic and inspired as a result of this experience. Together we have the power to create a lasting social impact on our prejudices of blindness as a result of what our guides can teach us,” she added. 
 
Every host, guide and facilitator employed at Dialogue in the Dark Australia has low vision or blindness. Our employees range in ages from 21-55 years and come from all walks of life with one thing in common: the desire for independence, inclusion and gainful employment opportunities.
Participants being guided in the Dialogue in the Dark experience
Caption: participants are led through the Dialogue in the Dark experience using white canes
 
“I always had difficulty accepting the term ‘disabled’, says guide and Positive Vision Educator Maribel Steel.  “We are just in the limelight, but everyone has a disability in this life. Teaching the sighted what they are capable of without their vision will go a long way in changing perceptions of how we live.”
 
At Dialogue in the Dark, we believe that the provision of employment opportunities empowers people with blindness or low vision, as they embrace and develop their unique skills and abilities.
 
In many cases, employees have been working in other roles before they became blind. They join Dialogue in the Dark because they believe in its mission and are passionate about raising awareness towards inclusion and diversity in the community. In other cases, candidates have never worked, and Dialogue in the Dark provides them with an opportunity to move from unemployment and a sense of limitation, to a fulfilling work with a social context.
 
All employment candidates for Dialogue in the Dark undergo a strict selection process and an intensive training program upon selection to develop their skills, communication, mobility and orientation.
 
In the short 6 months of operation, we have upskilled our employees to blossom and grow their careers, facilitating the progression of a number of casual staff into permanent part time roles, and broadening their responsibilities within the organisation. 
 
Similarly, we have played a key role in building the skills and confidence of employees who have been offered further employment outside of the organisation, supporting them with their transition into roles they had only dreamed of securing 12 months prior. 
 
“The general public is often hesitant to engage with us,” says guide Francois Jacobs. ‘There is an apprehension of what you should and shouldn’t do. I enjoy teaching people that they don’t need to have a glum view of the blind. Blindness is just another attribute and as soon as you can cope with what affects your life, the happier you will be.”
Pepe Macias Dialogue in the Dark Guide and Trainer
Caption: Pepe Macias Dialogue in the Dark Guide and Trainer
 
School excursions and workshops for business groups are available for a more hands-on experiential and nonvisual perception experience. Led by blind or low vision facilitators, groups are encouraged to work together to enhance problem-solving, communication, team-building and social skills. For more information visit www.dialogueinthedark.com.au
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About the Author

Karlie Gartner

Karlie Gartner

Karlie Gartner is the Dialogue in the Dark Australia Marketing Coordinator Read more by this author →

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