MAYVILLE - At a five-course gourmet dinner, it would be expected that guests conduct themselves with the utmost eloquence, and not - say - eat with their hands.
At the third annual Dining In The Dark, however, those that ate with their hands were some of the more eloquent diners.
This is because, in order to raise awareness, the Chautauqua Blind Association asked everyone at the event to wear blindfolds, per the usual tradition. The results were comical - yet for most, it was an eye-opening experience.
Dining In The Dark
"Thank you so much for joining us at this event," said Lisa Goodell, CBA executive director. "The CBA was started in 1921, so this is our 92nd year of providing vision rehabilitation to people throughout the county. We have determined that we have provided over 184,000 hours of vision rehabilitation and orientation services to residents of our county. In many instances, when someone begins to lose their sight, they become very scared."
"Part of vision rehabilitation is to help them through that difficult time," Goodell continued. "We cannot help bring the vision back, but we can make it more available for those to go on with life and continue doing what the (disabled) has always done. We want to help people stop reacting to vision lost, and start responding."
According to Goodell, a person who is legally blind may still have some residual vision. However, what someone who has perfect vision can see at 200 feet, a legally blind person will only begin to see clearly at 20 feet. Likewise, where a person with perfect vision usually has a 180-degree range of view, a person who is legally blind may only have a 20-degree range of vision. This is akin to looking through a paper-towel tube, according to Goodell.
To keep guests guessing, diners were asked to put on blindfolds before they were walked to tables. Seen here is a guest reacting to where they are seated.
P-J photo by Remington
"We want you to get a feel of one moment in the life of the blind," said Goodell.
At every table, there was one guide without a blindfold who was available to give tips and suggestions to those who were eating without the use of their eyes.
As it did last year, the Jamestown Community College Occupational Assistance Therapy Program joined the event as guides for the blindfolded guests. However, new to the program this year, SUNY Fredonia Pre-health students also joined as additional guides.
DINNER IS SERVED
After an hour of mulling around and getting to know those who one was going to dine with, event organizers gathered diners by table and asked everyone to put on blindfolds.
Guests were asked to place their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them, and a guide led guests to their respective tables. Luckily, no disasters occurred while walking to tables, but guests were rendered completely disoriented, as they were not permitted to look at the layout of the tables before they were seated.
Once seated, guests were treated to a five-course dinner of bread, soup, salad, entree and dessert. Although there was plenty of opportunity for mishap, the guests who were seated at the same table as me were consummate diners. By the end of the meal, almost no food had fallen from plate to table, and everyone's clothes were just as tidy as they were when they arrived.
Of course, one guide, Kim Cline, made the task of eating blindfolded much easier with her help and positive reinforcement.
"A good tip is to always remember where you set your utensils," said Cline. "When your food comes on your plate, explore the contents of your plate by gently tapping your fork around the outside of your plate, then more inward. You should be able to identify, for example, which is your chicken and what is your vegetables. Instead of stabbing at your plate, try using your knife to push your food onto your fork."
With Cline's guidance, those at the table enjoyed a unique experience without the tribulation of having to presoak food stains out of their clothes.
The event closed with a silent auction. Entities which donated toward the auction were: RSVP, Vince and Barbara Horrigan, Chautauqua Metal Finishing Supply, Salon One, Eight Limbs Yoga and Massage, Olive's Restaurant, Forte the Restaurant, Scallion Italian Bistro, Home Chic, Gaylene's, Bob Kenyon, and Sharon Hamilton.
To learn more about the CBA, visit www.chautauquablind.org.