Lights off: Istanbul meets ‘Dialogue in the Dark’

Lights off: Istanbul meets ‘Dialogue in the Dark’

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Lights off: Istanbul meets ‘Dialogue in the Dark’

Blind guidea take visitors on a tour through simulated streets in the exhibition inaugurated yesterday.

In December Istanbul will meet “the blind’s world” as the “Dialogue in the Dark” social enterprise opens its first exhibition in the city’s Gayrettepe district, the project was introduced on the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

A blind guide takes some eight visitors on a one-and-half-hour-long tour through simulated Istanbul streets in the exhibition, which spreads across a 1,500-square-meter hall next to the Gayrettepe Metro Station.

The difference? This tour is carried out in complete darkness; hence why the roles reverse completely, whereby people with sight need the help of blind guides, contrary to the reality that the visually-impaired experience daily.

Project Manager Gideon Kletzka said they aimed to focus on abilities that blind people had instead of focusing on disabilities they did not.

“A blind guide takes eight persons on a tour for an hour and half in complete darkness through Istanbul; you go on the metro, to a cinema and on a Boshphorus tour all the while with a completely blind person guiding you.

Blind people, who are thought to be vulnerable, suddenly become in charge of eight people. He or she becomes the crisis manager. It is difficult to manage the darkness but he or she is leading and it is important for you to feel connected with him or her,” Kletzka told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday in Istanbul.

Kletzka said visitors will have a coffee with their blind guide and have the possibility to talk about his or her daily life.

“It’s a social enterprise [geared at] changing people’s mindsets concerning disabilities. In every country we recruit blind people who are then paid and trained [as part of the project],” he said.

Nearly 30 blind Turkish people are being trained nowadays to be ready for Dec. 20 when the exhibition starts, Hakan Elbir, the project’s co-founder in Istanbul said.

“This is not a social responsibility project, this is social entrepreneurship as well as a self-sustainable business, which raises awareness and provides motivation for blind people - we must see the employment aspect whereby we empower blind individuals by employing them,” he said.

To create jobs for disadvantaged people by turning deficits into potentials and thereby strengthen the self-esteem of individuals that are typically under-valued forms part of the project’s several goals.

There are 15 permanent Dialogue in the Dark museums around the world. The exhibition in Istanbul will be a first Elbir said since it will take place in a country where a Muslim majority lives.

There are 22 exhibitions currently active in the world but that here in Istanbul will be the biggest in terms of area covered.

Since 1988, the exhibition has run in more than 30 countries, 120 cities and over 7,000 visually impaired individuals have been able to earn an income and recognition, along with over 7 Million visitors to the event worldwide.

A study held by the Hamburg-based enterprise showed that an astonishing 100% of visitors who were questioned five years later remembered the experience. Around 90% of those interviewed reported feeling sensitized to the world of the blind, 52% recommended Dialogue in the Dark to their friends and family, and 34% wanted to experience the exhibition a second time.