Link August 2017 - Page 18

innovations into the darkness A n initiative designed to increase awareness of vision impairment and encourage inclusivity has been launched by Guide Dogs Victoria. Carole Lander finds out more. recently opened in Docklands, Guide Dogs Victoria is promoting to partnered by Guide Dogs Victoria. corporate clients and schools. I’ve lived in Melbourne for 40 Along the way we encountered years. I’ve walked in its parks, ridden an ATM and a Myki ticket machine on its trams and I shop regularly at and I couldn’t imagine how someone Victoria Market. However, Dialogue in would operate them if they had little the Dark gave me a whole new way of or no sight. We also had to board explore it,’ said a voice somewhere viewing those places. Well, not exactly a tram and get off at Bourke Street in the darkness. I was part of a group viewing because my sense of sight Mall – thank goodness for those of six, all waving white canes in front was removed. I became acutely aware announcements. I no longer complain of us and groping with our free hand of how difficult it would be to get about them! I wondered if blind to see what we would discover. First, around in a busy city if I couldn’t see. people might be as overwhelmed as it was leaves and tree trunks, then a It was also quite scary but we were me by the barrage of noises in a city. swaying bridge over water, followed told that if it all became too much by the instruction to find the park we could leave at any time. However, for social change,” says Karen bench and sit down. I reassured myself that others were Hayes, CEO of Guide Dogs Victoria. around to help. This teamwork aspect “Melbourne embraces diversity but of the tour in the dark is something there’s still work to be done around Welcome to Melbourne. Let’s This was all part of an experience called Dialogue in the Dark TM that “Dialogue in the Dark is a vehicle inclusion. It’s a social enterprise with a goal of increasing awareness and tolerance for otherness.” Our visually-impaired guide was trained by the team from Hamburg, Germany, where Dialogue in the Dark originated 25 years ago. Andreas Heinecke was asked to develop work training for a young journalist who had lost his eyesight. With no previous experience working with the disabled, Heinecke questioned how life could be lived fully with no vision and came up with the idea of Dialogue in the Dark. There are now 133 of these around the world and Melbourne has the first one in Australia. Karen Hayes is delighted that 30 people are now employed as guides. They range from 21 to 55 years and are from all walks of life. Karen sees Dialogue in the Dark as ‘edutainment’ – a combination of fun and learning for all members of the community. They 16 innovation