group of college students attempts to dine while wearing blindfolds

NEOMED community dines in the dark for disability awareness

The NEOMED Alliance for Disability Inclusion and Advocacy (NADIA) provided another opportunity for the campus community to become aware of challenges faced by individuals with disabilities. The group hosted Dine in the Dark on Jan. 17.

Alison Pryor (M1), Charles Woolery (M2) and Lauren Falcon (M2) worked closely with the Akron Blind Center to plan Dine in the Dark. The group’s aim was to simulate what it’s like to rely on other senses to perform everyday tasks, so students come to realize how reliant they are on their sight and how often it is taken for granted. Participants also were able to hear guests LJ and Lori share their stories as visually challenged individuals and gain insight into assistive devices, such as white canes, braille and guide dogs.

The Akron Blind Center educates and provides resources to the visually challenged. They host social events, teach classes and promote wellness in support of this tight-knit community. This redefines what it means to have vision loss and why blindness should not be considered a weakness.

Students shared insights from the Dine in the Dark event:

Which activity was most insightful?

Alison Pryor (M1) found eating lunch with a blindfold to be insightful. She mentioned that eating is typically a mindless activity for her, but after the blindfold was put on, it became extremely challenging. She acknowledged having the luxury of using her sight to memorize her plate but admits, had her plate been switched for another, it would have completely thrown her off.

What was learned from this experience? 

Rachel Fair (M1) found it challenging to navigate her surroundings with a blindfold. She noticed her hearing heightened and her balance wavered. Her initial steps were hesitant as she adjusted to the white cane in her hand and listened for the bell dangling from the collar of Lori’s guide dog. She quickly realized how much freedom and independence is gained from the trust and teamwork between a pilot dog and their owner.

How might this experience make someone a better doctor?

Shannon Lam (M1) mentioned that doctors tend to focus on finding cures to different diseases or disorders. Thus, the power of being able to understand our patients and look at the world through their lens is often overlooked. She intends to listen to the needs and concerns of her patients with disabilities in the future to ensure the expectations for quality of life are being met.

Why did NADIA invite the Akron Blind Center?

We wanted participants to know the visually challenged may not be able to see with their eyes, but they can certainly see with their hearts. Our hope was to bring light to the strengths of those experiencing vision loss, so that future medical providers question their perception of what it is like to be disabled.