Lisburn man Damien O’Neill was among a team of fourteen participants from Fold Housing Association last week got their teeth into a unique RNIB challenge aimed at raising awareness of the issues facing people who are blind or partially sighted.
Guests at the ‘Dining in the Dark’ event donned special light-blocking blindfolds and relied on the support of trained staff at the Malone Lodge Hotel and their own heightened senses of smell, sound, taste and touch to navigate a three-course meal in total darkness.
The event, organised by Business in the Community, was carefully planned to allow guests to experience some of the obstacles blind and partially sighted people encounter every day and gain an understanding of how small adjustments can make a big difference.
Gillian Somerville, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Services said: “Dining in the Dark has been a valuable experience for us all and highlighted many of the day-to-day issues that many of us might not always be aware of. It made us think about how we act and what we can do differently to ensure everyone is supported fairly.
“Fold Housing Association, employs more than 800 staff in Northern Ireland and it is important that we understand and can properly accommodate the needs of all including those with visual impairments.
“An important part was having RNIB staff, who are blind or partially sighted, join our team for the lunch and discuss the challenges of everyday situations and the adjustments we can make to ensure we provide equal opportunities to all in the workplace.”
Barry Macaulay, RNIB NI, Senior Manager Independent Living and Inclusion said: “We run these events for various service providers and employers across Northern Ireland, the aim being to create a more inclusive society by improving access to services and employment opportunities. It is important that partcipants gain a greater understanding of sight loss and our Dine in the Dark events act as a positive and novel vehicle to break down preconceptions and dispel myths.”
As part of the event, hospitality staff from the Malone Lodge Hotel also received specialist Visual Awareness training from RNIB on approaches they can make for customers who are blind or partially sighted including reading out menus, describing the position of glasses and condiments on the table and guiding techniques.