Story re-posted with permission, courtesy of The Suncoast News, Spring Hill Beacon.
By KIM DAME, Spring Hill Beacon Correspondent
Vol. 2, No. 2, March 2017
PHOTOS: Photos by J David
BROOKSVILLE—To understand the journey of another, it sometimes helps to put oneself in a similar circumstance. That is one of the functions behind Dining in the Dark, an annual fundraising event through Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind.
More than 120 guests gathered on February 4 at Silverthorn Country Club to dine in the dark, including cocktails and dancing, either while blindfolded or using special vision simulator glasses.
“They got to experience just for an evening what those with visual challenges must experience in their daily lives,” said Patricia Porter, Resource Development for Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind. In its 3rd year, Dining in the Dark provided an opportunity to raise awareness by simulating, for an evening, vision impairment.
“Part of the dinner is under blindfold or vision simulated glasses,” Porter added. “Guests chose how they wanted to experience the evening.”
It began in the cocktail area where Porter said many found the glasses to be very interesting as they navigated with a drink in one hand. “They get quite lively,” she indicated.
They later transitioned to the dining room with the help of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team. “By table group, they led the guests into the dark dining area using night vision monocles so they could see when no one else could.” Once situated, guests were then served the meal.
Lights were down for the appetizer and guests continued to use their blindfolds and glasses, for their main course and dessert, and even through the dancing.
Proceeds from Dining in the Dark will help fund services for Lighthouse throughout the year.
Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind is a multifaceted organization that provides free training to children and adults in Hernando, Pasco, and Citrus counties who are blind or visually impaired so they can live more independently. They work with early intervention for babies to help them reach their milestones. Children are socialized with others who are visually challenged, an important developmental process they typically wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. And adults and seniors receive guidance in independent living, job training, technology and support, depending on their needs.
“During the summer our teens get out into the community and learn about how employment works,” Porter explained. They are introduced to the workforce and coached on preparation for employment. “They learn about working the time-clock and how to do what they are told. If they don’t have that experience when it comes time to look for jobs, they’re in trouble.”
Lighthouse offers an independent living program for adults and seniors so they can function independently in their own homes and in the community. They develop skills to advocate for themselves and work-age adults learn important job-related skills.
“With technology and training, they are able to do what other employees are able to do,” Porter said.
It isn’t uncommon for an employer who isn’t familiar with the blind or visually impaired to be reluctant to hire because they fear liability, Porter said. “Part of what we do is talk to people in the community to remove those barriers.”
Dining in the Dark is one of the events Lighthouse created to help bridge the gap between the blind and visually impaired and the rest of the community, building on awareness by knocking down barriers. “It was much more than a fundraiser,” Porter said.
Learn more about our 3rd Annual Dining in the Dark. Planning for our Fourth Annual Dining in the Dark will soon be underway.