More than 40 people donned blindfolds at a top Birmingham city centre restaurant to experience something of what it is like to live with sight loss.
Focus Birmingham, which looks after the needs of people with visual impairment and other disabilities, organised a Dinner in the Dark event at the Zen Metro Thai Restaurant & Bar in Cornwall Street.
As well as the fun challenge of trying to eat a three-course meal while completely blindfolded, the event also carried the serious message of raising awareness of the charity and the thousands of local people who cope with a visual impairment every day.
Guests at the Dinner in the Dark event had to be escorted to their tables by sighted guides, with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front. They were requested to keep their blindfolds on throughout the time they were eating but could remove them in between courses during which time they were encouraged to talk about their experiences.
Susan Hoath, Focus Chief Executive, said of the event: “It has been fantastic. We have had a really enjoyable evening with a lot of laughter and fun, and also gently raised awareness of living with sight loss.
“I loved the experience. It was a magical mystery as you didn’t know what you were going to be getting. It went really well and we are so grateful to Zen Metro for their support. We also wanted to thank their staff who joined in so enthusiastically.”
The event, which cost £30 for the three course meal and complimentary drink, began with an introduction by Susan Hoath, who spoke of the “passion and commitment” of working for an organisation like Focus. That was followed by a short talk from visually impaired Focus volunteer Dean Mills, who is a student at Birmingham City University. He said it can be devastating to lose one’s sight, but that you can be “empowered” to achieve things with the help of Focus.
Once seated, the blindfolded diners were served prawn crackers and assorted dips before the more difficult task of negotiating a selection of starters including spring rolls, spicy wok chicken, and smoked duck. Guests were then served a choice of four main courses, including Thai green curry, with rice, before a dessert to finish of crème brulee with vanilla biscotti.
The Director of Zen Metro, Jaimon George, said: “I am really happy with the turnout. When Focus approached me to do this I knew the hardship of people with sight loss because a friend of mine gradually lost his sight over a number of years. So we were delighted to support Focus and we will be doing it again.”
Throughout the experience, diners were asked to raise their hands if they needed escorting to the toilet, or if they became uncomfortable wearing a blindfold, which no-one appeared to.
After the event, one of the diners, Harvey Chahal, aged 44, who was present with his wife Ravinder and daughter Simran, said: “I respect people with sight loss so much more after that experience.” Simran, 20, added: “It makes you realise how much you value your eyesight.”
The meal was followed by the drawing of a raffle with the prizes including a meal for two at Zen Metro and tickets to the Everyman Cinema Mailbox Birmingham and West Midlands Safari Park.
For general information about Focus please visit: https://www.focusbirmingham.org.uk/
Alternatively, people can call 0121 478 5200.