The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

11 June 2008

Dialogue in the dark

The idea is really very simple. In completely a darkened room, blind people lead small groups of guests through an exhibition in which everyday situations are experienced without eyesight.

But the experience is altogether different. A role reversal takes place. Sighted people are taken out from their normal social routine and away from the familiar. Blind people help you orient yourself and give you mobility, and they are also ambassadors for their culture which is devoid of images. They will show you that being blind is a different, but it also offers interesting ways of perceiving people and places.

Everybody will have an unforgettable experience. They will feel their own limits, and perhaps develop a greater understanding, empathy and respect for people who see the world without the benefit of sight.

To complement the exhibitions Dialogue in the Dark provides educational activities for pupils, teachers and others who are interested, and for companies and institutions, a special Business Workshop. Their Taste of Darkness allows you to eat in the dark – there are other restaurants such as Dans le Noir? (London and Paris, with franchises in Moscow and Warsaw)and Die Blinde Kuh (Zurich and Basel) which also do this.

Dialogue in the Dark started in 2000. It has creates jobs for over 5,000 blind, disabled and disadvantaged people worldwide. Its experience can change mindsets on disability and diversity, and increase tolerance. Over 5 million visitors from more than 20 countries have experienced the exhibition.

There are Dialogue in the Dark venues in many European countries, the Americas, East Asia and Israel. If you are passing why not drop by. If you can think of somewhere in your own country to install a Dialogue in the Dark permanent or temporary exhibition, then contact Andreas at:

Dialogue in the Dark was founded by Andreas Heinecke. He was born in 1955 and grew up in Baden-Baden in Germany. He studied German language, literature and history. Following his studies began work as a journalist and documentary writer. It was there that he was asked to train a journalist who had gone blind. Andreas was fascinated by the world of blind people and shocked by the discrimination against them, to which they are still exposed today.

In 1988, Andreas began working with the Home for the Blind Foundation in Frankfurt am Main, so that he could share the experience he had gained so far with other broadcasting corporations. He was looking for possibilities to engage blind and sighted people in conversations where their interest in each other would not be impaired by pity, insecurity or prejudice. It seemed an obvious idea to allow blind and sighted people to meet in the dark.

In 1996, Andreas resigned from the Foundation to start his own business and spread the idea of Dialogue in the Dark internationally.

Together with his wife, Orna Cohen, he has also developed the spin-off of Dialogue in Silence where deaf people provide the hearing with access to non-verbal communication.

Dialogue in Silence is an exhibition which invites you into a world of silence. Other forms of expression have to be used and language has to be visible if it is to be understood. Deaf people act as guides for the visitors, taking small groups through the exhibition which is totally soundproof. Hearing people will discover a repertoire of non-verbal communication (such as mime, gesture and body language). Deaf people will show them a world without sound but which is in no way poorer.

Dialogue in Silence:

Go and have a meal in a blind restaurant: