Founded by renowned German social entrepreneur Dr Andreas Heinecke, Dialogue in the Dark is essentially a walking tour of various simulated environments in complete darkness, led by visually-impaired guides.
Dialogue in the Dark offers an unusual but effective platform to raise awareness and facilitate inclusion of all segments in the community, regardless of race, class, religion and disabilities as these are no longer visible in the dark. The concept is simple but powerful, the experience profound.
Teaching and Learning Facility
Located in Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s (NP) campus, Dialogue in the Dark Singapore serves as an important teaching and learning facility. It gives School of Humanities’ final-year students from diplomas such as Business & Social Enterprise, and Psychology & Community Services, the opportunity to run an innovative social enterprise and conduct research on social issues.
Ngee Ann students from other diplomas also have the opportunity to experience Dialogue in the Dark Singapore, for example, through the polytechnic’s Interdisciplinary Studies programme.
Mr Chia Mia Chiang, the Principal of the polytechnic, said: “As a training facility, Dialogue in the Dark injects a fresh and most enriching perspective to the learning dimension. Our students have benefited tremendously from it and we are proud to be able to share this thought-provoking experience with everybody.”
Although Dialogue in the Dark has been introduced to over 30 countries, the Singapore one is the first in the world to be set up in an educational institution to give hands-on experience for students in social entrepreneurship. This training facility is also used to enhance experiential and applied learning for a range of modules in the campus.
Said Dr Heinecke: “What is unique is that the entire operation is managed by students. The combination of an educational programme for social learning, employment of disabled people and raising awareness towards others is also unique.”
Officially opened on 28 April by Mr Gerard Ee, Chairman of the National Kidney Foundation and Council for the Third Age, Dialogue in the Dark Singapore is supported by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Manpower Staff Services (Singapore) Pte Ltd, National Heritage Board, Ngee Ann Kongsi, Lee Foundation, Pure Eddiction Pte Ltd, and YEO'S.
Providing Employment for Visually-Impaired People
As a social enterprise, Dialogue in the Dark Singapore specifically employs visually-impaired people who are trained to guide the visitors. Currently, there are a total of 14 guides.
Of these, the oldest is Mr William Hiu Chok Ngian, 55. He became visually-impaired at the age of 35 because of glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa, eye conditions which can lead to blindness.
Since then, Mr Hiu, who used to be a businessman, basically stayed at home, doing household chores while his wife goes out to work. To support the family, the father of two worked part-time as a masseur. Then, the guide job came along, giving him a new lease of life.
“I feel empowered because I am in a position to help people really understand our problems and how we feel. At times, they are so moved by the experience that they cry,” he said.
Being a guide has also opened doors for Mr Hiu who has been offered three jobs in the marketing line by visitors. But he finds his work so meaningful that he prefers to remain at Dialogue in the Dark Singapore.
“Now, instead of idling at home, I can look forward to going to work. I have become more positive and confident in myself,” he said happily.
Like Mr Hiu, fellow guides Mohammed Halimi Bin Juffri, 39, and Serene Hong Hui Qin, 35, find their work very satisfying because they can touch lives and become a catalyst for changing mindsets about the visually-impaired.
“I am thrilled to be one of the guides for Dialogue in the Dark,” said Mr Halimi, a former flight steward who became visually-impaired after a surgery for brain tumour in 2004.
“I find the concept most beautiful because in order to help the visitors learn to see, I have to lead them through the darkness. And that is where I become the ‘boss’,” he quipped.
Ms Hong, a mother of two, said she enjoys meeting people and helping them better understand what the visually-impaired really go through.
“Hopefully, after the tour, they will be motivated to help us when they see us on the road,” she added.
Dialogue in the Dark has been experienced by more than six million visitors in over 30 countries, and provided employment for more than 6,000 visually-impaired people.
Around 6,000 visitors have gone through Dialogue in the Dark Singapore at the polytechnic during the soft launch. Of these, about 2,500 are students from secondary and primary schools.
(Please see the Appendix for some visitors’ feedback on Dialogue in the Dark Singapore.)
Besides guided tours, Dialogue in the Dark Singapore will also run educational workshops on areas such as leadership and disability awareness. Targeted at students from primary and secondary schools, these workshops will be conducted by the final-year students who manage the facility.
As Dialogue in the Dark Singapore has been customised for the local market, visitors will go through familiar themed environments which they can relate to. Tours are conducted in small groups of up to eight people at a time. Each tour lasts about an hour.
To experience Dialogue in the Dark Singapore, please call the hotline at 6460 6222 to book your tour. For more information, please visit the website at www.dialogueinthedark.com.sg
About Dialogue in the Dark
Dialogue in the Dark was founded by Dr Andreas Heinecke from Germany in 1988. It has been brought into more than 30 countries around the world. There have been over six million visitors, with more than 6,000 visually-impaired guides employed.
As part of the Dialogue in the Dark experience, visitors spend one hour in pitch-black, soundproof surroundings, led by visually-impaired guides in small groups through a “park”, an “ethnic street”, a “boat ride” and a “bar”. Deprived of their visual ability, visitors learn to heighten their other senses. In the darkness, sighted visitors experience role reversals (and some would say power reversals) as the visually-impaired take the lead.
Through this journey in the darkness, visitors gain appreciation of the disabilities (or abilities) of the visually-impaired and other so-called “disabled”. The experience also encourages a more inclusive society, demonstrating how one is “colour-blind” in the dark. For more information, please visit www.dialogue-in-the-dark.com
What visitors say about Dialogue in the Dark Singapore
- Mr Ng Yeow Ling, Principal, North View Primary School
- Mrs Martha John, teacher at Raffles Girls’ Primary School,and Captain of the 20th Company, The Girls' Brigade Singapore
- Ms Lena Koh, teacher at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary)and Captain of the 4th S Company, The Girls' Brigade Singapore
- Mr Jimmy Leong, technical sales executive,Hiap Huat Chemicals and Industrials Co
- Mr Elias Loo, teacher, Xin Min Secondary School
- Tan PeiXin, Secondary 4 student, Riverside Secondary School