The Center for Civic Engagement works with faculty and staff to coordinate OUr Atlanta Trips for Oglethorpe students to explore all our city has offer throughout the academic year. In the fall of 2010 the Center organized 24 trips in Atlanta for Fresh Focus classes, First Year Seminar classes, student organizations, as well as an anatomy class and an athletic team. One popular destination was the Dialogue in the Dark exhibit at Atlantic Station, which allow visitors to experience the world as if they could not see.
Ali Hadd’13 shared her experience at the Dialogue in the Dark exhibit:
Once upon a time, I was grocery shopping. Deep, I know. I was walking down the aisle of a super market; I picked up an apple, and it smelled like autumn. I opened the fridge: cheese, milk, eggs, cold air. I found pumpkins placed delicately in a basket hanging on the end of a shelf.
Oh yeah—I was blind… but only for an hour. And what an hour.
You see, I knew that coming to Oglethorpe would open up many doors to new experiences. What college doesn’t? But what I didn’t know is that most of my doors had been more like walls—that eventually came down with the help of Oglethorpe. I had never seen an opera—but Oglethorpe let me. I’d never volunteered at the Atlanta Food Bank—but my school said, “Why not?” And, I’d never experienced a day in the life of the blind—but OU sent me to Dialogue in the Dark.
Being a First Year Seminar mentor, I get to experience what its like to be a freshman again. It’s wonderful to be a part of Oglethorpe’s commitment to finding innovative ways to blend different academic disciplines and to provide out-of-class experiences to complement in-class learning. My First Year Seminar, led by Ms. Henry-Miller, was focused on positive psychology, communication, and culture. It seemed perfectly appropriate to attend an exhibit that enhanced my understanding about a group of individuals who use creativity and communication to overcome the obstacles of everyday life.
I thought it would be terrifying. I’m not a total wimp (ahem), but the dark is something I’d rather face with the light on. At the beginning of our tour, stripped of all light-emitting items and given a walking stick in return, we were directed to illuminated seats that provided the only light in a darkened room. The soft glow from the chairs faded as a voice gave us directions and information, until I couldn’t tell if my eyes were opened or closed. We then embarked on an hour-long excursion through rooms that imitated scenarios in every day life of someone without sight, such as a park or a busy city street.
Small things, like walking, took monumental concentration. I was three again, exploring a foreign world and shouting excitedly when I recognized something familiar. Yes, I thought it would be terrifying, but I was wrong. It was insightful. We were led by a guide, Darrell, who was legally blind. I knew this before going to Dialogue in the Dark, but at points, I was absolutely certain that this man had night-vision goggles. I would grope wordlessly in the dark, against some distant wall, and he would say, “What are you doing? You’re going the wrong way!” and gently lead me back to the right path.
After the tour, Darrell sat us down, still in our dark new world, and invited us to ask him questions. “What is it like?” “Do you have Spidey senses?” “Do you dream in sight?” “Are you happy?”
Leave it to Oglethorpe to show you the world in a completely different light.