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Monday, Feb. 15, 2016

DINING IN THE DARK

Nonprofit turns out lights for event

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Nonprofit turns out lights for event

Imagine your dinner plate is the face of a clock. Your drink is at one o’clock, and you must locate the glass and maneuver it to your lips without looking or spilling.

The first of its kind locally, the Louisiana Association for the Blind’s Dining in the Dark event will provide attendees with the chance to eat a meal without using their sense of sight, and experience what life is like for the blind and visually impaired.

Guests at the intimate event will dine on a five-course menu and wine pairing focused on textures and aromatics designed to delight the remaining senses. During the meal, the lights will be dimmed and blindfolds worn by diners to immerse guests in the experience. Each attendee will also receive an apron to protect their clothing from spills.

“At times, it’s important to go beyond what is comfortable to have a better understanding of how other people live,” Audra Muslow, LAB community development manager, said. “I think this event will do that. There will be a lot of dialogue, a lot of laughter, and it’s going to create a lot of awareness because we take our vision for granted.”

The menu for the evening consists of hors d’oeuvres of small crostini with Mediterranean blend and balsamic glaze and basil chicken endives. The multiple courses will feature a shaved persimmon and pomegranate salad with vinaigrette, a spicy filet served with a melon scoop of quinoa and sugar snap peas, baked chicken breast with fried chicken skin crumbles and creamed corn puree, and coconut shrimp with pineapple couscous. For dessert, guests will be served a mini crème brule with a sugar nest.

“We will have baskets of bread on the table. Bread is also used as a tool to help collect food, to scoop it up,” Muslow said.

Jacob and Callie Jones of Shreveport are looking forward to the one-of-a-kind event. The couple became interested in supporting the blind community after adopting a blind rescue dog and said it has fostered within them a feeling of support for the blind community. “It’s really interesting how smart [the dog] is, even though he can’t see anything. He gets around really well,” Callie said. “If he can get around our new house within one day of living here, we can get through a dinner in the dark.”

All the proceeds raised at Dining in the Dark will go to support LAB’s mission to provide training, services and employment to the visually impaired in Northwest Louisiana.

Established in 1927, LAB is the only low vision rehabilitation center in northwest Louisiana. Professional medical staff, including an occupational therapist, a certified occupational therapist assistant and a low-vision optometrist, work at the center. They complete low-vision evaluations and assign treatment plans for clients that include technology and needed sensory aids. The low-vision center has a sensory aids store, where customers can purchase visual technology and learn to use it.

LAB also places visually impaired employees with local employers and helps them transition into the work setting. Muslow said 15 blind clients were placed in competitive outside employment last year.

“People can thrive, even in the most critical situations,” Muslow said. “They just have to learn how to live and how to navigate in a sighted world. And it’s possible, it’s doable, and it happens every day.”

Additional programs available through LAB include, braille classes, orientation and mobility (where instructors help clients learn to navigate by cane), technology and computer classes, independent living training and a transitional program for children and adolescents where they are taught how to use adaptive and assistive technologies.

“When you are at the table and you’re wearing a blindfold and it’s dark and you’re trying to figure out where your wine glass is, it’s going to give you an idea of how a blind person lives 24/7,” Muslow said. “And what a unique experience and a unique way to raise awareness about blindness and visual impairment.”

Jacob said he anticipates an interesting and different dining experience at the event. “I’m expecting a mess, but I’m expecting whatever does make it into my mouth to be fantastic,” he said.

–Melissa Airhart

WANT TO GO?

Dining in the Dark will be hosted Feb. 27 at Superior’s Steakhouse in Shreveport. A champagne reception will begin at 6 p.m. the dining experience at 7 p.m.

Tickets for the event may be purchased online at www.lablind. com and cost $150 for a single ticket and $250 per couple. Each purchased ticket has a chance to win one of five $500 gift certificates from Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry.

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