Center for Independence envisions raising awareness with dinner experience

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The menu is spaghetti marinara with bread sticks, a cold side dish and dessert parfait. You will be seated shortly. Your server will bring everything to the table. Enjoy.

For many people, that sounds simple enough. Sure, spaghetti can sometimes be slippery to twist around a fork, but people figure it out.

Now, imagine doing it if you were blind.

In an effort to introduce people with great vision to the world of people with limited or no vision, the Center for Independence will host “Dine in the Blind” at 5 p.m., Saturday, April 16, at its 740 Gunnison Ave. location.

The event is meant to be a unique and eye-opening experience, at which diners must not only try to get spaghetti around a fork, they will have to find their forks and their mouths in complete darkness.

“We are going to let people experience what it’s like to be totally blind,” said Cathy Johnston, low-vision specialist with the center.

Diners will be blindfolded upon arrival at the center. Then they will be guided to their seats and served dinner, which they will be told about but won’t see. The servers will be AmeriCorps volunteers.

“I’m really excited about it,” Johnston said.

The center assists people throughout western Colorado with disabilities, including people with impaired vision such as Grand Junction’s Louise Poland, 89, and Fruita’s Arlene Denny, 71, who are part of the center’s Western Slope Visionaries, a group for people who are blind or have low vision.

Both women have macular degeneration, a medical condition typically in older adults that results in vision loss.

The women remember what life was like before their vision deteriorated and know that time is gone. Neither woman lives in complete darkness, but they’ve lost the sight that helped them prepare and eat meals.

“I can fix a meal,” Poland said. “But it takes me a while. I don’t get into measuring real well.”

Poland and Denny agreed that “Dine in the Blind” will give people a chance to experience what life is like in their shoes, particularly at the dinner table.

It’s a life that more people may want to take note of. As the United States’ general population ages, more and more men and women may develop macular degeneration, Johnston said.

And if just one person leaves the event with a better understanding of what it is like to be blind, then the center will have accomplished its goal, said center director Linda Taylor.

Tickets to “Dine in the Blind” are $13 in advance or $15 at the door.

Advance tickets are on sale at http://www.cfigj.org.

People interested in attending are encouraged to buy tickets in advance because seating is limited.

You must be at least age 12 to attend the event.

A cash bar and live auction also will be part of the event, minus the blindfolds.

Entertainment will be provided by Flat Top Reed and pianist Gary Sasser.

For information, call 241-0315.



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