Life as a European volunteer in Stuttgart, Germany
Last week we had really nice guests from Aussicht at our Jugendwerk office. They have a very special restaurant in Stuttgart, in which you can experience a whole meal in complete darkness with the assistance of visually impaired staff. They also have a project called Aussicht Mobil, designed by the visually impaired and blind, to convey a “world without light influences”.
First we had a small introduction and everyone described their visual situation. After that we got a brief explanation of the Braille writing: what is the logic behind the dots and everyone got a set of the Braille alphabet so we could try to feel and palpate the different letters. It is not easy! Then we made smaller teams and rotated between the stations.
Their equipment included some special glasses which demonstrate some specific vision. We had to walk around the room wearing them and we also tried to throw and catch a specific ball (blindball) with some small bells inside. It was difficult I have to say and it felt so strange how hard it is to do such a thing which is so simple in my world like catching a ball.
In one room we got pieces of papers with a word printed on it, and we had to read it with our fingertips. There was also a Braille typewriter and we could dictate some words what we wanted to be printed on our colorful papers. Most of us asked for our names along with some short sentence.
Outside we could experience how it feels to rely on a white stick when walking on the street. We were blindfolded and each one of us got a stick and we had to reach a certain point like that. It was very interesting how we started to focus on the sounds surrounding us and feel the edges of the tiles under our feet to navigate.
And last but not least, they have shown us how do they distinguish the coins and paper money by size and the ridges on their sides. They have a small plastic tool to help them but the experienced can figure out even without any tool! Then we had to guess spices by smelling them.
At the end of the session everyone could express their thoughts and feelings. Some said after covering the eyes and concentrating on the sounds made them more relaxed, but some, including me were more frustrated by the sensation. In sum, this session raised our awareness on the difficulties the visually handicapped are facing in their everyday life. We recommend this experience to everyone because sometimes we don’t appreciate our privilages, like being able to see the world around us.