I had the honor, together with a training & consulting DSE team, to conduct the Dialogue in the Dark guide training for visually impaired trainees in Cairo some weeks ago.
This capital city has become the first one hosting a long-term DiD exhibition in the Arabic world. We are convinced we can reach a big transformative impact in this city which has nearly 20 million habitants.
The initiative is so interesting. Al-Nour Wal-Amal, a very important local organization for blind women, supported by Drosos foundation, has introduced a program aiming to develop job skills on blind persons. And one big piece of this puzzle is DiD.
20 blind guides were trained for 2 weeks. The experience was so enriching. One can see that the same DiD exhibition may vary on its goals according to the local social conditions. Meanwhile in some accessible cities like Hamburg, Vienna or Holon the tour in the dark is more focused on the subtle aspects of social empathy such as genuine acceptance, in Cairo, as in other cities from the developing countries, the focus should be on the basics of building accessibility and understanding of the real needs of the blind.
We had the chance to walk around Cairo and experienced uneven and irregular sidewalks and busy chaotic streets which are impossible to cross independently if you cannot see. In general, the streets of Cairo are difficult for all, but it magnifies if you are blind.
We also discovered some negative prejudices towards the use of the white cane. Meanwhile this cane for some of us is the sign of our autonomy, for some blind people in Cairo it is still a sign of vulnerability and shame. Sighted people on the street are used to see blind persons without cane and to help them going from one point to the other not using the correct orientation and mobility techniques, for example, the sighted guide regularly takes the arm of the blind person to guide him / her.
Despite all difficulties deeply rooted in society, It was very touching to see the 20 blind guides, during the training, open to transform their mindset: using their cane, talking freely about disability and personal situation, eager to welcome the sighted visitors and willing to become activists to improve inclusion of the persons with visual disability in Cairo. The exhibition is located at a nice building with all needed facilities for visitors to have a great experience. The tour is a 60-minutes journey with 4 darkened different areas. The exhibition will officially open in October, however, there are already some tours available this summer.
We believe inclusion is the way to dignify every person. We believe there is a need for inclusion in all societies and we are very proud of the first DiD exhibition in the Arabic world. Best luck to the DiD Cairo team and welcome to the Dialogue family!