Guests eat in blindfolds at benefit dinner

Despite being blind folded for most of the night, Those who attended North Central Sight Services Inc.’s Dining in the Dark Saturday said the event was an “eye-opening experience.”

Held at Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Le Jeune Chef, the event took away participants’ ability to see by placing a blindfold over their eyes during dinner.

“Things that were very simple before have become very complicated,” said Amanda Velte, a participant, on the experience.

Heather Engle, director of programs and services, said the event was a “great” experience for diners, servers and North Central. She hoped that participants would leave with a better understanding of what those who are vision impaired go through on a daily basis.

“We don’t want people to have pity instead we want them to have a better understanding,” Engle said.

Upon being seated Debbie Decker, of Williamsport, said she was “a little nervous” for what the night would hold.

But there also was a personal connection to the night for Decker.

“My dad was legally blind so this gave me an opportunity to see how he felt,” she explained.

Michael Smith, of Montoursville, called the experience, “humbling.”

“You have to rely on a lot of other people,” he said on how difficult it was to do something as simple as taking a sip of water.

Velte said she also relied on the servers to get her through dinner.

“We really had to rely on (the servers) to get us through this,” she said. “We don’t know where anything is. We don’t even know if we’re done (eating).”

In order to help the diners, Le Jeune Chef servers guided them on where everything was on the table and their plates.

“Especially in terms of the servers it’s really important they be comfortable with serving guests that are blind or disabled,” said Fred Becker, dean of the school of hospitality.

Participants were guided to their seats by restaurant staff and helped throughout the night.

“It’s very kind of hectic and chaotic,” said Amy Decker, first-year server.

“It’s completely different (from other dinner services),” said Tiffany Edwards, first-year server.

Edwards explained that servers used the “clock method” to describe to diners where food was. For an example, servers would tell participants that a piece of food was at “1 o’clock” on their plate so they were able to find it.

Nate Hollick said that the experience was “interesting.”

“I know it’s something that as a blind person, you develop (the ability to do without seeing) I just wanted to get a feel for the daily what they go through daily,” he said.

He added that one challenging experience of the night was when a server would refill his water glass, he was unable to find where they had placed it back on the table.

Finding eating utensils also was difficult for some diners.

“It’s amazing,” said Kevin Hastings, one of the diners. “You have to use your fingers (to eat). It certainly makes you appreciate the gift of sight.”

Participants also noted how much more they now would appreciate having the ability to see.

“You take the simple things for granted,” Smith said.

“You have to slow down,” Hastings said. “You have to think three steps in front of you to do everything you take for granted.”