Five friends survived the chaos of Istanbul with only their ears, their hands and a very long white stick.
Dialogue Istanbul, a simulated vision impaired concept in the Gayrettepe Metro Station, removes your eyes and in return gives you an experiment in awareness.
“I don’t know if this is ironic but that was a very eye opening experience.” Lisa
I speak with Lisa, a 30 year old Brit, as we walk through the underground tunnel of the Gayrettepe Metro.
We have just experienced our first Dialogue in the Dark.
Dialogue Istanbul is a concept that simulates Istanbul city as seen, or not seen, by the vision impaired.
Eres, a 35 year old Australian, discusses the experience saying, “We trusted him (our guide) to keep us safe. Normally the roles would be switched in day to day life. But in this scenario he looked after us and we got to see….. through his eyes…”
These thoughts are bounced off Lisa as she also explains, “We trusted a blind person to be our eyes, which is a very interesting concept.”
Let me stop and confess a dilemma…
I have to write an article. I want to write about it but I don’t want to give anything away because the whole experience is the unknown.
So, the question is, what do I want to tell you?
Perhaps I will share with you our journey across Istanbul on a ferry surrounded by a deafening blackness.
It was during this time I had a realisation that the ferry is my favourite part of Istanbul with or without eyes.
It was a very impacting and emotional moment when the boat began to rumble and the seagulls swooped against the distant roar of Istanbul.
While looking at nothing with my head perched high to catch sounds, I began to understand the difference between solitude and loneliness.
If you venture anywhere by yourself when you are with sight, it is easy to feel alone, or rather lonely, if there is no one to talk with.
However, during the simulated challenge with sight removed, I became one with Istanbul. I was a part of the city and morphed into the landscape of sounds like never before.
Our guide, Yunus, was remarkable. He is a psychologist who started to lose his eye sight at age 15 and says now at 34 he is starting to forget what he looks like.
Although currently with only ten percent of his vision it seemed he was not impaired at all as we could hear him walk around and guide us with ease.
After experiencing the hour and a half simulation, Craig, 30 from the UK, says he has “more admiration for those that are visually impaired”.
Craig says he doesn’t know “how they manage to do it”. Which again leads me to tag Yunus as ‘remarkable’.
I had quite an unconventional interview or discussion session with our guide while sitting in a bar, again surrounded by darkness, which by now felt more like a friend than an enemy.
He may have lost his eye sight at an early age, but he has held on to his humour saying he doesn’t have to worry about looks anymore because, to him, everyone is attractive.
Yunus also mentioned the challenges of living in Istanbul.
“The chaotic areas of Istanbul are quite difficult, and are challenging for those with eyes, but 20 times more challenging for me.”Yunus
In Australia the vision impaired have access to a Guide Dog Foundation. The Guide Dog Australia statement reads, “We assist people who are blind or have a vision impairment to gain the freedom and independence to move safely and confidently around their communities, and to fulfil their potential.”
If only Yunus lived in a world with the same support.
In Istanbul the visually impaired don’t have access to guide dogs.
One can only imagine the impact a chaotic environment would have on a dog with Yunus saying Istanbul’s infrastructure “is not the best”, describing the city’s accessibility as “not easy”.
Eres later has a spark of an idea, “The people who should do it (Dialogue Istanbul) are the people who are meant to be making a difference like council members who are making decisions on infrastructure. They should experience it more than the general public.”
Perhaps this calls for a challenge to the municipalty of Istanbul. Governors, mayors, and council members, perhaps you have lost your way and are blind to the problems of the city?
People of Istanbul, I ask you, pick up a stick and walk into the darkness. When you re-enter the light you may emerge as new role models for our city.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Dialogue in the Dark Istanbul
Gayrettepe Metro İstasyonu Sergi Alanı
Esentepe Mah. Büyükdere Cad. İstanbul, Türkiye 34394
0212 272 66 44
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