Visually impaired guide sighted students in Dark Café

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By Zahra Rashid 

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH – Darkness surrounded her.

Poojaraj Maniyeri looked around the room and she couldn’t see a single thing, not even the people standing right next to her. 

“It isn’t scary but more confusing initially,” she said, when asked how she feels about experiencing some of the visually impaired world.

This role reversal was organized by the American University of Sharjah Community Services and Outreach program, where visually impaired people from the Emirates Association of the Visually Impaired guided AUS students in a “Dark Café” on Feb. 22. 

The students were served coffee and snacks and spoke to their guides about how it feels to be in absolute darkness. 

“I went in my first year as well as this year and both times I was shocked. But eventually my eyes got adjusted to it [the darkness],” Maniyeri said. 

Maniyeri said she was amazed with the structure of the café as it did not let any light in and this enhanced her experience. 

Community Services and Outreach coordinator Amawi ElKhalifa said that, in an ironic way, the dark café was enlightening. 

“Each student left having learnt something and it was very subjective. Some were crying, happy, confused or thoughtful,” she highlighted.

The dark café was built by student volunteers from the Community Services and Outreach office.