Dining and dialogue in the dark at the Seattle Blind Cafe

Diners enter the Austin Blind Cafe in 2011. Over 11,000 people have been served by Blind Cafes around the U.S. (Courtesy photo)
Diners enter the Austin Blind Cafe in 2011. Over 11,000 people have been served by Blind Cafes around the U.S. (Courtesy photo)

This weekend Seattleites can experience what it’s like to eat a meal without ever seeing it.

The Blind Cafe will pop-up at Nalanda West, a Buddhist temple in Wallingford. During the two hour show, guests will enjoy a vegan and gluten-free meal in the pitch dark, listen to a live concert by Rosh & The Blind Cafe Orchestra. They’ll also hear from legally blind keynote speaker Rick Hammond, whose talk is meant to facilitate a connection between the all-blind staff and the sighted audience.

“The purpose of the Blind Cafe is to use the darkness as a way to help facilitate a connection and community and develop more compassion and understanding,” said Executive Director and Founder Rosh Rocheleau.

The cafe was founded in 2010 and travels to different cities throughout the nation, popping up in Seattle two to three times a year. Since 2010, 11,000 people have participated in this sensory experience.

But the U.S. wasn’t the first country to experiment with dining in the dark.

In 1999 blindekuh, meaning “Blind Man’s Bluff,” was founded in Zurich, Switzerland as the first completely dark restaurant. The restaurant has a similar goal to the Blind Cafe — to initiate a conversation between the blind and the seeing. Blindekuh is still operating today (along with a second location in Basel, Switzerland). Both employ visually impaired people almost exclusively.

The Blind Cafe also hopes to bring consciousness about blindness and visual impairment to people around the world. Plans are in the works to take the Blind Cafe international in 2017, possibly in Argentina or Japan. The event will be used to foster a connection between blind people from the United States and the local blind communities in other countries.

“The outcome is we get to create a cross-cultural experience for both of the blind cultures by working together on a community event that is in service to the community,“ Rosh said.

The Seattle Blind Cafe has two shows per evening at 6 PM and 8:30 PM this Friday and Saturday night. Sliding scale tickets available here

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