Dialogue in the Dark is a pretty good thing. They employ people who are blind from the community to man the tours and do other jobs, they educate about blindness and facilitate discussion about blindness and mobility. It kind of sucks, however, if you use a white cane and don’t work there.
In Atlanta Dialogue in the Dark is based in Atlantic Station, a live/work/play community near the Downtown area. It’s an attractive location, there is an IKEA and Target nearby and lots of other shops. It’s also really easy to get to via the train. My problem is that every time I go there people just assume I work for the Dialogue exhibit. More than once I’ve had a shuttle bus driver tell me: “Sir? SIR? This is your stop!” to which I’ve had to reply: “this isn’t [insert destination here].” Once I had my headphones on, completely oblivious to the world around me, only to feel about ten sets of eyes glued to me. “Are you going to get off?” the driver siad. “Not until we get to my stop,” I shoot back. I know the drivers mean well, but if I don’t ask, don’t assume you know where I’m going.
The drivers are bad, but other shoppers are worse. I get grabbed and groped and then interrogated about ticket prices, how to work at the exhibit, how often tours happen or, better yet, if I give blind tours of Atlantic Station. On good days I smile and tell them to go upstairs to the box office, bad days I roll my eyes, sigh heavily and tell them I don’t work there. On the worst days I become deaf-blind and ignore them entirely. Sometimes the tone of the person will determine if it’s a good, bad or worse day. Grabbing my cane to take it “for a spin” will result in a bad day for all parties involved.
I did manage to have a bit of fun because of Dialogue once. In all their publicity they put the words “Dialogue in the Dark” in fake braille. It’s fake because it’s just printed and giant. I made a spectacle of myself once by groping the window and shouting: “Oh my god, I’ve gone illiterate.” Some onlookers laughed, others were confused, the friend I was with just pulled me away in embarrassment.