Students at Holbein Gymnasium (Highschool) in Augsburg’s inner city decided to try self-experiments in the scope of a school seminar lead by their teacher, Thomas Körner, who is also a prolific self-experimenter (see Germanys fastest church), while documenting the results, giving a humorous but interesting reaction to being thrown into new, yet for some people very real and daily, situations. Ranging from shaving their heads to cross dressing these experiments aiming to test social boundaries, but some are more than that, delving into experiences that the layman might not have in their life. One such experiment was attempting regular life blind.
Close your eyes in a minute and ask yourself these questions. Where are you right now? Do you hear other people busy in their day to day life, or are you at home in your bedroom? Could you find your way into the kitchen with your eyes shut? Or the bathroom? What about to school or work? Could you go shopping without seeing?
“Staying in the dark is depressing”
Letting your other senses take the proverbial wheel in life for someone not used to it is a massive undertaking. The day of our subject starts with grasping at bits of cloth or rough denim in the dark of her closet. While for the blind nude or clothed is more a tactile experience they still try to stick with what we expect. The typical German house of course has either a set of cold, smooth stone steps or a hard, wooden staircase, providing an aptly harrowing experience when traversed. Here improvisation is key, and the students apply a technique similar to taking a slide at the playground, just a lot bumpier. When you are used to seeing your surroundings then leaving the house in complete darkness can be quite overwhelming.
A barrage of strange and sometimes scary noises causes any attempt of independent travel to fail. But to actually go out, the student tried to join her mother on a shopping run, which turned out to be more holding onto the cold metal of a squeaky shopping cart than a glamorous splurging trip.
In conclusion, those that can should probably keep their eyes open for the safety of everyone. But how do the blind manage to live normal lives and do these things when they seem so daunting.
Starting in the closets prominent blind figure Tommy Edison, known for answering any question one might have for a visually impaired person on YouTube, says that to shop another person is necessary. No tricks there. But to match his wear he lives by a simple code: “everything fits with blue jeans”. Sorting the closet is done by type like anyone would, printed shirts in one drawer plain ones in the other. Collared shirts and button-ups on the rack, and formal outfits kept together as one. The clothes he buys are more factored by how they feel, comfort over style.
As for shopping the BBSB “Bayerischer Blinden-und Sehbehindertenbund e.V.” a union for the blind and seeing impaired, also found in Augsburg, offer specialised help and tools, like a “wallet” to which coins are attached by size instead of thrown into. Or specialised audiobook devices and even popular games adapted for the disabled.
These aides are all great, but one point remains, the bravery that people who cannot see have compared to us is still immense. Some blind people might not feel like they are doing something quite brave that no normal person could just achieve since it’s all they’ve know but for us it is clear that we could not just leave this vital sense behind and just jump into regular life.