Sociology department hosts ‘Dining in the Dark’

Students experience what it is like to be blind

By on October 18, 2014
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The sociology department held its first Dining in the Dark event Tuesday evening in Burt Kahn to raise awareness about the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Students and staff alike were given the opportunity to blindly taste four different flavors of ice cream to briefly experience what it is like to have to do something blind, Assistant Professor of Sociology Grace Yukich said.

“The goal of the event is to try to connect [blindly tasting the ice cream] to larger issues with disabilities on campus,” Yukich said. “So we are really hoping to get a conversation started and trying to make the campus a more welcoming place for people with different abilities.”

Those who attended were blindfolded upon arrival; then volunteers from the sociology department escorted them to their seats.

One student mentioned how nervous she was when her vision was taken away.

“My legs were shaking so much. I was afraid that I was going to trip bump into something,” she said.

Attendants were instructed to taste and guess four flavors of ice cream, which were initially unknown to them. Walnut Beach Creamery of Milford supplied the ice cream. The unusual flavors included Goat Cheese and Roasted Tomato (which was specially made for this event,) Black Tea and Shortbread, Lavender and Fig, and Carrot Cake. While the Carrot Cake flavor was definitely the most popular, others had interesting responses.

“It tastes like play dough,” one student said.

“Tastes like a candle,” another said.

And perhaps the most blunt comment was in regard to the Lavender flavor.

“Is this Febreeze?”

After eating the ice-cream samples, participants had to guess the flavors and write their thoughts on a piece of paper. While this may seem like a relatively simple idea, those involved were cautiously moving their hands about the table attempting to find their respective papers and pens without knocking over the cups of water. The person who guessed the most flavors correct would win a small prize.

Sarah Mastracchio, 21, representing the Foundation Fighting Blindness, made a short speech about her struggle with vision-impairment and how that affected her life. At the age of 16, just two days after she started learning to drive, she was diagnosed with Retinal Pigmentosa. Sarah describes the disease on her VisionWalk profile page.

“I only can see the center of my field of vision instead of in the entire field of vision most people see,” she writes.

“My doctor told me that I would never be able to drive. It kind of turned my life upside down,”  Mastracchio said.

Sarah participates in the Westchester-Fairfield VisionWalk each year on Team Mastracchio, also known as “Retinitis Pigs,” which has helped her cope with her impairment.

“With the help of my family and my team, it makes things easier,” Mastracchio said.

Professor Yukich said the sociology department would like to make this an annual event, but each year the department would get different food and raise money for a different cause.

“We don’t know what the theme would be but we plan to have one each fall,” Yukich said.

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