“Dialog in the Dark,” a new exhibition now open at the South Street Seaport, encourages you to see the city in a whole new light — or, actually, to not see it at all. The tour allows you to experience New York City from the perspective of someone who is blind. You are tasked with relying on your senses of smell, hearing and touch in order to identify and examine your surroundings.

They’re not kidding about the dark part. After you watch a brief explanatory video (and sign a waiver saying it’s not their fault if you freak out inside!) the lights go down — all the way down. It’s so dark that when you put your hand in front of you, you can no longer see it.

Small groups are led on hour-long tours by blind or visually impaired guides, who use the sound of their voice (and the occasional hand-holding) to lead you through the exhibition. You’ll also have a cane to help you find your way. Along the route you’ll experience classic New York City locales — Central Park, Times Square, a crowded Fairway market, even a moving subway car! — without the use of sight. But you won’t be left to fend for yourself — your tour guide will make it interactive, playing guessing games in the grocery store and helping you find a seat on the exhibition’s subway car.

Once the tour concludes, the lights are slowly brought back on, and you are invited to ask your guide questions about what it’s like to live with a visual impairment. On the way out, you can read more about your tour guide (as well as the others) and learn about blindness, its causes and the efforts modern medicine is making to eradicate it.


Follow Meredith Engel on Twitter @MeredithatMetro.

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