Lighthouse Central Florida, an organization that specializes in rehabilitation for people with vision loss, is offering a “glimpse” into the life of the visually impaired with their event Dining in the Dark. It’s a meal in total darkness that promises great food for a great cause in a whole new light. It will take place at the Maitland Homebuilders Association from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, with catering from Tolla’s in Winter Park. I sat down with Lighthouse Central Florida President Lee Nasehi, who hopes the event will bring awareness to the organization and most importantly, new friends.
Observer: Lighthouse Central Florida started in 1976 with a mission to bring hope and independence to those in need. How far have you come in achieving your mission?
Nasehi: I think we’re doing a great job. Our updated mission statement is “charting a course for living, learning and earning and with vision loss.” That last piece — earning — is the latest expansion of our strategic plan to not just provide the education and rehabilitation services, but also to help people with vision loss get employed.
Observer: How many people do you think you’ve helped?
Nasehi: Over 100,000. We serve 700 or 800 visually impaired every year, but then we help their families, employers and friends, so we’re touching a lot more people every time that happens.
Observer: What types of skills are taught to those visually impaired?
Nasehi: We teach them skills that they can generalize to any situation — how to travel safely using a cane, helping them maximize the use of their residual vision, how to use accessible technology. We teach them how to be able to interface and do anything.
Observer: How important is it for the visually impaired to utilize these skills?
Nasehi: Most of the people that come to us have had vision all their life, but as they get older, they lose their vision. If you don’t know that these services exist, and your doctor tells you that you’re going to lose you vision, you start thinking horrible things. I’m a parent of a child who is blind too, and this program saved my life. We change people’s lives because they come here, and they see that losing your sight is not the end of your life. You have to learn how to do things differently and those people who receive professional services can still go on with their lives.
For more information about Lighthouse Central Florida and its Dining in the Dark event, located at 215 New Hampshire St. in Orlando, call 407-898-2483 or visit www.lighthousecentralflorida.org
Observer: How did Dining in the Dark get started?
Nasehi: About 50 years ago, there was a man in Europe who lost his vision. He and his friends started to have soirees in his home in the dark and they loved it. In Europe, there are a number of restaurants that have meals in the dark and it’s crept around the world. A board member suggested it a few years ago as a fun event to do that also allows us to connect with restaurants, chefs and other small business in the community that want to support us. This is a way for us to attract people who otherwise wouldn’t know about us.
Observer: How do people that are not visually impaired react to eating in the dark?
Nasehi: People lose their inhibitions in the dark. They have fun and they’re not as shy. When the lights are out, it gives you a different way to experience your taste and your hearing and how you feel things that you don’t notice when you can see everything.