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Dine in the Dark Experience Restaurants

Design and set up "Dine in the Dark" experience restaurant chains in the cities

Photo of Isaac Jumba

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What problem does your idea solve?

About 285 million in the world are estimated to be visually impaired. In general, the society perceives these people as being helpless and needy. The visually impaired feel that society already judges them on what they can do and what they can't do, and therefore do not have the opportunity of showcasing or communicating the true potential, including what the normal beings can not do. Creating an environment for ths visually impaired to lead is a start to changing the narrative.

Explain your idea

According to the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/) 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. Of these, 90% live in low-income settings. With most of the people having the perception that the visually-impaired are helpless beings and needy, how might we change this narrative while providing income opportunities to them? The solution to this is to re-design, set-up and replicate the "Dine-in-Dark" restaurant/pop-ups in cities. Dinner in the Dark is described as a concept where dining takes place in absolute darkness, with the experience being hosted and served by the visually impaired. The goal is to change your perspective of the world by inverting your point of view as described by Danslenoir (http://london.danslenoir.com/en/concept-eng/). The concept is not new. Blind Cafe (https://www.theblindcafe.com/sanfrancisco/) among other restaurants have perfected in carrying out this events. While it has seen already had its success, the focus for the events has always been for the high end market, and with few events. The idea here is to use this model to create more of these restaurants in areas accessible by everyone and making it affordable and create more opportunities for more visually impaired to be involved in running the restaurants, and get income from it, while changing the perception of people on what they can do.

Who benefits?

The visually-impared. The "Dine in the Dark" popup restaurants are completely run by the visually-impaired. This means creating opportunities in the hospitality industry for the visually impaired. An example would be John, he is blind, 28 years old. John is a trained and certified blind chef.

How is your idea unique?

The idea hopes to build on already a tested model. While the existing "Dine in the Dark" experiences are seen as events only for those who can afford $100 for a 1 hour meal, and only done in high end restaurants, and for specific people, the new pop-up restaurants are meant to open up opportunities for more people to enjoy the "dinner in the dark" experience while supporting more visually impaired people, who will otherwise have no opportunities. The idea is to democratize the concept and create room for innovation and creativity

Tell us more about you

I'm part of the organizing team for OpenIDEO Nairobi chapter

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Well, this was meant to be a thoughstarter: How might we change the current narrative and perception that exists concerning people with disability. How can we package that in a way that can "wow" normal people while creating opportunities for the highlighted. The Dine in the Dark event (the Sixth Sense) is being organized on 29th April here in Nairobi. It's a great opportunity to experience it first hand, see what works, what can't work and if replicability is possible.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Kenya

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've not yet worked in a sector related to my idea but am excited to learn more.

Organizational Status

  • We don't intend to register / don't need to in order to implement our idea successfully.

Idea Maturity

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it.

25 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Lesa R. Walker MD, MPH
Team

Great idea Isaac Jumba ! I have heard of these restaurants before. I love that this idea supports the involvement and leadership of people who are blind/visually impaired in the design and operation of the restaurants. This concept stimulates empathy which is essential and has ripple effect in design-thinking community-wide.

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Thank you Lesa. It's something that can be implemented locally.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Isaac. This sounds like a great idea. I think it creates an opportunity for empathy building and also becomes a conversation starter, changing the conversation to what one is able to do vs. disability.
Funny, there is overlap here with the Fall Prevention Challenge. During the research phase I posted a post which lead to a nice discussion in comments about this. In one of the comments Anne-Laure Fayard  shared an exhibition called Dialogue In The Dark. Maybe there are some learnings there too?
http://www.dialogue-in-the-dark.com
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/fall-prevention/research/the-conversation-turned-around-to-what-i-could-do

Exciting to hear that there is an event planned for Dining in the Dark in Nairobi! I look forward to hearing about it!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Thanks Bettina Fliegel for tagging me. Nice to see your idea Isaac Jumba I did mention the Dialogue in the Dark which is an exhibition I participated too many years ago (1994 I believe!) in Paris (it started with a performance in 1993): http://www.dialogue-in-the-dark.com/about/exhibition/ As part of the exhibition, we also went to a cafe where the waiters were visually impaired (the guides too). It was for me a transformative experience which taught me what empathy means. Moreover, my experience during the exhibition definitely challenged the boundaries of how was "able" and who was "disabled" to find her / his way in the dark using other senses. If you look at the website, you'll see that they also started a series of dinners in the dark. I never participated but I know a few people who did. I like that your idea is not only about the empathy and challenging the notion of disability but also about creating financial opportunities for visually impaired. I also like the idea of democratizing the experience. Looking forward to hear about the pop up on April 29.

Photo of Anders Iversen
Team

I've also tried Dialogue in the Dark (in Copenhagen, Denmark) many years ago, and it was really great (included a dinner in the dark experience). I think this idea is really good.
Before experiencing Dialogue in the Dark, I thought that it must be awful to be blind, and if I would loose my sight, it would be nearly impossible for me to adjust. After Dialogue in the Dark my mind changed completely. I think this really helps with the stigma part of this challenge, which a lot of the other ideas only do indirectly.
We also have a Dinner in the Dark restaurant in Denmark: https://www.facebook.com/darkwaiterdenmark/

Photo of Lynette Onyango
Team

Hi all... thank you Isaac Jumba for sharing this concept on this platform. My team and I are the ones organizing the dinner in the dark aka 6th sense events in Nairobi, Kenya. I am loving the recommendations shared here and we will definitely consider them all. What 6th sense dinner in the dark would like to showcase is the ability of the VIs to do something otherwise considered by the sighted people as impossible for them, professional service of a full dinner, i.e. a 3-4 course meal. I am more than happy to answer all the questions any of you may have.

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Thanks Lynette, good to have you on board

Photo of Conor
Team

This is a wonderful idea - I especially like the aspect of making it more affordable. Do you see this as a tour-type program? Where the same chefs/waiters/staff travel to different cities? Or more permanent locations in multiple cities? I think either could work, would just be different models. One important factor to really build buzz around this would be to have local media outlets come and have the 'Dine in the Dark' experience and then spread the buzz through social media, newspapers and other sources. This would get people even more excited about the idea. You could also feature some of the chefs/waitstaff on a centralized website, highlighting their culinary accomplishments to build their reputation. I really like this idea and I hope to see it soon in my city!

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Thanks Conor for the great insights. I like that you highlighted the other approach that the idea could work - that of a tour-type. There was a planned "Dine-in -the Dark" event in my city but it got postponed. I'm thinking of integrating your feedback on working with the local media and also showcasing the amazing chef/waitstaff.

What City are you in?

Photo of Nguyen Loan
Team

I love your idea!!!! Very creative!

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Thanks Nguyen Loan for your thoughts. The concept can also be applied for those considered to have hearing impairment: https://www.thestar.com/news/2017/03/27/at-indian-restaurant-deaf-and-mute-staff-a-talking-point.html
Here is another: https://twitter.com/i/videos/tweet/850966528572784640?

Photo of Kelsey Kamm
Team

Great imagery not sure if it is super viable but very creative props!

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Thanks Kelsey Kamm for the comment. I have also shared another version of the idea on the comment section on restaurants ran by those considered deaf. Would love your thoughts!

Photo of Ryan Ortega
Team

Hello Isaac, how did you hear about OpenIDEO and are you in a related field?

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hi Ryan, thanks for the question. I first heard about OpenIDEO when a friend recommended that I should check out the platform since its something I can be interested in. I later came to learn that we have a local chapter (Nairobi), which I then joined. I have been an active community contributor since then.
At the moment I'm involved in helping organizations innovate and facilitating design thinking and innovation workshops. I have both a tech and business background

Photo of Allan B Goldstein
Team

It is so coincidental--one of my students in Dis Studies told me about a friend dining in the dark, and here you are, promoting dining in the dark. I like your idea of making such experiences accessible to all people.

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hi Ashley Tillman , Bettina Fliegel , Anne-Laure Fayard , @DeletedUser  Thanks for jumping in with your thoughts. I will try get the organizer of the event jump onto the challenge to provide more insights.Interesting enough, I came across some articles and news highlighting restaurant in India which employs the deaf, and give an opportunity for customers to learn sign language in order to order the meals. Here are some links: https://www.thestar.com/news/2017/03/27/at-indian-restaurant-deaf-and-mute-staff-a-talking-point.html
Here is another: https://twitter.com/i/videos/tweet/850966528572784640?

The idea could be work with centres/organizations that deal with people with disability and help then change the narrative and create opportunities for these groups. Your thoughts on the Indian restaurant?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Isaac Jumba thank you so much for sharing! I find this model really interesting. I also like the fact that it's really a restaurant with waiters who happened to be hearing- and speaking- impaired )which means that the diners have to adjust to a new mode of communication) rather than an "experience" like dinners in the dark, which are great but more focused on providing an experience to diners to make be more empathetic. Don't get me wrong this is great too but I feel the focus of the Indian restaurant was more what you should aim for, and is more inclusive.

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Thanks for pointing that out. Allow me to tag Jacob Ireri who runs the Deaf Empowerment Society of Kenya to see if this is something they have thought about here in Kenya.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Looks like a great model. I read some customer reviews online. They reported that food, service, and hospitality are great at this restaurant. Wouldn't it be great if all aspects of employment were available to hearing impaired applicants at these restaurants, including food prep?

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hi Bettina Fliegel , yes the reviews are really good. From an article I read, it highlighted that most of the aspects are handled by them, unless it's a really difficult situation. I also like the model as this is a sustainable model to the organizations supporting PWDs. Thanks for your thoughts always

Photo of Ahmed yesuf
Team

Interesting Idea  

Photo of Ashley Tillman
Team

Hi Isaac, what an exciting Idea! Have you reached out to Danslenoir or Blind Cafe yet?

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

No I have not. I had talked to the people organizing the event in Kenya, I think they were trained by organizers from Paris. I was hoping they could join the platform and give more insights and build on the idea.

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

This is amazing, Isaac Jumba — few ideas and provocations:

1. What if the information about what was about to happen, or the menu for the dinner, was in braille—which gives those who are blind or vision-impaired (and know braille) an ability to understand what's going on, and create a flipped experience for those who are vision-abled?

2. Debriefing is going to be really powerful here, how are you going to have a conversation about what that experience was like for participants after the dinner?

3. How might you design this experience in true partnership with those who are blind or vision-impaired?