Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Building Community and Awareness at the Blind Cafe

There are many ways that we, as a community, can educate people on what it means to be blind or visually impaired. Most of us do this on a daily basis by answering questions from passersby or simply by demonstrating our independence when we’re out in the community. These interactions help increase awareness, but it is only through experience that people really understand. It was this philosophy that led Rosh Rocheleau to create the Blind Cafe.

In 2007, Rosh was touring Iceland when he stumbled on a blind cafe. The attendant out front explained to him that this was a cafe where all the waiters were blind. After purchasing his coffee, he was handed a white cane and sent inside. This was his first experience of eating in the dark, and it is what inspired him to create a similar experience here in the states.

When he returned home to Colorado, he reached out to the blind community. This led him to Gerry Leary, owner of the Unseen Bean Coffee Shop. The two of them decided to put on their first blind cafe in 2010, and after receiving a great deal of positive feedback, they put on their second show shortly thereafter. Since then they have put on shows in cities across the country including: Portland, Seattle, Austin, Santa Cruz, and Burlington.

The events include a meal of locally grown foods, a Q and A session with the waiters, and music from Rosh. Gerry Leary also shares his own personal story. The whole event takes place in complete darkness, simulating what it’s like for someone with no vision.

To learn more about the Blind Cafe and how you can get involved visit their website: http://www.theblindcafe.com/home.htm

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