Trina Whiteside, '18, blindfolds herself at Mu Sigma Upsilon’s Dining In The Dark event on Nov. 16, 2017, in the University Center. Students were blindfolded during the event while eating dinner to raise awareness for blindness. (Patrece Savino/B&W Staff)

Mu Sigma Upsilon hosts ‘Dining in the Dark’ to promote awareness about vision impairments

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Blindfolded students searched for grilled chicken, penne alla vodka and gemelli pasta in the Asa Packer dining room Nov. 16. This activity was part of Dining in the Dark, an event aimed at increasing awareness of the daily challenges faced by people with vision impairments.

The event was organized by Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Inc., a multicultural Greek letter society established on campus almost six years ago. The Lehigh chapter has been hosting Dining in the Dark for four years.

This year, treasurer Angelica Bernal Torres, ’18, and president Eliza Dent, ’18, helped run the event.

“The event is geared more toward visual impairments, being blind and the things that people go through,” Dent said. “We have people come in and eat blindfolded, and we have them talk to people on campus that deal with those issues. The bigger idea is to not take things for granted.”

Torres said tshe wanted to raise awareness of visual impairments because college students do not necessarily think about members of the community living with disabilities.

“I’ve noticed, too, if you go around a lot of buildings (on campus), they are not really suited for people with disabilities,” Torres said. “There are more accommodations in newer buildings, but the University Center, for example, (it’s difficult to) get in if you’re in a wheelchair.”

Torres said she wishes members of the Lehigh community would recognize this and do their best to accommodate as many people as possible.

Sheyla Corral, ’20, also thinks Lehigh’s campus would be difficult to navigate with a physical disability. 

“I don’t think the campus is very handicap accessible,” Corral said. “There are a few ramps around campus but not really in the main buildings. A lot of the buildings have elevators, but getting to the buildings themselves is hard. I don’t know if it’s possible on our campus to really fix it.”

The event included guide dogs to teach attendees the ways these animals can be of service to people with disabilities. 

“We want to teach them how blind people get around and how they cope with everyday life,” Dent said.

Jess Manno, the director of assessment, student life curriculum and staff development, also helps with Dining in the Dark. Manno is raising a guide dog and started the idea of bringing the dogs to the dinner.

“I am helping out with this event because one of the groups that I am a part of raises seeing eye dogs for blind people,” Manno said. “So my group brings dogs to the event so people can see the dogs and find out more about what dogs do when they are helping blind people.”

At the Dining in the Dark event, students learned more about how they can support people with visual impairments.

“We had a survey put out with our food orders that asked, ‘Do you have any questions about visual impairment or blindness?'” Dent said. “And then we had (Disability Support Services) here at Lehigh help answer those questions.”

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