CSD Highlights the Experience of Blind People at BC

The Council for Students with Disabilities (CSD) is encouraging Boston College students to share a meal with one another while blindfolded. Dinner in the Dark, which was hosted last week and will continue this week, will allow participants to experience how blind people navigate everyday events like meals.

Svea McNally, chair of CSD and Lynch ’22, said that the purpose of Dinner in the Dark is to spread awareness about the physical and social barriers someone with a visual impairment experiences.

“The goal is for students to leave with a new perspective that they can bring towards dismantling the ablest structures and social isolation that people with disabilities face,” McNally said.

According to Nick Claudio, a member of CSD and GMCAS ’23, there are ableist structures surrounding meals on BC’s campus. Claudio said that he first began to lose his vision when he was about 10 years old, and is now the only blind student at BC this year. 

“I don’t know which bin will have which ingredient for my salad,” he said, commenting on the BC dining halls. “Or like, you know, which fridge will have which sandwich unless I literally open it up and stick my hands in there, which isn’t a sanitary thing.”  

Additionally, navigating the organization of the food stations at Lower is something Claudio will often not do alone. 

“Because of how complicated something like a BC cafeteria is, I need assistance if I’m going to go there and get food there,” he said. “They don’t have just dining staff at the door waiting to greet someone who might need assistance, which makes it difficult. Oftentimes, if I’m going to go to the cafeteria, I’ll just go with one of my friends.”

Claudio said that his statements are not meant to invoke pity for those with a visual impairment like himself. Instead, he wishes to encourage students to broaden their perspective on how deep the roots of ableism run within our everyday structures and activities.

Cate Cheevers, CSD legacy programmer and MCAS ’23, is in charge of facilitating Dinner in the Dark. She mentioned that Claudio’s words during the event’s reflection session were extremely impactful to her. 

“When Nick gets up [and] talks and does the reflection, I think that’s a really good moment at the event,” Cheevers said. “You’re just doing this for fun, but this is something that people with vision impairment or those types of disabilities experience every day, and Nick does a really good job of talking about that after the dinner is done.”

CSD Policy Coordinator Jonah Kotzen, MCAS ’24, strongly encouraged students to attend, if not just for the event itself, then to hear Claudio speak about his experiences. 

“Hearing Nick and our general dialogue after the event actually occurred and understanding what it means to him on an everyday basis and to live with a visual disability was really impactful for me,” Kotzen said. “I think it was something that I’m never going to forget.”

Dinner in the Dark will continue in the Walsh Function Room from Monday through Wednesday. Tickets for the event are sold online. 

Even if a student is unable to attend, Claudio encourages students to make changes in how they treat those around them. 

“These events, not just Dinner in the Dark, are not meant to say to people, ‘Hey, look how hard it is for people with disabilities,’” he said. “Because if that was the message we were trying to get across, that would be further isolating and playing into the stigma. The point of it is, look at how much people don’t think about accessibility and how much that needs to be increased because everybody, regardless of, you know, what you’ve got going on in your life, should have equal access and inclusion to everything.”

Images by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

November 14, 2021