As the samples of beer were being passed around for tasting, guests became noticeably quieter as they focused on hearing every word. Tinkess Photo

RUSSELL—If you didn’t have the ability to see, how would your life be different? You wouldn’t be able to drive, at least not in the traditional sense, and going out for a walk in an unfamiliar area by yourself probably wouldn’t be practical. To enjoy a sunrise or a sunset you would be reliant on the descriptive abilities of the people you were with.

Dig deeper though, and consider how simple, daily activities would be affected. Imagine going out for dinner with a group of people. How would you navigate the table to find the things you were looking for, the glass of water, condiments, utensils and the like. True, you could always ask someone to pass the whatever, but what if you are hearing impaired as well?

Russell High School was the scene, as approximately 50 people experienced a rough approximation of what this might be like as the DeafBlind Ontario Foundation hosted their third Savour the Senses event. For the price of admission, guests had the opportunity to taste an assortment of craft beers, followed by a gourmet dinner, including dessert and a cider pairing. To help guests build understanding, the tastings and the dinner would be enjoyed while blindfolded.

Sarah Grimbly is the communications’ coordinator at Deaf Blind Ontario Services. She says events like this are essential if the organization is going to be able to assist as many people as possible.

“Although DeafBlind Ontario Services receives government funding, a lot of what we are able to do comes from fundraising events like this,” said Grimbly. “For the people that we support, things like wheelchair vans or any accessible upgrades to their houses are made possible through events like this.

“The whole idea of the event is to engage your senses; that’s why we have the fun blindfolds, and just trying to get people to try new experiences, socialize, network, and learn a little bit about the organization as well.

It seemed to work. A room that was quite chatty prior to the blindfolds being put in place, became initially much quieter, but as they adjusted to their “new condition” conversation increased and people genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. Of course, there was the understanding that at any given time the blindfold could be removed. This is something a deafblind person doesn’t have the luxury of doing, and government funding only goes so far, which is why these events are so important.

Funds raised through ticket sales, corporate and community sponsors and a silent auction go toward supported living homes and community services in the Ottawa, Embrun and Vars area.

For further information about DeafBlind Ontario Foundation, you can visit their website at