Innovation That Matters

Blind guides take sighted on sensorial walking tours of Lisbon

Travel & Tourism

So-called dark restaurants, where sighted customers are literally thrown into utter darkness and served by blind waiters, have been around for nearly a decade. Since a seated meal goes only so far in giving people a sense of what it’s like to live without vision, Lisboa Sensorial organizes blindfolded walking tours of Lisbon. Developed by Cabracega, a new local creative agency, the walking tours take place in Alfama, which is Lisbon’s oldest district. After being securely blindfolded, participants are steered through Alfama’s narrow streets by a blind guide from the ACAPO (Portuguese Association for the Visually Impaired). The guide shares how he experiences his surroundings, and encourages participants to fully explore their altered perception of “the narrow streets, the smell of grilled sardines, the sound of a Fado that can be heard from afar.” A guide with historical knowledge of the area also accompanies each group. Cabracega explain that their project has two main goals: to provide participants with a new sensorial experience of their surroundings through the stimuli of smell, touch, taste and hearing, and the absence of vision. Secondly, they aim to make sighted people more aware of how the visually impaired experience the world, from a decidedly positive angle. Instead of focusing on perceived limitations, the tours allow blind people to take the visually unimpaired on an exploration of their alternate domains of stimuli, codes and references. Tours cost EUR 20 per person, all of which goes to ACAPO. The first tours took place earlier this month and were fully booked, and Lisboa Sensorial will be back with new sessions in September. Like the aforementioned dark restaurants—which spread from Zurich to London, Amsterdam, Montreal and beyond—this seems like a concept that’s worth copying to other cities.



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