Students will temporarily lose their sight in an attempt to gain an understanding of what it could be like to have vision impairment

Students from Australia's, Griffith University will temporarily lose their sight in an attempt to gain an understanding of what it could be like to have vision impairment.

At a dinner designed to promote empathy, students will be blindfolded while they dine and socialise.

To be held on Tuesday, August 17, CJ’s Restaurant, Gold Coast campus, the idea is that by experiencing the loss of sight even for a short while, students will build the empathy needed for their working careers as physiotherapists or in other related fields.

Lecturer Mara Bennett said the dinner was part of a broader academic program that exposed students to members of the community with disabilities.

“Many of our students come from sporting backgrounds and are young and athletic,” Ms Bennett said. “Their previous exposure to people with disabilities is often quite limited. During their working careers, most physiotherapists are required to treat people with disabilities, so it’s important that students grow empathy and gain enough experience to enable them to feel both comfortable and confident interacting with people with disabilities. Physiotherapists work with paralympic teams and in nursing homes and hospitals where rehabilitation and maintenance physiotherapy is required.”

Ms Bennett said first-year Master of Physiotherapy students and third-year combined Bachelor of Physiotherapy/Exercise Science students would be invited to the dinner.

“Students are blindfolded for a period of about one hour,” she said. “It really demonstrates how much we take for granted – suddenly activities such as eating and socialising become difficult and exhausting. There is always at least one dinner guest who feels they can’t cope and has to remove their blindfold.”

To further build empathy and understanding, during their first year of studies, Ms Bennett takes students on a number of excursions including to a school for children with intellectual and physical disabilities and a nursing facility for the elderly.

“These excursions can be huge eye-openers to students,” she said.“The Kumbari Avenue School has several physiotherapy consultants who help to optimize the children’s learning environment from a physical bias, for instance by adjusting desk height or seating arrangements. These are issues with which students need to familarise themselves.”

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