I had to eat dinner in the dark recently, and it was harder than I thought it would be. Danielle Verhoeven, from the Blue Mountains, has a rare condition—Usher syndrome—which causes hearing loss and progressive blindness. At 41, she still has some useful central vision. She works as a telephone triage nurse and is mum to a four-year-old. In spite of her challenges, Danielle feels she has been lucky and she wanted to raise some money for Cure Blindness Australia. Our job during dinner was to see what it was like to eat a meal with little vision or no vision at all. We were inspired by hearing from world blind motorcycle land speed record holder, Ben Felten, another Blue Mountains resident. Ben hit a record 272.596 kilometres an hour last year in South Australia.
My aspiration was more modest—I just wanted to eat my meal. My first attempt was with the all-in eye mask, which meant I had no sight at all. As forkfuls of pork made their way slowly to my mouth, I had no idea if I was going to be chewing a big bit or a little piece. I was grateful for the mashed potato and missed half of the asparagus completely. It was easier with the glasses that simulated tunnel vision, but it still required huge amounts of head movement and concentration. It was a terrific fundraising idea and great experience for those of us who only have to cope with things like being a little bit blurry when we take our specs off.