Carbon black: In Essen, the blind now show their world to the sighted

Former car accessory hall in Essen becomes a dark lane. In theme rooms, sighted people can experience what everyday life is for the blind and non-sighted

With his dark restaurant “Finster” in Essen, Thorsten Haneke was one of the forerunners in the country. Now the gastro-entrepreneur is expanding the spectrum. With “Stockfinster”, a place is to be created on Münchner Strasse, where sighted people can experience what everyday life is for the blind and partially sighted. To that end, Haneke has set up a course in an old car accessory hall in the middle of the industrial area, where people with normal vision can recreate everyday situations in the dark. Above all, Haneke will appeal to school classes with the special “lightless” inclusion offer. Blind guides take you by the hand on guided tours.

One of these guides is Jan-Patrick Wilhelm. The 28-year-old has struggled with declining vision for 15 years, and now, according to Wilhelm, it is only two percent. The exact cause is still unknown today, says the man from Essen. The lack of diagnosis also makes it difficult for the trained office assistant to find a suitable job. With the help of the job center, Wilhelm has now been placed in “Stockfinster”, where he also wants to work in the social media field. Wilhelm is happy with the uncomplicated job entry and now hopes to make many young people aware of the problems of the visually impaired. “We can push here, but it must also be followed up in the classroom,” he says.

Essen job center records a video in “bleeding darkness”

Thorsten Haneke initially wants to hire four permanent employees and additional employees as needed for the new company. The 54-year-old is in close contact with Essen JobCenter and thus also benefits from the integration grants, which are to help people get back to work. Over the last few days, the JobCenter has even recorded an advertising video in “Stockfinster” to encourage more employers to integrate people with disabilities into working life. “There are incredibly interesting candidates,” said spokeswoman Heike Schupetta, who also points to the intensive and tailored support provided by Jessica Schlichte’s rehabilitation and severely disabled team at the job center.

Haneke also admits that at first he was “unsure of how to deal with people who cannot see”. In the dark restaurant, however, he had “only had good experiences”. His wife now runs the restaurant. After the couple went their separate ways, both privately and professionally, Haneke dared to take a fresh start with “Stockfinster”. However, the exact opening date is still pending. The operator is still awaiting approval for the change of use.

Themed rooms without lights invite you to play sports

Meanwhile, preparations are in full swing on Münchner Strasse 65. In the former commercial premises for car accessory logistics, Haneke has installed various themed premises, where supposedly everyday situations become an adventure in complete darkness; including a sports room with air hockey and basketball hoop and a room where traffic situations can be simulated. There is also a space in the Ruhr area where the region’s mining past becomes very tangible in this case. At the end of each 60-minute ride, where those who can see are also equipped with a walking stick, the path then leads to the dark café, where there is still time for a chat with the guides. Every visitor has questions for the guides, Haneke knows, “how to cope with everyday life, or whether you can feel when the sun rises”.

Haneke mentions places of discovery as “dialogue in the dark” as a model for Essen’s “stock dark”. “An exhibition about the discovery of the invisible” they call the offer in Hamburg’s warehouse. Haneke now wants to make this special experience possible for sighted and non-sighted people in the Ruhr area: “The moment the light goes out, the turn returns.”

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