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Disability Theme Dining: Just For Trendy Europeans?
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 18, 2005

COLOGNE, GERMANY--Restaurateurs in America, Asia and elsewhere, take note: You could be missing out on a new trend in fine dining.

In September of 1999, a Swiss foundation for blind people opened Blinde Kuh, which means "Blind Cow", in Zurich. The restaurant, in which patrons dine in total darkness, is still operating successfully, according to its website.

In May of 2003, Martine Lejeau-Perry opened Café des Signes, which in English translates to "Cafe of the Signs", a Paris restaurant staffed entirely by people who are deaf. The eatery was not only designed to give deaf patrons a place to feel at home, but also to give hearing diners a brief taste of what it's like to have to communicate without spoken language.

Last summer, Edouard de Broglie opened Dans le Noir ("In The Dark"), a Paris restaurant in which diners eat in the dark.

The restaurant became so profitable that de Broglie has announced plans to open a new Dans le Noir in London.

And last week, the Inter Press Service News Agency reported that Ralf Mechlinski has opened Unsicht-Bar ("Invisible Bar") in Cologne and Berlin, Germany.

Mechlinski said that the restaurants provide a unique dining experience to blind and sighted customers alike, allowing them to enjoy the food free from visual distractions.

"The idea is to show that perception is a holistic process," Mechlinski told IPS. "When you can't see, then the other senses take over."

Darkness is also a great social equalizer, he said.

"In here, everyone is equal, any judgments based on surface appearances just disappear," he explained. "Often there are diners who don't know each other and begin to talk together anyway, regardless of differences in age, sex or social class."

Unsicht-Bar will also employ about a dozen blind workers in the Cologne site alone.

Dining with a disability theme seems to becoming trendy in Europe.

Only time will tell if it is, in fact, a trend from which entrepreneurs -- and diners with and without disabilities -- around the world can benefit.

"The Blind Lead the Way to a Unique Food Experience" (Inter Press Service News Agency)
"London To Open Darkened Restaurant" May 25, 2005 (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
"Hushed reception for the Café des Signes" June 9, 2003 (The Guardian),3604,973593,00.html


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