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Valuable tips in dining etiquette for visually impaired people at this Mumbai meet-up

April 30, 2018

Do you know how to place your fork and spoon when you finish eating? Or which side of the table napkin to use to wipe your mouth?

These are questions that would confuse many of us.

Now imagine how much harder it is for blind and visually impaired people to understand dining etiquette in public situations. From deciding what to order to worrying about knocking down a glass of water, eating out is one of the biggest challenges that blind and visually impaired people say they face.

To help learn these essential skills, the Blind Graduates Forum of India (BGFI) held a training session in dining out etiquette for blind and visually impaired people in Mumbai. Well-known trainers shared techniques and strategies that will enable people to eat out confidently without worrying if their sleeve is in the soup bowl!

Varied audience

The idea of doing this session came up during a team meeting of the BGFI, which is a non-profit organization working for the empowerment of people who are blind and visually impaired across India.

All of us at BGFI are doing fulltime jobs. We realized that when we go out for formal dinners, we are not sure if we are doing the right thing. When everyone around is using a fork and spoon and we use our hands to eat, we stand out. We had been using a series on independent living since last year. We felt that this was one area not covered and so we decided to take up this session - Aditi Shah, Secretary, BGFI

Thirty-six people, between the ages of 25 to 60 years attended the day-long session at Bombay Haveli, a well-known accessible restaurant in south Mumbai. The session was only for blind and visually impaired people and was for free of cost.

Theory & practice

The first part of the training session covered theory aspects, like behavior tips at a restaurant. There was also an interactive session where people present talked about the challenges they face while eating out, like how to ask the waiter to read out the menu and how to narrow down the choice of food.

In the second session, they got down to action, with the focus on the practical side of things. There were four to five courses of menu served, which the participants had to eat using cutlery. The trainer gave instructions on how to eat through volunteers, whom the participants then had to follow.

There were different kinds of cutlery and we were taught how a glass of water is placed at the 1 o'clock position, while the soft drink is at 2 o'clock. Where do you put the cutlery when you take a break from eating for a while and how to unfold the table napkin and use it. We learned that the corner of the napkin should always be used to clean the corners of the mouth, and not the entire napkin - Payal Jethra, Honorary Secretary, BGFI

The result was a fun, lively, and interactive session. There were many learnings all in the midst of some great food and laughter.

The theory session was really useful. For the hands-on, I wish we had better seating to enable the volunteers to guide us properly by guiding our hands, especially in cutting with the knife. We could have probably sat on chairs instead of sofas so that they could stand closer to us while manoeuvring our hands. But for such a first session, it was a commendable job on BGFI's part! - Divya Ravindra Bijur, Physiotherapist

This is one training session that the BGFI is likely to hold very often, given the popular demand. Such skills are essential, especially today when dining out has become such a regular part of our working and personal lives.

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