What better way to experience the life of someone else than to wear their shoes? A Night in their Shoes is an annual event that allows NEOMED students to experience a dinner through the perspective of disabled people through many different simulations. Students have the opportunity to “step into their shoes” to experience how the blind and deaf live, and how they perceive the world around them. NEOMED’s American Sign Language Club, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Club, Oncology Interest Group and Students for Sight teamed up to present the event.
Guest speaker Neda Amirmokhtari, a first-year College of Medicine student and cancer survivor, opened the evening by helping students understand the perspective of someone who went through a difficult time. Amirmokhtari spoke about her hardships of dealing with her ill-timed and devastating diagnosis. She shared that through the support of her family and friends, she had gained the strength and courage she needed.
Hearing about Amirmokhtari’s experiences allowed students to realize that every person has their own hidden battles.
“I was really touched by Neda’s story and how she battled through cancer. It’s really inspiring to hear people’s stories and how they turn a struggle into a purpose and overcome setbacks,” said first-year College of Medicine student Shaili Kothari.
The three-course dinner was used to simulate experiences of deaf and blind people. During the main course, students were asked to wear ear plugs and were given a sheet containing various sign language characters. This exercise was demonstrated through complete silence, during which students communicated only via sign language.
The third course simulated the perspective of a blind person. Students were blindfolded and asked to pick a cookie from an assortment on a tray. They were then asked to determine what cookie they received by using the sensations of touch and taste. With this exercise, students had the opportunity to experience the difficulties of a simple task such as eating.
First-year College of Medicine student Venkat Tondapu particularly enjoyed this exercise. “My favorite part was eating dessert while blindfolded,” said Venkat. “I never realized how minor daily activities like eating can be difficult. I can’t imagine having to associate a particular taste to something I have never seen before.”
Overall, A Night in Their Shoes illuminated the daily challenges faced by the blind and deaf and allowed students to experience such tasks through an engaging and interactive way.
Aakaash Patel, another first-year College of Medicine student, agreed with a majority of the students that this event was an eye- opener. “It’s always an interesting experience to lose what we readily take for granted every day,” said Patel. “It’s experiences like these that remind us of why we are here.”
--Harshitha Dudipala, a first-year College of Medicine student contributed this article.