Photo by Anna Vitko
Photo by Anna Vitko

The Blind Field Shuttle Walking Tour started at the Okanagan Regional Library September 21 at 11 a.m. Carmen Papalia, an artist with impaired vision, led this event. Participants lined up behind Papalia and, holding each other’s shoulders, walked for 45 minutes with closed eyes. Papalia informed about any obstacles in the way that he detected with his cane. Every second person passed information until it reached the last person in the line.

Papalia shared the story of how the idea of such tours first came to him. He shared his experience camping in caves where there was once lava, and where he had to rely on his friends. After that experience, he decided to show his friends how it felt to walk without seeing. Papalia also told about his previous tours that he organized both in urban and rural areas of the U.S. and Canada.

Participants shared their experiences as well. With their eyes closed, they could focus better on changes in the loudness of sounds and differences in the pavement. Some said that though their senses were heightened, walking up and down the stairs was a worrying experience. One of the participants said she “felt privileged”. A photographer who made a video of the walk described the vulnerability of the group and its similarity to a moving creature.

The event was an art piece; it inspired the participants to look at the world differently. It underlined the limitations of traditional forms of art that do not include a whole variety of perspectives.