Friday, May 14, 2010



There I was pushing my fingers through the raspberry sorbet at a $350-a-plate dinner and no one at the table was complaining.
In fact, no one noticed. But then they were wearing blindfolds - although a couple were sneaking peaks I suspect - and I was wearing a blindfold without cheating, so I had no idea what part of my dessert I was pawing. A couple of truffle balls slipped away but I managed to grab them before they hit the tablecloth.
It was a culinary treasure hunt. It was also a lot of fun. It also taught all the diners at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind headquarters on Bayview Ave. about what the blind and the partially sighted among us face every day, when not being able to see is not just a temporary lesson from being blindfolded but a fact of life that is to be endured and then to be conquered.
The dinner was titled Visions Gala 2010, the first of what is hoped to be an eternal annual event on behalf of the CNIB. It raised more than $50,000 as the organizers lived up to its theme of "Ignite Your Senses" by presenting us with the Alata Harmonia Chorus of Canada singing the music of blind composers and blind virtuoso performances by pianist Nat Giangioppo and singer Becka deHann.
The food was great, prepared by Compass Group, but the evening only lived up to its billing of "exploration, discovery and delight" - the words of John Rafferty, the CNIB president - when after the black cod and beef tenderloin we had that "trio of the senses' desert served in the dark.
It looks like just another photo opportunity for politicians but when the world that doesn't have a disability is confronted with the hassles of dealing with one, we all benefit.
So it was a few days early when Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman trundled around in a wheelchair to experience the dumb hurdles created by the thoughtless. In Ottawa, one of the new senators, Vim Kochhar, was doing the same. And such "stunts" were happening in most Canadian cities.
By now the public is used to the pictures, but they should try to get used to helping our disabled neighbours conquer the barricades which too many of them have to confront daily, whether on transit or in public buildings.
Vim Kochhar is a veteran in these battles on behalf of the physically disabled as the spark behind the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons and the Canadian Disabled Hall of Fame. (I wrote about the hall last Oct. 27 as we created it out of the Terry Fox Hall after the Fox family because jealously protective of Terry's name.)
Oh yes, it was the best dessert that I've had in a series of formal dinners, that is if the dry cleaners manage to get all of the spots out of my jacket.

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