Dhruv Jain

Blind Emporium

A light-and-sound proof exhibit for raising awareness of disability


For the past 4 years, I have worked with people with disabilities, particularly with vision and hearing loss, to enhance their communication and mobility. In my work, I have had many realizations into their lives and would like to discuss an important one. That it is very hard for an abled person to visualize the life of the disabled person. Most fail to realize that disability is less physical and more social or physiological. A small physical impairment creates butterfly effect in the social life of a disabled child as s/he matures. My long term goal is to "create" something that generates sufficient empathy, to make it possible for an abled person to extrapolate the experiences of a disabled person.

To initiate my goal, I created a room to explore the psychological emotion of "absence". The room, known as blind emporium, takes a shape of a dorm room. It blocks all sound, and all light from outside. It contains a bed, a TV set, a work desk, and a music studio. People are locked inside the room for five minutes to gather the experience.

The whole experience took about ten minutes per person. After taking consent, I locked a person in the blind emporium for five minutes to gather the experience. They used their senses of touch and sound emitted from clunking of objects to explore around and generate a map of the room in their mind.

Once the room is opened, the person was guided towards a drawing area where s/he tried to draw the layout and the contents of the room on paper from memory in another five minutes. After that, I showed the room in light. This experiment was performed with four people from Tod Machover and Meejin Yoon's Empathy, 8th art, and the future of experience class.

As shown in the video, there were notable findings, but most of all, the stark contrast between their drawing on the paper (the layout of the room in their mind) and the actual appearance of the room amazed them, causing them to extrapolate the experiences of a disabled person.

View of the blind emporium

View of the blind emporium.

layout drawn by people

Layout drawn from mind by four people from Tod Machover and Meejin Yoon's Empathy, 8th art, and the future of experience class.