Nepal "blind" eatery lights way for visually impaired
By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A line of diners, holding on to the shoulders of the person in front of them, enters the pitch dark hall at Nepal's first blind restaurant, which treats guests to food they can smell, touch and taste but not see.
The 16-seat dining room has been heavily curtained from ceiling to floor in black, and the guests grope their way to the table, guided deftly by the waiters -- all of whom are visually impaired.
But while similar blind dining venues have already opened in Europe and the United States, the one here comes with the key difference that it provides a rare chance for the Nepali handicapped to gain a measure of independence.
"We should see this from two angles - giving opportunities to the blind and a new experience to the public," said Shyam Kakshhapati, president of the Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN).
"It is important to give opportunities to disabled people because there are not many job openings for them in our country."
The blind restaurant, a separate wing of an ordinary eatery, comes on the heels of a separate restaurant chain that employs deaf waiters and has become popular with patrons.
Trainees are nominated by the Nepal Association of the Blind, a charity working for the visually impaired, of whom there are estimated to be 200,000 in Nepal. Some are already working as telephone operators, teachers and musicians.
Waiters get a daily wage of $6, a substantial income in a country where nearly one quarter of its 26.6 million people live on an income of less than $1.25 a day. Continued...