A Blind Tasting at Perkins School for the Blind

Food for blind tastingSome people may dread reading their email each day. I look forward to seeing what opportunities each message brings. One wonderful email was about an annual event called Taste of Perkins at Perkins School for the Blind, which I attended a few weeks ago.

Fellow food blogger Molly Parr of Cheap Beets, works in the development department at Perkins and gave my name as a blogger who might be interested in covering the event. I’m so glad she did! By the way, Molly also writes a fun column called Four Questions, where she interviews interesting people for JewishBoston.com.

Most of you are probably familiar with Perkins School for the Blind. Born in 1880, Helen Keller was probably its most famous student. The school is now in its third century and continues to educate and serve children and adults with visual impairments. Most students are not just blind, but have several disabilities. Many students are deaf too. Perkins is located in Watertown, Massachusetts and has over 200 students in its residential and day programs.

While Perkins has made monumental changes for those living with visual impairments and to the perception of the blind around the world, there is still more work to be done. They are still trying to raise awareness that even now, “in New England, around the nation and throughout the world, many people who are visually impaired are not receiving the services they need to be healthy and independent.”sensory toys at Perkins

There is an increased need for services by seniors who are losing their sight. Plus, many premature babies who wouldn’t have survived years ago, now are living with vision and hearing problems. As Perkins increases services, their need for financial support grows as well. Taste of Perkins raised over $100,000.00 this year. Hopefully, even more will be raised next year! But you don’t have to wait to help the school, your donation is much appreciated at any time.

While at the event, they had some great food to snack on. Max Ultimate Food did the catering. The mini take-out boxes were so cute! They were good too. There was pasta, vegetables and two huge shrimp. I had to restrain myself to only eat one. Kim’s Candy Buffet was a huge hit! People were going to town grabbing a variety of candies that were displayed and there for the taking. Talk about letting your inner child out to play!

There were interactive sensory displays where we could learn about some of the toys available for kids at the school as well. I tried the game above where you feel the balloons and guess what is inside them. I got them all right!

There were students at the event helping out and giving information about the school. I was especially grateful for the guides that were outside. The campus is huge and after I parked, I really had no idea where I was going. They had people standing outside at different points showing us which way to go. It makes sense that a school focused on those who cannot see would be especially sensitive to people unfamiliar with their new surroundings. It was much appreciated!

Perkins Book GroupPerkins is also reaching out to the community and not just serving those students on campus. I was really impressed with the new  Library Without Walls program by the Perkins Library. Since I was a child, libraries have always been a home away from home for me. I still go all the time and love taking out books to read. I have a new stack right now! Plus, I’ve had fun being part of a book group.

For those with visual impairments, the neighborhood library usually is not quite enough. Library Without Walls is for people all over Massachusetts who are blind or print-disabled, where patrons can call in for a series of events to discuss books and hear guest speakers over the phone. Perkins is breaking down barriers, so that a visual impairment isn’t keeping individuals from enjoying what life has to offer.

“This is our way of replicating what a local library offers,” Perkins Library Outreach Coordinator Debby Smith said. “We’re offering programs so anyone from Pittsfield to Provincetown can participate.”

At a typical town library, local residents can drop in to discuss a bestselling novel at a book club or listen to guest speakers in person. However, the Perkins Library serves a much more geographically diverse audience, and many of its patrons have limited access to transportation.

“A lot of our borrowers are pretty isolated,” Perkins Library Director Kim Charlson said. “They can’t drive. So being able to bring an author into their homes via the telephone no matter where they live in Massachusetts really lowers that barrier, so they can have those same library opportunities.”

While I was walking around, I also was lucky enough to have a chance to speak with Amber Bobnar, founder and curator of WonderBaby.org which is now a project funded by Perkins.

WonderBaby.org: Resources for Parents of Blind ChildrenShe created WonderBaby in 2006, a year after the birth of her son Ivan. He has visual impairments and she was not finding the information that she needed that specifically dealt with babies. Most of the information available was for older children and adults. As she started researching, she decided to compile what she was finding into one place. In 2011, WonderBaby teamed up with Perkins. Bobnar still runs the site and also has a blog. Among other things, sometimes she comes up with DIY sensory toys and games that parents can make at home, like the balloon game above.chandeliersAfter visiting the different displays, I headed into the main event. The blind taste testing. There were many  people waiting in line, but it was worth the wait. The picture above is the ceiling of the big room where the tasting was held. Isn’t it pretty?

Before entering the room, I had to put on a blindfold. Then I was guided to a chair and given directions to sit down. Once you cannot see, you really have to trust the person who is leading you. It was a rather disconcerting feeling. Perkins blind taste testingI really enjoyed two of the wines, but the other two were not to my liking. I was asked to describe them, but it was rather difficult. I was able to tell white wines from red and did not enjoy the red. I could tell dry from sweet, but sadly could not delight with references of smoky notes or anything like that.

I loved all the food and would have liked to have eaten more. I especially enjoyed the s’more on a stick! It was so good! But torture to eat just one!

So that was my Taste of Perkins experience. I hope you enjoyed it!

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Disclosure: I was invited to the event by Perkins and my admission was complimentary. Thank you!