Exhibit on blindness lets you see ... nothing

These are some of the challenges visitors will face at a 20,000-square-foot interactive exhibition coming to Atlantic Station this summer.

Premier Exhibitions, the Atlanta-based company that brought the "Bodies" and "Titanic" shows to the city, is opening "Dialog in the Dark" in late August to give visitors a sense of what it's like to be blind.

For one hour, you'll go through a market, take a boat ride, visit a park and get caught in the middle of a busy street scene with nothing more than a guide and a cane.

To make the exhibit authentic, there won't be a sliver of light on the tour. Cellphones, glow-in-the-dark watches and even kids shoes with soles that light up will be prohibited.

The railing that visitors hold onto when they first enter will disappear shortly after they begin walking. The only direction available will come from trained guides.

"What I like about this exhibition is you get in touch with senses and your body and it helps you understand others," said Tom Zaller, executive vice president of Premier.

The exhibit, which runs Aug. 30 through March 1, is making its U.S. debut in Atlanta after a long European run, Zaller said.

Officials expect to attract about 200,000 visitors.

It's the latest attraction for Georgia's capital city, which is enjoying an influx of events that are bringing the city international attention. "Dialog" will join an exhibit this fall of terra cotta warriors and other artifacts from China at the High Museum of Art and the King Tut show at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University.

"It's certainly going to launch during an exciting time for us," Mark Vaughan, executive vice president, chief sales and marketing officer for the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, said of the "Dialog."

"It gives our visitors another option and gives us more to go out and sell Atlanta as the place to be."

"Dialog" has been around since 1988, Zaller said, with more than 5 million visitors from 20 countries. It has employed 5,000 blind workers as tour guides.

While its main goal is to demonstrate the challenges of the visually impaired, the exhibit organizers also hope visitors will walk away with the understanding that in the dark everyone is the same, Zaller said.

It's the same message used as a subtext of the "Bodies" show, he said.

"Atlanta is diverse culturally, but in the dark we are all the same," he said.

Visitors will go through five rooms with different themes. Most will be surprised by the things they discover about their senses, Zaller said, such as being able to identify leaves, a mailbox or an elevator button.

For those worried that walking around in the dark could turn into an obstacle course much like what happens at home when the lights go out, not to worry.

"We won't put a coffee table or your child's Hot Wheels car in the middle of the floor to trip on," Zaller said.

Organizers will also be sensitive to people who might be overwhelmed by so much darkness. The guides will be able get them out quickly.

"It's not a haunted house," Zaller said. "We are not here to scare you."

"Dialog in the Dark" runs Aug. 30 through March 1 at the Atlantic Station Exhibition Center. Hours:

9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Tickets: $24, adults, $20 seniors 65 and older, $16 children under 12. Information: www.dialogtickets.com.

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