Universal design is not something one would usually associate with dating events. However, the event (The VIBE – Delhi) conducted by Footloose No More was a superb example of how things can be made inclusive for everyone. I am not going to go into the challenges of online dating and the extreme focus on pixels on many dating websites. Footloose is different since the website is an adjunct to their offline events. Most of the Footloose events are unstructured where you walk up to the person of choice and start talking. If you are blind, then there are some unique problems with this format.
- Finding someone to talk to. Yes, you do get introduced like everyone else but people drift in and detecting them is almost impossible.
- Finding the next person to talk to. So, you finish talking to one woman but how do you identify the next one? The objective is to meet as many new people as possible. People cluster into groups so yes, you can look for chattering groups but many participants sit in a quiet corner so no audio. Yes, you can ask the organizer but the organizer does not know who all you have spoken too.
- Irrespective of disability, people complain that they did not meet everyone.
The Footloose solution is elegant. The women are seated while the men get five minutes with each woman. They move from person-to-person. There is a whistle after every 5 minutes. Once everyone has met everyone else, the event returns to its original unstructured format. You talk to everyone, get a chance to exchange contact information if desired and then are free.
- Exchange contact information in the fourth minute of the interaction else you will have to scramble to enter it once the whistle has blown. You do not want to keep your fellow men waiting.
- Stay relaxed. Do not look at your watch. Time keeping is the organizer’s responsibility.