DIALOG:AWARENESS

Frank Senior Shows New Yorkers How to Navigate the City in Total Darkness

Senior, 59 and blind since birth, gives sighted guests ‘Dialog in the Dark’ sensory tours of city attractions

Frank Senior, Tour Guide at Dialog in the DarkOne Bronx resident wants New Yorkers to see the world through his eyes – in total darkness.

Frank Senior was born blind, but that doesn’t stop him from giving sensory tours of the city, dubbed “Dialog in the Dark,” at the South Street Seaport.

He gently guides fully-sighted people through different simulated city destinations: Central Park, a Fairway supermarket, the subway, Times Square and a coffee shop.

“It’s really to give people an idea of what it’s like to move about in a blind world, so it’s about using your other senses,” Senior, a spry 59-year-old, said in his Co-op City home. “Being blind is all about trust. You have to trust your instincts first of all, and that will help you trust the people that you run into on a day-to-day basis.”

Senior was born three months premature, which destroyed his optic nerve and left him visually impaired for the rest of his life.

But his parents raised him in the Lincoln housing projects in Harlem to play with other children and maintain a normal lifestyle.

“My parents kept it real for me,” Senior said. “They threw me right in there…and it worked to my benefit.”

Senior remembers that when he was six years years old and one of the first blind and African-American children at Bronx House sleepaway camp, some candy was stolen from his locker.

“I whooped (the thief’s) butt, and after that I came back to the camp for 10 years in a row,” Senior said, laughing. “I was the man!”

Senior went to the Lavelle School for the Blind in Williamsbridge, did a short stint at the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan and dropped out of his last year at New York University in 1975 – but said he has no regrets.

The married father and new grandfather said his first love is music. A longtime jazz vocalist, Senior performs all over the city and is cutting his second album in the new year. He also owns a newsstand across the street from Bryant Park, which he used to run himself.

But he says that in his newest job, which he took in July, one of the best parts – aside from networking with and educating people – is ‘seeing’ their reactions.

“People cry, people laugh because they’re nervous. They always ask me, ‘Do I wish I could see?’” Senior said. “I really believe that I couldn’t accept it if I got eyesight now, because this is part of my personality.

“I always tell people at the end of my tour that being blind is not the issue,” he continued. “It’s the fear of facing the unknown. You either jump in and do it, or you sit home and do nothing.”

To buy tickets for Dialog in the Dark, call (888) 926-3437 or visit http://www.dialognyc.com.

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