ROYAL National College for the Blind (RNC) students have taken part in a French exchange trip to Lyon thanks to a fundraising idea which has now been used at the World Economic Forum in Davos to raise awareness of visual impairment.

'Dine in the Dark' fundraising events have been held annually at the RNC for four years proving very popular and well supported by the local community. Members of the public are invited to enjoy a unique three course meal and social experience at the college which they attend blindfolded. The events allow guests to experience a unique sensory journey to re-evaluate perception of taste and smell and also gain an awareness of being visually impaired.

The same experience was used with delegates at Davos this year as part of a campaign to change perceptions of visual impairment and challenge unconscious prejudices, particularly against people with disabilities.

As a result of the fundraising, seven RNC students visited the college's partnership college, Cite Scolaire Rene Pellet in Lyon, in January and had the opportunity to learn about French culture and take day trips to local areas including the French Alps.

Kelsey Trevett, one of the RNC students who went on the trip said:

"I think the trip to France has really taught me just how much I am capable of, by putting me in unfamiliar situations, and testing my ability, confidence and self-esteem.

"Experiencing a different language, culture and group of people is extremely challenging, but this environment allowed me to move out of my comfort zone, and demonstrate to myself what I can do, and what I could do in similar situations. It has also made me realise the possibilities of foreign travel and study in a way which had been entirely theoretical and unrealistic beforehand.

"It was wonderful to feel empowered by the skills I have learnt at college, and to have the ability to use those skills effectively, productively and, as the week progressed, confidently, in order to express myself, listen to others, and learn simultaneously."

Nicola Smith, director of learning and curriculum at the RNC said:

"Many of our students have never had the opportunity to attend any school trips so these visits are extremely beneficial in providing support to improve language skills and for gaining the knowledge of another culture."

Claire Lewin, RNC student progression and teaching quality lead added:

"On a personal level our students have gained so much from the visit. Many have gained confidence in trying new things and embracing new experiences, including travelling as a person with a visual impairment in an unfamiliar environment."