Although there are an increasing number of holiday tour companies providing holidays for the disabled, holidays specifically for the visually impaired are few and far between. Although they are on the increase the current availability is fairly limited. The good news is that although a little sparse, the choices already out there consist of thoughtful, high-quality short breaks and holidays focusing on sensational activities and sensual experiences. Thrilling adventures with first-class, highly skilled guides, tailor-made tours at various locations around the world, special challenges for those wishing to try something completely different, or relaxing, peaceful breaks with superb facilities ensuring your stay is as straightforward as possible.
The National Sports Center for the Disabled, in Estes Park Colorado, is an innovative organisation run on a non-profit basis for adults and children with all kinds of disabilities. Sailing, skating, water sports, horse-drawn carriage rides, cycling, hiking, sleighing and bobsledding are all on the agenda. Specifically for those with sight deficiency is the summer rock climbing school, certified and affiliated to the American Mountain Guide Association. Base camp is in Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountain National Park, but the school has several satellite centres in many US states and organises guided climbs throughout America and on many other mountains around the world. The short courses include instruction on use of equipment, knot-tying techniques and climbing skills. The aim of the sessions is to encourage self-confidence in mobility and independence. The tactile nature of this breathtaking sport is said to be of particular benefit to people heavily reliant on the touch and feel senses.
The Colorado Mountain School is the only guide service legally entitled to climb in Rocky Mountain Park. The school is conveniently located less than two hours' drive from Denver International Airport.
Sessions inclusive of equipment and highly qualified staff start from as little as 45 USD.
For more information about climbing with the school, or to make reservations, visit the school's web site at www.cmschool.com.
Alternatively you can write to this address or make enquiries by phone or fax.
The Colorado Mountain School
351 Moraine Avenue
PO Box 1846
Tel: +1 970 586 5758
Fax: +1 970 586 5798
To find out about the National Sports Center for the Disabled look at www.nscd.org.
Where to stay
For five-star accommodation the nearest hotels are in Denver, about 90 minutes from Estes Park, or in the scenic village of Vail, a two-hour drive away.
Hyatt Regency Denver
1750 Welton Street
Tel: +1 303 295 1234
Fax: +1 303 292 2472
Web site: www.hyatt.com/usa/denver/hotels/hotel_denrd.html
Loews Giorgio Hotel
4150 East Mississippi Avenue
Tel: +1 303 782 9300
Fax: +1 303 758 6542
The Brown Palace Hotel
321 17th Street
Tel: +1 303 297 3111
Fax: +1 303 293 9204
The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera
PO Box 1110
Tel: +1 970 926 2200
Fax: +1 970 926 2486
Web site: www.slh.com/pages/e/erausaa.html
Sonnenalp Resort of Vail
20 Vail Road
Tel: +1 970 476 5656
Fax: +1 970 476 8066
Web site: www.sonnenalp.com/index.html
Vail Cascade Hotel and Club
1300 Westhaven Drive
Tel: +1 970 476 7111
Fax: +1 970 479 7020
Web site: www.vailcascade.com/
Sensual holidays in Europe
Imagine walking through the bulb fields of Holland during spring when the scent of freshly grown daffodils and tulips fills the air with a sweet, seductive optimism. Feel the sun, warm against your skin and hear the rhythmic sway of water in the nearby canal as a narrowboat glides gently past. Last year, the British company Travelsphere joined forces with the Royal National Institute of the Blind and sent half of their staff on training courses to produce a workforce capable of administering to the needs of the blind community. Today they provide an excellent service on specially selected European tours for the visually impaired. All the holiday brochures are available with large print text or audio cassette. There is also a facility for providing information in Braille.
Tours include a weekend in Paris with the focus on the sounds and smells of this vibrant city. An excursion to Monet's Garden and a cruise through wind and water on the Seine, evening outings to musical events and eating in the best restaurants combine for a fully hands-on, sensual experience.
Other tours include walking through Germany's Black Forest listening to the birdsong and inhaling the woody scent of the trees, and food and music holidays in Ireland.
To contact Travelsphere telephone their free phone number 0800 191418 and ask to speak to an RNIB-trained member of staff. They are extremely professional, pleasant and helpful.
The US-based Campanian Society also specialises in travel for the visually impaired. Dedicated to providing 'a rich educational experience unavailable on regularly scheduled sighted trips,' the holidays focus on touch, taste, smell and hearing and aim to notch up a host of unique encounters. Sighted companions are also catered for on tours ranging from the talking monuments of New York to Ohio River cruises. The company produces a useful monthly newsletter containing up and coming holiday programmes. They will also help to organise trips for those wishing to travel independently.
Web site: www.campanian.org
Friendly breaks in the UK and Channel Islands
Said to be particularly suited for anyone with a physical disability, the popular Channel Islands are a stone's throw from the UK mainland and offer the benefits of a warm, often sunny location with numerous activities open to all, and a reputation for extremely friendly service. For UK citizens the Islands are a great place to go without the restrictions of passports, foreign currency or guide-dog regulations. The RNIB have produced a list of hotels in the UK and the Channel Islands where a first-class service is provided for the visually impaired. They call it the VIP hotel guide. It contains a list of about 100 hotels tried and tested for their suitability. Special considerations include access, standard of food available, public transport, proximity to beaches and other attractions, guide-dog policy and general comfort.
To obtain a copy of the latest guide, look at www.rbib.org.uk. From the homepage, click onto recreation and lifestyle. Alternatively, telephone the RNIB on +44 207 391 2042.
There is also an extremely useful organisation called Action for Blind People who are trained to provide up-to-the-minute information on blindness-related issues, including leisure.
The Leisure Office
Action for Blind People
14-16 Verney Road
London SE16 3 DZ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7635 4800
Fax: +44 (0)20 7635 4899