Cocky Guides, a new multi-sensory tourism venture offers eight tactile and sensory tours from Sydney, allowing vision impaired travelers unique experiences and access to some of Sydney and NSW most visited sites.
Some of the popular day trips include a tactile sculpture walk at Manly, an opportunity to meet the farmers at the local market in Kiama, a visit to the world heritage listed Blue Mountains by train and the Sydney Harbour Bridge pedestrian walk.
Founder of Cocky Guides, James McFarlane states that they have been building their capability with blind and low vision community groups across Sydney, the Hunter and Illawarra.
Their collaborative approach to product development has resulted in a program of group adventures offering low cost support for active community members, allowing participants to experience popular tourism destinations.
Each adventure is designed for travellers who are active and competent with mobility using either cane, guide dog or a companion as a sighted guide. Trip leaders provide vocal instruction to assist navigate between one and six travellers in familiar areas. For technical navigation, like stairs or narrow environments, they may travel one at a time with trip leaders providing one on one assistance when requested.
McFarlane has been in the tourism industry for over a decade with companies like G Adventures, Adventure Travel Australia, Oz Experience, Grand Circle Travel and Overseas Adventure Travel.
All Cocky guides are accredited, or on the pathway to accreditation, with the Professional Tour Guide Association of Australia and are proficient in first aid.
In 2016 Vision Australia estimated there are 384,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision. The 2018 annual report from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT estimated 122,000 people in NSW and the ACT have a vision impairment serious enough to affect their everyday lives.
Vision Australia is supporting this new wave of sensory tourism, advocating for more inclusive tourism opportunities.Spokesperson Jordan Ashby said the disability tourism industry in general is beginning to thrive, with vision impaired people now able to seek financial assistance from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for holidays or day trips.
For more information visit cockyguides.com.au
Image: A group of vision impaired travellers enjoy the pedestrian walk of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of a sensory tour. Courtesy of Cocky Guides.