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A paragliding or dancing, blind people do tourism in Colombia

Ⓒ AFP – LUIS ROBAYO – | Visually impaired people visit the Palmira region of Colombia on August 14, 2017

Dancing salsa, strolling in Colombia’s colorful buses, climbing in paragliding … In Cali, a group of tourists do all this, with one detail: they are blind or partially sighted.

From 69 Latin American and European countries, 69 foreigners arrived in the third city of Colombia to enjoy “real” holidays, thanks to a program specially designed for them and already tested in Argentina and Mexico.

To discover Cali, a town surrounded by green and which turned the page of narco-trafficking for which it was sadly known, these tourists of a new kind are guided with care.

Ⓒ AFP – LUIS ROBAYO – | Visually impaired people dance in a “chiva rumbera”, the famous Colombian bus in Cali, Colombia, August 13, 2017

“It seems to me a wonderful experience,” says Rafa Matos, a 47-year-old Spaniard participating in the program. “We have the people who explain to us at all times what surrounds us, the way, the places where we walk,” he says.

Behind this atypical initiative was 43-year-old Argentinean Pablo Lecuona, who first launched the first digital library for the blind in Spanish, Tiflolibros, in 1999, with more than 50,000 titles.

He then realized that if he wanted to help this community, he had to go further.

Ⓒ AFP – LUIS ROBAYO – | A visually impaired man jumps into paragliding in Palmira, Colombia, on August 14, 2017

“By contacting other people, I saw that many wanted to know Argentina or other countries, but by having a visual handicap, they did not dare to travel because often hotels are not adapted or take Afraid of seeing a visually impaired person, “he explains.

For the blind and visually impaired, tourism is usually an ordeal because “people do not know how to take care of us and it does not help us at all,” says Rafa.

– Sculptures and climbing –

Expert in technology, Pablo Lecuona gradually lost sight when he was a child. But he wanted to make sure that everyone in his situation could travel without limits and without fear.

Ⓒ AFP – LUIS ROBAYO – | Visually impaired people make sculpture in Palmira, Colombia, August 14, 2017

Accompanied by professional and volunteer guides, the group of 69 tourists – including Germans, Spaniards, Argentines and Ecuadorians – traveled the Colombian city, participated in salsa classes and climbed the famous colorful buses, the “chivas” .

Rafa Matos wanted to do more. After dancing and touring the woods, he decided to push his limits even further.

“I did not think I was going to paragliding, but at the last moment I said to myself,” Go on we’re off, “he said, delighted to have done” different and new things “.

Ⓒ AFP – LUIS ROBAYO – | A dance course for the visually impaired in Cali, Colombia, August 13, 2017

Another participant, the German Christoph Bungard, does not hide his enthusiasm: “We do not only participate in accessible tourism, or without barriers as I prefer to call it, but we also meet people from many countries, new friends”.

The one-week stay also offered them the opportunity to make sculptures and climb a wall with hearing aids.

The organizers ensure that the cost of this specialized trip is almost the same as what a person would pay without vision problems.

Depending on the country where the stay is organized, each participant pays between 800 and 1,200 dollars, excluding air tickets. Volunteers and rescuers serve as guides.

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