Within 12 months new Australian Sensory Tourism Operator Cocky Guides goes from 0 to 40 tours for travellers with sight loss.

Imagine sightseeing with no sight! That’s exactly what an estimated 500,000 Australians with sight loss usually experience on holidays until Australian startup Cocky Guides introduced a new kind of tourism, that involves everything except sightseeing.

The past 12 months, Cocky Guides have been delivering more inclusive tourism experiences to enable blind and low vision community members discover a passion for travel.

Cathy, a regular traveller with sight loss, loves the support Cocky Guides provide.

“Cocky Guides are changing people’s lives! They help me build my confidence and discover new things that I’ve never thought possible. I’m now exploring my own country with a sense of independence, knowing that support from a Cocky Guide is not far away.” Cathy said.

By next year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT estimate the number of Australians living with sight loss will reach 500,000. The past 12 months, around 300 blind and low vision Australians have experienced many of Australia’s famous tourist sites and destinations without sight with Cocky Guides, who have designed and delivered regular day trips from Sydney and Melbourne. They also have run Sensory Short Breaks, which are Cocky Guides multi-day trips, showcasing diverse locations like Port Douglas, Byron Bay, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and the Snowy Mountains. In 2020, Cocky Guides will expand their experiences to include Cairns, Magnetic Island, Fraser Island, Noosa and Surfers Paradise.

“Travel and exploring new destinations are not necessarily the easiest and most enjoyable experience for community members with sight loss. Learning mobility skills for locations you regularly frequent is a high priority to retain independence. That takes time. So, I can understand why there are so few vision-impaired travellers. I’m using my knowledge and experience of each destination we visit, to develop engaging experiences, using fun tactile and sensory elements. We are building a community of new adventurers that are excited to discover new places and gain a passion for travel” said founder of Cocky Guides, James McFarlane.

“I’ve spent over ten years in tourism roles in Australia and Europe. Not once had I met a blind or low vision traveller. I found this very surprising considering the number of Australians with sight loss. I launched Cocky Guides to make travel fun, safe and accessible for the blind and low vision community. Now, with our success as a finalist in the 2019 NSW Tourism Awards, it will be easier to start conversations about accessible and inclusive travel.” James McFarlane said.

Cocky Guides run regular tactile and sensory group adventures right across Australia. You can find out about upcoming experiences online at cockyguides.com.au/tours or by calling 1300 657 640.