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Horizons expand for visually impaired

FOUR locals proved that disability is no barrier to enjoying recreational kayaking when they took to the water in April as part of an inaugural Tasmanian initiative.

Delivered in partnership with Roaring 40˚s Kayaking, ‘Couch to Kayak’ provided a unique opportunity for people with vision impairment to spend three-days learning a range of kayaking skills, as well as participate in a full-day kayaking adventure.

Couch to Kayak organiser Eion Jennings said the initiative provided the support and opportunity for vision-impaired people to try something new and experience Tasmania’s beauty.

“People who are blind or vision impaired can often feel isolated and experience barriers in taking part in activities many of us take for granted,” he said.

“This can be due to a lack of confidence or because operators don’t feel comfortable working with vision impaired people.

“Roaring 40˚s Kayaking is leading the way in showing other tourism operators that being vision impaired isn’t a barrier to participating.”

The event took the participants kayaking from Sandy Bay to Hobart and down the Huon River from Huonville to Franklin.

Out of the four participants, two were blind, one had severe low vision and one had moderate low vision.

Roaring 40˚s Kayaking owner Reg Grundy said the three-day experience was “the real deal.”

“Participants learnt real kayaking skills that they can continue to use into the future – they did everything that a sighted person would do, including steering the kayaks and carrying them into the water,” he said.

“This is the first time in years I’ve had to think in a kayak and it has really made me consider what I do and the way that I teach.”

Mr Jennings said with the success of the inaugural event and the continued support of Roaring 40˚s Kayaking, Couch to Kayak would hopefully become a regular event.

“The primary barrier to participation in events like this is cost, as most people with a vision impairment are unemployed or on disability pensions, which means they struggle to pay for non-essential recreational activities,” he said.

“As a result, we would love to gain some funding support to enable more people with a vision impairment to participate in events like this.”

Caption: Roaring 40°s Kayaking owner Reg Grundy with Couch to Kayak participants, from left, Caroline Hopwood, Karen Savich, Emma Jago and Jen Nickols enjoying a day out on the water.

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