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"We Like the Challenge" Blind and Low Vision Visitors Conclude, After Day in the Forest

Blind Association of Osorno, Chile, visiting Katalapi Park

At the end of November 2016, Osorno´s Association of the Blind (ACICH Osorno) visited Katalapi Park for a day of trail walking through the rainforest and getting to know its species. The "Path of the Blind” design at Katalapi Park  does not seem particularly simple. The differences are in details such as having carefully cleared the protruding roots, trimming branches at the level of the face, or marking the trail crossings and changes of direction with clarity. Dangers are controlled, not necessarily made very easy. The trail has stretches that are not "easy" for a blind or partially blind person.

"We probably would not be bringing groups of the blind into the forest, if it had not been for Coral Romero," says Ana Maria Vliegenthart, owner of Katalapi Park. "Coral did her final student project with us 6 years ago, when she designed, implemented and validated a Path of Good Access for her thesis as an Ecotourism Administrator." At that time we invited the Association of the Blind ACICH-Osorno to test and validate the program. Recently, the same group has returned to Katalapi Park, including many visitors who had been the same on the trail 6 years ago, now with more friends and family, this time as tourists and again under the guidance of Coral. "Just like the first time , this visit was wonderful," says Coral, organizer and day guide. "We saw them touched by simple things, and that excited us. Some had not been in the wild in years or decades. Others had never been in nature. They remembered or were astonished at the softness of the moss and the leaves, the noise of the stream left them in what seemed like a trance of listening. They touched leaves and trees seemingly forever, patiently getting to know the vegetation, by touch, smell. They expressed deep joy at getting to know flora intimately, that they had previously only known in sayings, such as a "bush of flowered arrayán". On the level of difficulty, they assessed that the trail was not easy, "....but we like a bit of difficulty, it makes it more entertaining", they added.

This time, the 31 attendees, in addition to walking the trail and getting acquainted with many species, also made oils and poultices based on native medicinal species and practiced among them techniques for massage and application. Like the first time, they expressed a deeper emotion than most. For whatever reason, at the end of the day, many of the participants repeated "we are nature", many times, which much emotion. 

Watch video of the first visit of a group of blinds to Katalapi

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This is a rather unusual event that brought a lot of positive emotions to all participants and those who were their guide.

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