With my children having flown the nest and being in the fortunate position of not having to work full time and a husband who is happy for me to go away, I went on my first trip as a guide in 2001 It was a walking holiday in the Cotswolds and I was soon knocked into shape by the V.I.s present. I quickly learnt that everyone had different needs according to their degree of sight loss. Some born blind, some with peripheral vision, some tunnel vision, some recently blinded by some accident or medical condition. But those brave enough to undertake such holidays are determined to enjoy themselves and get as much out of life as possible.
My next trip was to Vietnam, a real challenge for us all and then followed another 28 others, walking, sightseeing, crafts, sailing, canoeing etc. with an organisation which sadly has now folded.
I heard about educational courses for the Visually Impaired at Bristol University and started helping out there. If only I could remember all those facts, science, music, history, nature field courses etc. When the University funding folded a group of regular ‘students’ and guides got together to form a group now known as AddVenture In Learning. The aim being to enjoy learning whilst having an enjoyable break from home.
The social side of the courses is also very important, giving people chance to meet other V.I.s, discuss problems and achievements. Being able to enjoy being away from home with someone else doing the cooking and knowing that there are sighted guides to help find the way around in strange places. The guide dogs also enjoy being off duty and romping around together when space allows.
For me guiding has been a wonderful experience. I have made many friends. It never ceases to amaze me at the capabilities of people with little or no sight. It can be very tiring at times requires great patience. Chatting as you walk along describing the scenery or what is going on (your V.I. usually lightly holding your arm). Having to watch every step, remembering to say curb up or curb down, door away to your left etc. I hope I have not failed too many times.
I can’t help feeling that there are many visually impaired people and potential guides who have not yet ventured on one of these courses and would benefit greatly from them. So if that is you, do get in touch, you are missing a lot of fun. Also if you know of any suitable venues providing single rooms at a reasonable price or have any ideas for courses the committee would love to know.
I hope I can continue guiding for AddVenture in Learning for many years to come.
Barbara Rickitt July 2014.