“Sensory Experience” is the theme of the new tourist product that is being built in the region of Eastern Halkidiki and in which people with visual disabilities can participate. “We are creating tourism products based on alternative forms of tourism for people with visual disabilities, who, apart from their vision, have developed their other senses” Polytimi Markogiannaki, the organiser of the tourism package, tells GRTimes.Gr.
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With the motto accessibility everywhere and with basic values of independence, equality and above all safety, Polytimi Markogiannaki, owner of Aristotle’s Paths and Thanasis Sideris of Accessibility Support Academy join forces and create a new product, a tourist product, accessible to people with visual disabilities who suffer from total or partial loss of vision.
“The aim is for everyone to have access to tourism, and for people with disabilities to be able to go on holiday, because it is very difficult to go and not be able to do anything,” Polytimi Markogiannaki, who has studied Political Science, specialising in alternative forms of tourism, tells GRTimes.gr. At the same time, she is the owner of Aristotle’s Paths based in Stratoniki, East Halkidiki, attempting her new start only in December 2021.
As she tells GRTimes.gr in collaboration with Thanasis Sideris of the consulting company Accessibility Support Academy specializing in creating accessibility “we are creating a package based on alternative forms of tourism and aimed at people with visual disabilities” noting that these people, apart from vision, have developed their other senses, smell, taste, touch, hearing.
In fact, as he stresses, it is the first time that something like this is being organized in Northern Greece, saying that in Volos there are some similar actions aimed at visually impaired people.
Diving and visit to a farm
The routes created by Polytimi Markogiannaki in the region of Eastern Halkidiki are of cultural, naturalistic and gastronomic character and combine Aristotle’s philosophy of the four elements (water, air, earth, fire). The aim is to create an experiential experience for the visitor, whether Greek or foreigner.
This is where the experiential experience for visually impaired people is added. The how, he explains right away: “We have prepared an experiential experience called ‘Sensory Experience’ that includes diving and a visit to a small horse farm,” says Ms. Markogiannaki, explaining how they will be able to participate in this experiential experience.
“In the diving, people with visual disabilities will breathe, listen to their respirator, their heartbeat, have the sensation of swinging, touch the sand, and in the horse farm they will get in touch with the animals, ride horses” she says, noting “apart from safety, which is the most important thing, we want them to be able to feel independence, that they can do things”.
The experiential experience for people with visual disabilities is scheduled for Saturday, September 3, and as Ms. Markogiannaki informs GRTimes.gr, the response has been very positive, both from associations of people with disabilities and people from the School for the Blind and from parents with children who have the disability. “We offer security, independence, access to tourism”, Polytimi Markogiannaki stresses.
Security, Equity, Independence
Thanasis Sideris, a trainer for people with visual disabilities, is part of the above tourist program of experiential experience for people with visual disabilities. He suffers from total vision loss, yet all he does is not give up.
He is the man who designed the innovative project at the first visually impaired-friendly supermarket store in Thessaloniki, which opened in early July 2022.
“We are coming to connect our knowledge on accessibility and the tourism product,” Thanasis Sideris, the project coordinator for this tourism project that Ms. Markogiannaki is ‘building’, tells GRTimes.gr.
As he explains “our goal is to create accessibility in tourism to people with visual disabilities, to be able to enjoy a good, equally, independently and safely” adding that as far as the accessibility part is concerned “there is nothing fixed, it depends on the case, at least when we talk about the human factor”.
Supervising the Experiential Tourism Package
As far as this particular experiential tourism package “Experience of the senses” is concerned, as Mr. Sideris, “as coordinators, we supervise so that there is absolute safety” with the diving to include staff trained to handle people with visual disabilities, and the visit to a farm and, by extension, horseback riding, “we have evaluated and supervised the course that will be done with the horse, to ensure the safety of people with visual disabilities.”
It is noted that Mr. Sideris, in addition to the innovative project he designed in the first supermarket store, friendly to people with visual disabilities, is, among other things, a trainer in serving people with visual disabilities, scientific advisor to the company Tandem, which together with the National Center for Research and Technological Development (NCRTD) were instrumental in achieving the project in the supermarket, a large chain in Thessaloniki and nationwide, and together with Lia Avraam and Fotini Baxevanou, the only mobility trainers for people with visual disabilities in Northern Greece, have created the company Accessibility Support Academy, from April 2022.
“I want my fellow human being to be safe,” 34-year-old Thanasis Sideris, who suffers from total vision loss, tells GRTimes.gr.