Cape Town Tourism unveils tours for the visually impaired in the city

Published Jul 14, 2023


Cape Town - Cape Town Tourism has launched another initiative to get people exploring, only this time the target market includes people with disabilities.

Although the flagship project is solely focused on people without sight and those partially sighted, Cape Town Tourism and its partners pat themselves on the back for creating a product with inclusivity.

Speaking at the launch of the project themed, “Limitless Cape Town”, Cape Town Tourism chief executive officer Enver Duminy described the project as a movement that would unlock the city to those living with disabilities.

Duminy revealed how the movement to “unlimit” Cape Town came about, stating that it all began with the move to assist Winston Fani in becoming a tour guide.

Fani, 37, who lost his eyesight while a child, was on a journey to become a tour guide, a dream he had since a boy.

Speaking to the Cape Argus, Duminy said: “There are over a million people who are visually impaired in South Africa, and 285 million people globally. For us, as a city, we are always referred to as the most beautiful city in the world, and it’s difficult to explain that to someone visually impaired or blind.

“What we then decided to do through this campaign was to start highlighting experiences that can attract and are geared towards people with visual impairments. ‘Limitless Cape Town’ is focused specifically on people with disabilities or people referred to as differently abled, and today we marked it off as focusing specifically on people with visual impairment or people who are blind.”

Fani, 37, who lost his eyesight while a child, was on a journey to become a tour guide, a dream he had since a boy. Picture: Cape Argus

Alongside working with Fani, Cape Town Tourism also partnered with the City of Cape Town, Wesgro, Cape Town Society of the Blind, Table Mountain Aerial Company and several other organisations and institutions to bring its project to life.

“As you take the tour you will notice that around the yellow frames, mural and attractions we put on braille plots and QR codes. Today we are in Salt River, where people will be able to take a street art tour done by our very first blind tour guide Winston, this is due to the partnerships we formed that helped us mould this project into what it is.

“When you book a tour with Winston, you will experience it through him, and a blind person, he will narrate and describe the array of visual art and murals across the city. The QR codes we have embedded into the art will also enable tourists to scan and download more information about the art taking our plan to be inclusive a step further,” Duminy said.

The downloadable audio guides will have Winston’s voice explaining the art. “For us, this is only the start of an ongoing programme of activities, focusing first, of course, on people with visual impairment or people that are blind and extending that to people with other types of physical disabilities or cognitive disabilities,” he said.

According to the Cape Town Society for the Blind (CTSB) the idea to formulate QR codes was borne from the drive to cater for every person living with visual impairment even if they can’t read braille.

CTSB spokesperson Sergil January said when the organisation sat down to assist CTT with the project it thought to broaden the scope of reach and not just limit the narration of the art and attractions to braille, but to include those who couldn’t read braille too.

January said: “We didn’t just want to cater for a certain kind of blind person, but for everyone and living in today’s world almost everyone has a phone and makes use of it for everything. The QR can be for everybody. We are proud and happy to see this project come to life and the fact that it came from Winston Fani, a blind man, is amazing and goes to show there are no limits for us as well, we too can achieve and do great things.”

Fani who wasn’t born blind, but lost his eyesight during his childhood years is officially the first blind tour guide in Africa, according to Cape Town Tourism.

Commenting on realising his dream Fani said: “When I started this journey, I never thought of becoming the first blind tourist guide in Africa. I just wanted to do what I loved, but when I learnt of the feat I had achieved I was amazed and so proud.

“It gave me the courage to continue and to want to do even more. It’s been an amazing and interesting journey and I’m grateful for the group of people, and the strong support system I had. They believed in me, and now I want to pass a little bit of that on to the next person.

“I’m encouraging everyone to come to take this tour with me and experience the city and art differently. It will be as amazing as it sounds, I promise. Like the campaign says Limitless Cape Town, come experience it, yes things will be done slightly differently because I use different mediums but that’s the fun of it. Come experience Cape Town the senses of touch, smell and so forth,” Fani said.

Also present at the launch of the initiative was Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) CEO Wahida Parker. Parker shared that her excitement for the project revealed that she was partially deaf, thus making her one of the most passionate advocates for inclusivity and developing programmes for people living with disabilities.

Parker said: “I believe it’s important for us to support initiatives driven by Cape Town Tourism for accessibility and inclusivity. At TMACC our mission has always been to make the mountain more accessible to people, especially local people. It is sad to think that we have had more international travellers in the cable car than our local people, (they) haven’t had the opportunity and are yet to come.

“So we want to support this so that people who may be otherwise or differently abled can access the mountain and have the experience. Maybe not, to the extent that the rest of us have the experience, but they will certainly be able to feel what it’s like to ascend in the cable car,” she said.

Cape Town Tourism for the launch of its new offering had also invited learners from various schools for people with disabilities in the city.

One of the learners, 16-year-old Mbalentle Maqina who attends Athlone School for the Blind said she was excited about CTT’s project as it offered her an experience not easily attainable elsewhere.

She said: “I enjoyed coming here and participating in this tour. I got to scan the QR codes of the murals and download information about the paintings. My favourite part was discovering how some of the artists incorporated technology into painting their pieces. Yeah, that was pretty cool.

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