Geopark UNESCO Bohemain Paradise for sightless visitors

The phone rings and Marek Hladík introduces himself with words: “Good afternoon, we would like to know something about Bohemian Paradise Geopark.” One of our normal daily calls.  I respond “OK, when will you show up and what would you like to know?” Marek specifies: “We are a group of sightless children from Prague.” At that moment it is clear that the information can be transmitted only with the help of four senses. I am always excited to meet with sightless and purblind children. The so called “Tyflotouristic group” brings together people from Bohemia and Moravia to arrange programmes, weekend activities and camps for visually impaired children and students. More than twenty children and students from high schools and universities come to the Geopark with their leaders. Some have a clouded vision of their surroundings, others are unable or only partially able to distinguish shapes.. However, there is much which they can sense about the world around them without being able to see. One does not need to feel sorry for the sightless. Their disability makes their lives more complicated but they have learnt how to live with it. A sightless person is able to do most things and participate in many activities. Therefore this person is equal among others and her/his ability to recognize using the senses of touch or sound is, for example, many times greater than that of a “normally sighted person”. Therefore it is a challenge to try and enable a sightless person to experience a “real picture”. Visually disabled people frequently display characteristics that can be missing in the sighted. For example the ability to enjoy the moment, combined with a sense of humor and tolerance.

Jana and Tomáš help me to devote ourselves to our guests’ needs. There are many possibilities to introduce mineralogy, paleontology and geology to sightless visitors to the Geopark. I explain that the basic structural unit of the Earth´s crust are minerals which occur as crystals and which differ from amorphous substances in their shapes and their thermal conductivity. We circulate a specimen of amethyst crystals  and a piece of obsidian, an amorphous  volcanic glass among the children. The crystal in their hands is cooling and the obsidian, quite the reverse, feels as if it is warming Minerals also have distinctive odours. This phenomenon was used by Swedish geologists in the 19th.Century who used trained dogs in the search for ores. The sightless are very perceptive. Any creative activity provides them with an intense experience. One group uses different beads to create beautiful necklaces, bracelets and rings. The second group studies an exhibition which is equipped with Braille. The children and students leave after a few hours enriched by new experiences and with souvenirs, i. e. the jewelry, which they have created. The leaders acknowledge that we are well prepared for such visits. The biggest reward for me, in addition to this acknowledgement, is the words of children: “The geology is so interesting!”

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