Local Tour Company Offers Walking Tour for Visually Impaired Students

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Williamsburg Walking Tours led students from the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired for their fourth annual tour of Colonial Williamsburg. (Courtesy of Odell Hall)

WILLIAMSBURG — A local tour group is able to provide the experience of Colonial Williamsburg but in a unique way.

For a fourth year, Williamsburg Walking Tours, a local, privately-owned company based out of the Historic Triangle, hosted a tour of Colonial Williamsburg for a group of visually impaired students from the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) 

“It’s quite an experience for the group, and uplifting for us,” David Thomas, co-owner of Williamsburg Walking Tours, said. 

Run since 2011 by husband-and-wife team, David and Trish Thomas, the company offers tours of Virginia’s Colonial Capital, including a Walk About History, which focuses on three centuries of local stories, a Civil War tour, and an African American History tour, which is solely dedicated to Black history.

Williamsburg Walking Tours, which is unrelated to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, typically departs for its various tours from Duke of Gloucester Street, at the corner of Bruton Parish Church and the Palace Green.

On Wednesday, July 21, the company hosted its fourth tour this summer for DBVI students. 

Led by Trish, the tour group spends the day learning about the history of Colonial Williamsburg while navigating the area.

“I think people need to know that there are accessible tours here,” David said.

2021 marks the 100th-year anniversary of DBVI, an agency that provides training in the skills of blindness to blind and vision-impaired individuals in Virginia, as well as encouraging them to achieve educational and social independence. 

DBVI’s summer LIFE program is a training program for blind and visually-impaired students to allow them to gain real-world experience.

Along with the Williamsburg Walking Tour, LIFE students participate in other outdoor outings, including high ropes adventure courses, rock climbing, and even whitewater rafting. 

The students are accompanied by chaperones from DBVI, as well as volunteers from the James City Lions Club, a local community service organization. 

One of the main objectives for these outdoor outings is for the students to learn how to navigate the terrain using their probing canes. 

“They’re navigating it on their own, we’re there primarily for the safety of the group,” David said. “If you’ve ever been to CW, you know that there are things going on around you that you need to be cognizant of.“   

David added that they hope to host walking tours for deaf individuals in the future as well.

“It’s exciting to me, because I think there’s a need for this,” he said.

Colonial Williamsburg spokesman, Kevin Crossett, said that Colonial Williamsburg also offers several ADA-accessible tours as well. 

Upon request, Colonial Williamsburg will contract a signing interpreter to accompany hearing-impaired guests through the Historic Area

Additionally, assisted listening devices are offered for all museum tours and programs, including headsets that work with some hearing aids.

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