It wasn't long after ACB president Mitch Pomerantz and the international relations committee began brainstorming the idea of an educational travel adventure for its members that things began to fall into place.
ACB approached Elderhostel based on the not-for-profit organization's reputation for providing exceptional learning experiences with its Road Scholar programs, and it found a willing and enthused partner. Next up was selecting a destination, and in Madrid, Spain, ONCE - the Spanish Organization for the Blind - was equally excited about collaborating and co-hosting its American friends.
Thus, in just over a year, the extraordinary adventure "Discover Madrid," a week-long exploration for ACB members inside the famed Spanish capital's fascinating culture and history, will debut in a travel series that ACB seeks to extend to additional destinations. The inaugural learning adventure to Madrid is April 13-22, 2012.
"As someone who enjoys the chance to travel, I am especially pleased to enter into partnership with Elderhostel/Road Scholar," said Pomerantz. "I look forward to taking advantage of this new and exciting relationship."
The selection of Elderhostel and its Road Scholar programs was based on its 36 years of experience creating educational programs in more than 90 countries, as well as its mission to accommodate individuals who face physical challenges such as vision, hearing and mobility issues.
ACB and Road Scholar have created a highly interactive learning experience.
In the exhilarating atmosphere of Madrid, ACB participants will hear a local musician talk about and demonstrate the classical Spanish guitar. They will experience the storied history of a Gothic cathedral during an expert-led exploration. They will listen to enthusiastic instructors and taste authentic Madrid cuisine such as Cocido Madrileño, a local favorite.
Road Scholar president James Moses says, "This program is designed for those who share a desire for ongoing stimulation, challenge and experience and - most importantly - a love of learning."
As ACB identifies its members' needs and travel desires, the collaboration with ONCE is important and exciting because of the organization's knowledge of Madrid from a blind and low-vision perspective.
The Madrid experience includes a fascinating exploration of the ONCE museum Museo Tiflologico de la ONCE, where participants enjoy a hands-on experience of artistic works made by the blind and musical instruments used by the blind for 200 years. Participants will also meet guide dogs trained at the ONCE Guide Dog Foundation. In addition, the participants will meet students and faculty from ONCE's School for the Blind in Madrid, who will talk about the facilities, learning models and opportunities available to the students.
The smells and sounds of Toledo - Spain's first capital and known as the Imperial City - will be enjoyed on a day field trip and an evening tapas dinner. And after dining on local cuisine back in Madrid on another evening, participants will be treated to a performance of popular Spanish songs by La Tuna, a modern-day troubadour group.
With accessibility being paramount on this extraordinary experience, "Discover Madrid" participants will stay at the Hotel Confortel Suites Madrid - a 4-star hotel owned by ONCE. Fully adapted for people who are blind and those with low vision, its staff members are fully trained and prepared to assist guests.
For more information about this special program to Madrid, please call Pam Shaw of the American Council of the Blind at (215) 753-1527.