VISUALLY-IMPAIRED tourist Jules Griffen has launched an appeal to help provide support for other blind visitors to Teignmouth.

Jules, who has been holidaying in the town for 30 years, is hoping to organise a group of volunteers to provide sighted assistance to other visually impaired tourists.

The 56-year-old, who lives in central London, went completely blind 15 years ago but he has been coming to Teignmouth regularly since the early 1990s, staying at the Cliffden Hotel in Dawlish Road.

He and his guide dog Adam, his fifth guide dog, have been on holiday there over the last 10 days. However, even with Adam’s assistance, although he says he couldn’t be without him, he says getting out and about can still be ‘hard work’.

He said: ‘Having lost all my sight, it is imperative to me to have sighted help.’ His appeal for volunteers is backed by the hotel’s managers and since its launch, Jules has heard from about 15 volunteers willing to help, including one who used to work at the hotel, another a retired nurse and a retired teacher.

Jules, who comes to the town three or four times a year, says Teignmouth is particularly geared up to help the visually impaired, having had the hotel in town for many years, which takes the ‘stress’ out of going on holiday.

Previously owned and run by the RNIB, primarily catering for blind and partially sighted guests, it was sold about a decade ago and became a purely mainstream hotel.

But Cliffden has continued to attract many former regular visitors, Jules included.

The new owners continued providing bespoke holidays and day trips for visually impaired travellers. Since Covid however, the hotel has been unable to provide the service which Jules described as ‘fantastic’ and ‘greatly appreciated’. Ever since, regular visually impaired guests like him have been urging the hotel management to bring it back.

The hotel said it would love help but it would need to be supported by a regular supply of volunteers to provide sighted guide assistance.

Jules explained: ‘That is the situation as it currently stands.

‘So I have taken it on myself to try and re-establish a pool of volunteers from in and around Teignmouth.

‘These people will be invaluable in assisting, enabling and empowering blind and partially sighted people to enjoy independent, comfortable and stress-free holidays.’

He said: ‘Volunteers are essential to provide supported holidays for the visually impaired.

‘Taking a holiday independently can often be very stressful, things fully sighted people take for granted such as shopping, visiting pubs and cafes or simply exploring the local area, are often difficult, and not at all relaxing or enjoyable.

‘Having a volunteer sighted guide can make all the difference and means hotel excursions, walking breaks or individually requested trips can be made available.

‘Speaking personally, although I can get out and about with my guide dog, it is often really hard work.

‘I have enough of that kind of stress at home, so can do without it when I’m on holiday.

‘Being accompanied by a sighted companion from time to time gives both me and my dog the opportunity to relax, enjoy ourselves and generally have a normal holiday, without all the stresses and hassles of every day life.’

Since posting his appeal on social media, Jules has received enquiries from more than 15 people asking for more information.

He added: ‘I hope that number will continue to grow.

‘If I get enough interest, in conjunction with the Cliffden manager and staff, I plan to hold a series of introductory open days and sighted guide training sessions for potential new volunteers.’

Cliffden manager Steve Kingshott says the hotel is supporting Jules’ aims. Steve said: ‘It’s a big help having guides as our guests feel more comfortable.

‘It’s beneficial for the hotel and we are keen to get involved.’