National Park hears need for deaf tours
Sequoia Parks Conservancy offers first-ever guided cave tour for deaf or those with hearing loss
THREE RIVERS – For the first time ever, those who are deaf or have hearing loss will be able to experience the underground wonders of a National Park through a guided tour especially designed for them.
The Sequoia Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service announced it will begin tours for visitors who are deaf or have hearing loss later this month. The Conservancy and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks worked together to create the tour to better serve a wider range of visitors using grant funding from the National Environmental Education Foundation.
The tour contains eight videos in American Sign Language and provides safety information and interpretive descriptions at key points throughout the tour. This is the first tour of its kind in a national park cave. The grant also provided for the purchase of assisted listening devices.
These devices amplify and clarify sound by cutting down or eliminating ambient noise. Headsets with induction neckloops are also available for visitors who use hearing aids and cochlear implants with a “T” switch. These devices are distributed free-of-charge on a first-come, first-served basis. These tours are available to visitors starting on the opening day of Crystal Cave, May 24.
After passing through the iconic spiderweb gate, visitors are welcomed with a brief history of the cave and given an overview of the unique features and formations within. Progressing deeper on paved, lighted pathways, the tour pauses to listen to the water moving about and observe fantastic rooms and formations formed over the last 1.2 million years. At the deepest point of the tour, visitors gather as the lighting is turned off, and they experience the cave in absolute darkness.
Crystal Cave is the second-largest of 300 known caves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and the fourth largest in California. At just over three miles of surveyed passageway, this remarkable marble cave has been open to the public for tours since 1940.
Sequoia Parks Conservancy is the official nonprofit partner of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Lake Kaweah, working hand-in-hand with the National Park Service to support projects including trail improvements, educational programs for the public, and the protection of wildlife and their natural habitat. Learn more at visit www.sequoiaparksconservancy.org or 559-561-4813.