Sale fears over hotels for blind people

Cliffden Image copyright Rob Wilkinson
Image caption The Cliffden in Teignmouth is one of three hotels that offer facilities for blind people

Thousands of blind people may lose the use of three specially adapted hotels after a charity operator said it was planning to sell them.

Action for Blind People said it could not afford to keep the hotels running.

It wants to offload the Cliffden in Teignmouth, Devon, the Lauriston in Weston-super-Mare and Windermere Manor in the Lake District.

Losing the Cliffden with its facilities for blind and visually impaired would be "devastating", one visitor said.

Image caption Visually impaired Mark Layton-Rees said the Cliffden "means everything" to members of his family who share the same disability

Action for Blind People said it had made a "difficult decision" to sell the hotels, which cater for about 2,000 blind and visually impaired people a year.

But it said it had to weigh up the financial cost against the "low number" of blind and partially sighted users.

The charity said it was now "looking for other operators" to take them over.

Image copyright Rob Wilkinson
Image caption Windermere Manor in the Lake District is one of the hotels earmarked to be handed over

The three hotels would require a subsidy of about £350,000 for the next three years and refurbishments at an estimated cost of about £600,000, it said.

"As a charity, we have to make sure that every penny we spend is in the best interests of blind and partially sighted people throughout the UK."

It said consultations have started with staff and would continue with visitors in September before ending in October.

The sales by Action for Blind People are supported by the hotels' owners Guide Dogs and the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

The Cliffden was sold to Guide Dogs in 1988 and it bought Windermere Manor in the 1990s. Both have been under Action for Blind management since 2001.

Image copyright Rob Wilkinson
Image caption The Lauriston in Weston-super-Mare is costing Action for Blind People too much to run, says the charity

Special facilities at the hotels include talking alarm clocks, menus in Braille and facilities for guide dogs.

Proceeds from the sales would be "invested in our life-changing services for people with sight loss", said Guide Dogs.

News of the closures "has absolutely devastated families who come here," said visually impaired Mark Layton-Rees, who is visiting the Cliffden.

"We have nowhere else we can go on a family holiday," he said.

"It will also fragment a community of blind people who love and enjoy meeting up every year, sharing our experiences, supporting each other and helping each other cope with their disabilities."

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