Traveling can be refreshing and rewarding. There can also be pitfalls. Traveling when blind can present complications, but they do not have to be overwhelming! There is more than one school of thought on what is the best approach for a traveler who is blind; specifically, whether to utilize a good deal of the help that is available or whether maintaining maximum independence is actually more efficient.
Sue Bramhall, a lifelong traveler with vision loss, in her guest blog Travel Tips For People Who Are Visually Impaired for VisionAware, takes the view that utilizing assistance can streamline and expedite travel. For individuals who want to do a good deal of pre-planning as an assurance that all will go smoothly, this is a good approach. Ms. Bramhall recommends making use of airline personnel when checking in for a flight to escort you through security and then accompany you to your gate. She also suggests making a point to get to know your hotel concierge for reservations and general information. One of her tips: Use raised stick-on dots to identify luggage, your hotel room and even your floor on an elevator panel. In other words, use the help that is out there!
J.J. Meddaugh, a business traveler who is blind, explains in his article Access to Independent Travel for Access World Magazine, that he has evolved in his thinking about traveling, especially flying, to maximize his personal independence. He now rejects the idea of “so-called assistance” such as an escort or motorized cart at airports, and prefers to go it alone, finding it to be more efficient and less compromising. To do this, he does some advance planning to learn about an airport’s layout (he suggests Wikipedia), and the airport’s website to get information on gate and restaurant locations. He recommends using mobile apps to obtain your boarding pass and to check in. He isn’t shy about asking passersby about gate locations. He offers many other tips too, like using an audible luggage locator to find checked bags on the carousel. And while he admits traveling through unfamiliar spaces can be daunting, he enjoys relying on his own resources.
A word about traveling with a service or emotional support animal (or a pet): Airlines are evolving in their approach to animals on flights. Certain animals may travel as pets with in-cabin restrictions and a small kennel, or as cargo, both for a fee. Abuses and incidents with emotional support animals have led to stricter rules about animal behavior in public, and advance submission of paperwork from a mental health professional and veterinarian, including proof of vaccinations. While paperwork for trained service animals is somewhat less stringent, it may still be required, so it is advisable to check with your airline well in advance.
Two travel books in the LBPH collection are:
A Year of Sundays: Taking the Plunge (and Our Cat) to explore Europe
by Edward D. Webster
People-pleasing travel memoir in which the author and his wife, who is blind, take a year’s sabbatical with their 16-year-old cat to do the grand tour of Europe.
Sites Unseen: Traveling the World Without Sight
by Wendy S. David
Based on her own experiences in Europe and North America, well-traveled blind psychologist provides tips and tools for taking trips without sighted assistance.