Travel tips for the visually impaired or blind 

Whether you are travelling within your own country or travelling overseas, the key to a successful trip is to plan ahead and communicate!

Plan ahead

Read about your destination before your trip so you know what to expect and what sights you'll want to visit. Make reservations whenever possible. Call airports and airlines ahead of time to find out about services, including seating arrangements, special meals and shuttle services.  When you are booking tickets, tell people that you are visually impaired so that they can endeavour to accommodate your needs. Most airlines will give you VIP assistance (to the plane and to collect your luggage) if you request it. You may be loaded onto the plane earlier, taken off the plane last, and hurried through the priority lanes. Boarding your transport early, means that you can avoid the hassle of crowds and obstacles later on. When travelling with others you may choose not to seek this assistance. Don't be afraid to ask for help when filling in international departure and arrival cards, and for finding out about what is on the menu (if a meal or refreshments are part of your trip).

Carry addresses, directions and your itinerary with you

Have directions written down before leaving. Even if you can't read them you can ask for help by showing them to someone else if you get lost. It's also helpful to have a copy of the exact address of where you are going. A driver may not know where a specific hotel is, so make sure you carry the address and contact number with you. Carrying your itinerary will also allow you to know what is coming up as well as allow others to see where you should be at a certain time. Your itinerary may be printed out in large print, put onto a voice recorder or even saved onto your mobile phone as a text or voice file. Bear in mind that having it printed out might be faster to access for a sighted person who is reading it out to you.

Keep your essentials with you at all times

Carry your money, keys, tickets or passport (if overseas) in a safe pocket. If you happen to misplace your purse or wallet or someone takes it, you can still reach your destination.

Get to know any relevant timetables

Find out where you need to get on and off your particular mode of transport, what time you have to be there by, and where any available seating is (whether this is the seating at the bus shelter, or the spare seats available on the bus etcetera). You can confirm that you are in the right place to catch whichever mode of transport it is that you are going on. This may be by asking the bus driver or another person at the stop. It pays to check as sometimes timetables may alter, and other services may go via that same terminal. Inform the driver, attendant or any other person about where you want to get off so they know when to let you know that your stop is coming up. Some newer buses now have audible cues for stops. (This may also be available on trains as well). You can always ask a sighted person to read the train/plane/ferry/bus departure and arrival times to you if an audible cue is not available. Most sighted people will happily oblige. Try to sit near the front (on a bus) or near a door (if on a train) if possible. This way, when you are arriving at your stop you will be able to alight quickly.

Luggage

Don't forget to take any luggage you have with you!  Mark your luggage with something bright so that  it will stand out when you go to collect it. (This could be a ribbon, a piece of silver duct tape or even a big sticker on the side of your bag). Making your luggage easy to identify (especially at an airport) can save quite a bit of time as there may be 50 black bags all looking similar. You may even want to consider using a device such as a remote luggage locator (where you keep the remote with you, and the locator is attached to your bags for easy audible identification).  This may also make it easier for people travelling with you to help you locate your bag/s. Board early and bring carry-on luggage. Packing only carry-on luggage saves you time and trouble by eliminating a visit to the baggage claim terminal afterwards. If you do bring a suitcase, remember its size, type and colour (and any identifying markers on it).

Communicate your travel needs to others

Inform the travel agency (or company such as an airline) you are using, that you are visually impaired. Tell your companion or those around you about your visual limitations.
Ask questions. If you cannot see a monitor or find a gate at the airport or bus station, ask a customer service representative or another traveller to help you. Carry your cane. Your cane can help to notify others that you are visually impaired. If you don't use your cane, people will probably not realise that you are visually impaired and therefore not offer you any assistance.

Accommodation

When booking accommodation, remember to let the place where you are staying know that you are visually impaired, and whether or not you are travelling with your guide dog. This may give staff a better idea of where to locate you (for example on the ground floor) for ease of navigation. It helps to ask staff to familiarise you with which room you are in, where it is in relation to the main entrance, and where other things are located within the building (for example the location of the conference room, the restaurant or any public toilets nearby). When initially being taken to your room, ask the staff to describe the layout of the room to you. Ask them also to describe any items that are there for you to use (for example the location of the kettle, spoons, coffee sachets and milk pottles). Common things you will need them to identify are where the bed is, where the toilet and shower is (in relation to the bed), where the TV and remote are (and which is the power button and up and down channel / volume switch) or if there is a sliding door opening onto the grass area for your dog - if you have one with you - etcetera). This will save any frustration later on. A sighted person may be able to locate these items quite quickly visually, but a vision impaired or blind person needs to have these items identified rather than spend time having to try and locate them themselves. Enquire about prices as needed and find out about any complimentary items (for example shampoo, newspaper and coffee etcetera). Not enquiring about these items may end up costing you upon exiting your accommodation. (Not all water bottles are complimentary!)  Find out how to adjust heating or air conditioning, who to call to request anything else thatís important to you, as well as the phone number for reception. Make sure you find out where your fire exits are in case they are needed.

International restrictions and regulations when travelling with a guide dog

Restrictions and regulations relating to the import and export of guide dogs will vary from country to country. Contact your local authorities to see what the different procedures are for the importing and exporting of guide dogs, as well as the foreign authorities in the country that you are travelling to. There may be restrictions on where guide dogs can visit, as well as export and import fees involved. You will need to research the procedures, regulations and fees involved before making a serious decision as to whether or not to take your dog. If you are considering taking your guide dog overseas, check to see if your guide dog passport is acceptable in the other country. If not, you may have to get one from the relevant guide dog centre.

Getting up close to exhibits etcetera

Don't be afraid to get up close to exhibits etcetera by going on tours and visiting shops. Some tour groups allow travellers who are visually impaired to experience an exhibit by touching objects otherwise off-limits. Some places - such as museums - may even let you touch the exhibits (if you let them know ahead of time that you are visually impaired). Gift shops often sell small scale replicas of monuments that you can touch. Not all places may allow you to touch their items, however you need to ask otherwise you may miss out on some great opportunities!

Travelling on the road

When you are on holidays, you may want to hire a campervan as long as you have a sighted person to drive it. This will take all of the hassles out of being at certain destinations at certain times.  (For example train stations or bus depots).  This way, you can also make frequent stops at places of interest for as long as you like. If you have a laptop with your adaptive technology on it, you could stop at wireless hotspots to check emails and so on. Having some type of adaptive technology with you gives you that bit more freedom, and the ability to check out things while on the move. Most people nowadays seem to take their laptops / mobile phones on holiday with them so that they can keep in touch and let others know where they are on their travels.

Travelling in a tour group

Travelling in a tour group can be great too. This takes all of the hassles out of booking different things to see. It is always wise to let the tour group leader know that you are visually impaired, when you are making the bookings. This means they can assist you in different situations if they have been advised before time.  This would be the same for airlines etcetera. To make your trip more pleasant, letting people know that you are visually impaired or blind will help you in the long run. Travelling with a sighted person may make it even easier for you as they may be able to explain what things look (height, colour, structure etcetera) like and what is around you (signage etcetera). When travelling by yourself you might miss out on detail unless you ask people to describe things to you. The description will only be as good as the person's knowledge of how to describe things around them in detail. Don't be afraid to ask for help or assistance (in all situations if required).

Helpful hints for the airport security screening process

If youíre visually impaired or blind, take note of what you may ask the screener to assist you with:
The screening process is fairly easy to go through, and is safe for your equipment.

Helpful hints for the airport security screening process when travelling with a guide dog

Additional Travel Tips


Remember, whether you are travelling within your own country or travelling overseas, the key to a successful trip is to plan and communicate!  Giving others that little bit of extra information, can help them to best accommodate your needs.

Some useful links for travellers

Australiaforall is a site that gives user feedback about accessible accommodation http://www.australiaforall.com/Welcome_1.html

Travel eyes is a accessible travel service for the visual impaired and the blind. It can be found at https://traveleyes-international.com/
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