Preparation is Everything!

The Bailey travel journal – Part 1.

Preparation is everything! I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to experience many types of holiday to many destinations, home and away… I have not let my sight impairment limit my horizons. Travel is one of the most fun and rewarding things that I am lucky enough to be able to do. It allows me to experience foreign cities and local cultures. The fact I can’t see the sights properly only heightens my curiosity. I ask my wife to describe the details and vista. Then I add the scents, sounds and tastes… your imagination can run riot. I can walk away from a view with a better picture of it than a sighted person who has just stopped for a glance.

Over the years I have become a seasoned traveller, developing many skills and tricks for navigating through airports and other unfamiliar areas. Travel can be daunting if you have a visual impairment, but there are many opportunities for the taking.

Mark holding a souvenir replica of a sphinx.

Mark holding a souvenir replica of a sphinx.

The number of companies which operate specific programmes for VIP’s has reduced but one such company that is still operating is called Traveleyes. They organise group holidays for VIP’s that are “liberating, fun, and yes, eyeopening, too”.

It’s worth reminding you that the tips and ideas that follow are merely my personal method for travelling. Your comfort level, mobility experience, and common sense may all dictate whether or not these tips are also suitable for you. Travel is not an exact science. Many situations can occur on the day of journey such as gate changes, cancellations, and unforeseen delays. Remember that these are events that affect everyone who is travelling, not just you!

De-stressing a trip begins in the planning stages. Find out about your destination, so you know what to expect and what sights you’ll want to visit. In addition, keep your sanity by building in some down time, you’ll get more value (and better memories) from a trip that proceeds at a comfortable pace. Don’t plan out every single minute of a trip. It’s better to add an activity or two once you’ve arrived at your destination and have a better sense of the possibilities. You may also not be able to do certain trips as planned, so bear this in mind and leave yourself some wiggle room.

If you can, find out about any potential journeys you may need to make. Nowadays, this can often done online in advance; you could download an “App” to your mobile phone or ask at your accommodation reception. Inform the bus driver where you want to get off so he knows to call it out, and sit near the front of the bus.

It is also important to carry your cane. Whether you choose to use it or not for mobility purposes, your cane helps to notify others that you are visually impaired. When you travel by air, always let your airline, travel agent or tour operator know if you need any extra assistance at the airport or on the plane.

An airport, you very quickly realise, is not a great place to be visually impaired. Poorly piloted baggage trolleys, non-speaking departure boards, too many people in too much of a hurry – it can seem like a nightmare. Request help at least 48 hours before you fly. This support could include: someone to meet and guide you through check-in, baggage check and customs controls; someone to tell you personally when your plane is boarding if you are in a ‘silent airport’. Take advantage of the pre-boarding service offered by planes and trains and only take carry-on luggage if possible.

Packing only carry-on luggage saves you time and trouble by eliminating a visit to the baggage claim terminal. If you must check in baggage, there are a couple of things you can do to make the retrieval of your luggage a simple process. First, you can now purchase audible luggage locators which can help you to quickly find your bag as it travels around the carousel. These allow you to press a button, which will activate a beeping locator in your bag (although I have never used one and I’m not sure about any security implications of a beeping suitcase – I know I would perhaps not feel too comfortable using this one!). Also, consider marking your bag with brightly coloured tape, a luggage strap or another distinctive element. Asking someone to locate a black suitcase will likely result in frustration!!!

Alternatively you could try using bump-on’s, not only to help you identify your luggage, but to identify your hotel room or even your floor on a lift panel; get some and give it a try. It may be worth seeking permission to do the latter from your accommodation reception.

At a security search, always explain your impairment and ask airport security staff to repack bags in a specific order for you, so that you know where essential items are located. If you have an E-Passport, then going on my experience you can ‘sail’ through security… having faced the scanners and struggled to stand in the correct position, I have learnt to simply tell the security officer of my sight impairment… they then send you to the front of the main queue or an empty desk where they will check your passport!

When on the plane, the safety demonstration given by the cabin crew to all passengers at the beginning of a flight should be available in other formats. You should request this in advance if needed. The cabin crew should also: tell you more general information about the plane including its services and facilities; if necessary describe the layout of your food tray to you; open any packaging that is awkward; and help you find your way to the toilet.

If you want to take your guide dog on the plane with you, always tell the airline about this in advance. The airline can ask the owner to produce proof that the dog has been trained by a recognised organisation and don’t forget their ID and a safety harness to secure your dog when you are asked to.

My main advice is: don’t be shy about asking for assistance. An airline or ship’s crew, hotel clerks, taxi and bus drivers – they are generally more than happy to help. Travelling through unfamiliar places can seem like a daunting experience. Remember that many people, blind or sighted, share the same challenges that you do and are also moving through an unknown space. With a little foresight, plus an open mind and willingness to ask for help, virtually all of us can travel in comfort and safety.

I hope some of these tips and ideas will help you to become a more ambitious and independent traveller. There’s an entire world out there just waiting for you to visit.

Mark Bailey

 

useful website(s) – The inclusion of a link to our website in this blog does not constitute recommendation, endorsement, approval or support of said website.

http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services/guide-dog-services/assistance-dog-travel-guide#.V6MTaNIrKUk

 

Marc taking a well earned rest next to his bike.

Marc did the Mendip Wiggle

Marc Gulwell took part in the 100 mile bike ride on a tandem bike with his friend Dave piloting the bike.  Previous to starting his training Marc had not ridden a bike for 10 years!  The ride took place on the 2nd July 2016 and began just outside Glastonbury.  The route took  the riders through Somerset villages, the Cheddar Gorge and included a steep 850ft ascent at just 15 miles in.

Despite injury  Marc and Dave completed what they set out to do!   Between them they have raised over £1300.

Thank you to both of you for making the commitment to raise valuable funds for Insight.

 

Insight Thanks its supporters in the latest magazine

Issue 14 is out now of the Insight Magazine.

Highlights include: ‘Trive in the Garden’, information on our forthcoming Equipment and Information Day (12th April in case you have not heard) and our Spring sale.

Happy reading and if there is anything that you would like to have included, just let Monica know by dropping her an email – monica.farthing@insight-glos.org.uk or give her a ring on 01242 22 11 70.

Insight Magazine – full PDF

Insight Magazine – Audio is below, click play and the recording will start for you with your defualt player.

Mag 14 Text only

Equipment and Information day Roundup

Over 90 people came along to our Equipment and Information day on April 12th in Gloucester.  Thank you to all of our exhibitors who came along –  Enhanced Vision, Opetelc, Optima, Humanware, Sight and Sound, PVS, Synapptic, Dolphin Computer Access,  and Village Agents.

A special mention for Lyn who made the tea and coffee for everyone!

Some pictures from the day

 

Image shows Marc running a workshop on tablets and mobile phone.

Did you hear the radio?

Our very own Marc Gulwell featured on the Anna King radio show last Monday.  Marc spoke about the technology  that blind people use to make the most of smart phones and tablets.

If you would like to listen to the interview click on the link below, Marc’s bit starts at about 15.20 mins in.

BBC Gloucestershire – Marc G. interview

Don’t forget that if you need any information or advice about technology and how to access it with a visual impairment please just get in touch.   01242 22 11 70

Steph talking to a client.

Record breaking attendance at the last Focus Day!

 

We held our Focus Day on the 19th January at the Low Vision Centre, Albion Street in conjunction with Enhanced Vision, Calibre and Dolphin Computer Access.  Over 70 people attended which is a record for these events.  We will be running more of them throughout the year so please keep an eye on our website and Facebook pages to find out when the next one is happening.

 

 

Letter to the Editor

 

Insight Gloucestershire’s Communication Officer recently submitted a letter (printed 19th September 2015) to the Gloucestershire Echo in response to comments made by the public on their social media channel concerning the  controversy around the alterations at the Lower High Street, Cheltenham.

Read more