Preparation is Everything! – Part 2

The Bailey travel journal – Contd.

Marc holding a miniature replica of a warrior.

Marc holding a miniature replica of a warrior.

This is the second part of my travel tips for the visually impaired. As a lifelong traveller who is registered Severely Sight Impaired, I thought I might share some hints and tips; as I had so many, it has taken two editions of the Insight Blog to share my knowledge. Remember the tips might not all work for you, and please contact us with your own ideas.

Once you have arrived at your destination you may find it helpful to have a copy of the exact address of where you are going / staying (even if you can’t read them). A driver may not know where a specific hotel is, especially if there are several with the same name in the area. Keep your necessities with you at all times. Carry some money, keys, tickets and bus pass in a money belt or a secure pocket. If you happen to misplace your purse or wallet or someone takes it, you won’t have lost everything and still can reach your destination. I also find it useful to arrange my money in my wallet, so that I know what note is what before I have to pay for anything or give a tip. It also means that I do not have to display it to everyone.

Notify others about your needs. Inform your travel agency or companies such as airlines that you are using that you are visually impaired. Tell your companion or those around you about your visual limitations. It is also important to carry your cane, as it helps to notify others that you are visually impaired.

When you have reached your final destination, before unpacking, get acquainted with the concierge. They are a wonderful source of local knowledge and can make restaurant and show reservations and often can get you into something that’s otherwise booked up. Once out and about, take advantage of local tours.

Many cities now have double-decker buses that let you hop on and off. I try to do this on my first day in a new city, to get an overview, so I know where to spend more time later. Websites about your destination will tell you what to expect, such as festivals and special events. At certain times, reservations and reasonable, hotel rates may be difficult to find; or you may simply prefer not to deal with large crowds. Don’t give up; adjust your travel dates instead. If you’re travelling abroad, also check the currency conversion rates before you leave home.

Don’t forget, when travelling both at home and overseas, many attractions and events offer discounted prices to the visually impaired. Usually all it takes is a glimpse of a white cane, a guide dog or a registration card, but don’t be shy about asking. Some places even extend the discount to a sighted guide or driver. For example, in the UK, the National Trust offers free entry to sighted guides, most Royal palaces will offer the same discounts and also concessionary rates for the disabled person as well. In Wales, CADDW (Welsh Government’s historic environment service working for an accessible and well protected historic environment for Wales) offers free entry to both sight impaired people and their guides to historic attractions.

A good way to enhance your sensory experience is by going on tours and visiting gift shops. Always use the information headsets when available. In addition, some tour groups will allow travellers who are visually impaired to experience an exhibit by touching objects otherwise off-limits.

Visit the local gift shops as they will often sell small-scale replicas of monuments you can touch to give you some idea of an historic site you may have visited.

As I have said before, there’s an entire world out there waiting for you to explore. So, Bon Voyage! Don’t forget to send us a postcard of your travels.

Mark Bailey