Ray’s Tips for Travelling When You’re Visually Impaired

Summer is finally here and if you’re thinking of going on holiday, or preparing to, then make sure to read my blog post to the end.

We all love going on holiday.  However, unexpected issues can arise that can test your patience and you’ll soon feel like you wish you’d never left your house. Here are my top 5 tips that can help you have a smooth and trouble-free holiday.

Tip 1: Research a reliable travel provider/transport operator

Do your research about travel providers catering to visually impaired people.  Seable organises accessible holidays for solos, couples, families, group of friends and charities.  You can visit their website at http://seable.co.uk.  There is also TravelEyes who offer the opportunity to travel with other VI people and sighted guides.  You can visit their website  at https://www.traveleyes-international.com/.  Moreover, the TripAdvisor website is a great resource for reviews about travel providers, destinations and places of interests.  Also, make sure to read your travel operator’s disability policy (usually found on their website) to check if they can accommodate your needs.

Tip 2: Make arrangements with your accommodation and transport

Be sure to make arrangements in advanced with your hotel and transport provider, especially if you’re traveling with a guide dog.  Specific guidelines for travelling with a guide dog can be found here: https://bit.ly/2m5oXvz.  You’ll also need to check your destination’s policy on guide dogs to ensure you are both not denied entry upon arriving at your accommodation.  Alternatively, if you’re travelling alone, contact your travel provider and let them know you will need assistance checking in and boarding.  This will save you time when you arrive at your point of departure.

Tip 3: Ask for help!

Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for assistance; whether it’s in your hotel, restaurant, airport or train station.  More often people are willing to help than not.  If you’re lost, then more the reason to ask for directions.

Tip 4:  Use tactile labels on your luggage

Trust me when I say using raised stick-on labels will make life so much easier when you’re trying to identify your luggage, or if you have some sight, tie a coloured ribbon around your luggage.  If you’re a braille reader, invest in some braille labels with your name and hotel address on it.

Tip 5: Research attractions and venues that are accessible to disabled people

Lots of attractions around the world offer free entry for vision impaired people, for example, the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.  However, if you’re planning on going holiday closer to home, check out this list of top accessible attractions: https://bit.ly/2L3ZvBv.

Lastly, if you’re worried about travelling solo, here are some extra travel bits you should know!

  • Use a backpack instead of a suitcase. This will allow you to travel hands-free, and, if needed, use a cane or guide dog.
  • Carry spare change – not all places accept card payment.
  • Label your medication so it can be identified easily.
  • If you don’t use a cane or guide dog, then carry a medical letter from your GP or doctor containing details of your impairment and assistance you’ll need.
  • If you’re a white cane user, always pack a spare one in case your main one breaks or goes missing.

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Photo of Bhavini on holiday in Paris, France.

Written by Ray Calamaan, ELVis Communications Coordinator

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Why Social Groups are Important for Vision Impaired People

Let me tell you how I’ve become involved with East London Vision.  I became a member of the Hackney Vision Impaired group at the beginning of 2018.  I found out about the group through a Hackney-based organisation called Outward, and they referred me to the Low Vision Impairment Forum at Thomas Pocklington Trust, who then referred me on to ELVis.

Before joining ELVis, I felt completely isolated.  After graduating from university, a year ago, I couldn’t find work, so that led me to feel like I wasn’t doing very much and spending most of my time on my own.  It was a really depressing time for me.  When I spoke to Bhavini at ELVis for the very first time, she invited me along to the Hackney VI group, and I literally felt alive and hopeful that I would be back and part of the community again.

I started coming along to the Hackney group in February this year, and ever since then I’ve attended ELVis-supported events like the ten-pin bowling in Stratford, which I enjoyed very much.  The outings mean a lot to me and the rest of the group because it allows us to visit new places that we wouldn’t normally go to because ELVis always does a great job at making sure they’re accessible for vision impaired people, and that’s great!  We also have meetings with guest speakers like Graham from ELVis who gave us a demonstration of the Amazon Alexa and the Google Home speakers.  The group members find these meetings extremely useful because they’re informative and we learn about technology or services that can enhance our independence.

I feel really blessed to be part of the Hackney VI group.  I feel a sense of security knowing that there’s a group where I can meet other people who live with sight loss.  It has helped boost my confidence as I have more things in life to look forward to.  Also, social groups in general are important for vision impaired people because it gives us the opportunity to make new friends, exchange vital information and make a difference in the community.  I hope everyone who reads my blog post and isn’t part of a social group is encouraged to get out there and find one. Alternatively, if you live in Hackney, why not get in touch with East London Vision to sign up with our group.  I hope to meet you very soon!

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Photo of Tolga holding a bowling ball at a ten-pin bowling event with ELVis at Westfield Stratford City.

Written by Tolga, member of the Hackney Vision Impaired Group