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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Hassan appreciates the importance of East London Vision’s collaboration with Made in Hackney

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Hello readers

I know you’ve had the pleasure of reading some wonderful blog entries on the topic of corporate partnerships and how vital they are to East London Vision.

I am delighted to report that we continue to establish and strengthen our partnerships with other local charities and organisations. I earnestly believe it would be of benefit to build partnerships with local schools, mosques, churches and other religious establishments in East London as well. This will allow us to best represent the views of people living with sight loss and fingers crossed enable us to find and aid other Vision Impaired people. As you may have read in previous entries from me, I intend on visiting schools and building relationships with community leaders in order to reach younger Vision Impaired people. This will also allow us to fund raise and in return we would then offer Vision Impairment Awareness training to year 4, 5 and 6 pupils. I’m thrilled to report that Marion Richardson and Redlands Schools respectively have agreed to fund raise for East London Vision and we are grateful for their cooperation and support. I’m sure I’ll have a further update for you in my next entry, so watch this space!

Talking of Partnerships, over the last 2 months or so we have worked closely with Made in Hackney who deliver fun, supportive, often life changing courses in local food growing, cooking and composting. They work with local charities, community organisations, housing associations and support groups to ensure their wonderful courses are offered to people most in need, such as low income families, children in care, teen carers, young people excluded from school, parents,  children and people suffering from diet related health problems.

Whilst their classes are mainly focused on tackling food poverty, they understand that cooking is incredibly therapeutic and has a real impact on mental health and self-confidence.

Our members have completed a 6 week course, in which they were taught how to make healthy food from scratch. Whether it was making baked beans or mayonnaise as a team we were quick to learn that it was cheaper and healthier to make your own food rather than purchasing over sweetened or extremely salty foods from the market.

The Made in Hackney team including the lovely volunteers were exceptional, considering they had no previous experience of working with vision impaired people

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The sessions were invaluable to the members. One of our Hackney members admitted: “Loved it! Would have never done this, I haven’t cooked in 8 years until now!”

Another member added:

“Having lost my sight, I never thought I’d be able to cook, let alone use a knife independently.”

Taking the general consensus into account, I’m confident the members would like to do this course again in the New Year and I’m sure the phenomenal Made in Hackney team would welcome us back with open arms and long may this flourishing partnership continue.

You can also find out more about Made in Hackney by visiting their website at: http://www.madeinhackney.org

So before I take my leave, I’d like to share the following quote with you:

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.

Mark Twain

CEO of ELVis discusses the topic of employment for Vision Impaired People

Hello to all our wonderful readers

First of all, a warm welcome to our new platform.

2 recent events have made me think that employment for blind and partially sighted people should be the topic of the Blog this week.

The first of these was that I have just been involved in the recruitment of a new member of staff for ELVis. We received 52 applications, and although about 40 of them were discarded immediately because the applicant hadn’t submitted the required information, or clearly hadn’t properly read the job description, it does show that, whatever the Government statistics, there are still plenty of people out there looking for a job. Or, does it indicate, with my more cynical hat on, that job hunters have to prove that they have applied for a certain number of jobs to maintain support or benefits and, with the ease of applying online these days, this is relatively simple to do, even if the applications aren’t appropriate.

Of more relevance though was the second event, which was the output from an employment session run by a colleague of mine at a recent RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa) fighting blindness weekend. Just a few or the work related problems raised were:

  • Where do I get information about training and re-skilling?
  • Feeling hopeless during interviews when trying to convince employers that you are just as capable as the next person.
  • Government schemes to get people into work are often not accessible to people with a disability.
  • I don’t know how my employer will react when I tell them about my deteriorating sight.
  • There is little information to support employers
  • One bad experience can put off employers from then taking on another person with a disability.
  • Access to work support is getting more and more difficult to obtain and the support is often of poor quality.

This is only a flavour of the discussion, which also included looking at solutions. But it does show that with 70% of Vision Impaired people of working age not in employment (and that’s the best estimate), that there is an undoubted need for the sight loss sector to provide collaborative advice and support. I am absolutely not promoting positive discrimination, but assistance with obtaining and maintaining a job will clearly help reduce the startling statistic of blind and partially sighted people who are currently unemployed.

I am sure we will return to this topic in a future Blog!