As a visually impaired person, travel can sometimes have its challenges. There are specialist companies out there that have packages that include a sighted guide for the duration of the trip to make things a little bit easier, but what if you wanted to be spontaneous?
Personally I’ve always travelled independently, and at the age of 17 I got on a plane for the second time in my life and flew across the Atlantic to Atlanta to visit a friend I’d made at a Girl Guide camp. A year later I decided to visit Australia. My sighted friends told me I was “brave” to travel so far all by myself, to be honest I didn’t see a problem.
So how do you go about booking a holiday independently when you have a visual impairment? In June my fiancée and I travelled to Dublin for his birthday and I had a ticket for a Taylor Swift concert. As a magnification user accessing websites isn’t an issue so it was pretty easy finding flights. I used a website called http://Booking.com to find us a place to stay, that wasn’t quite so easy as it seems everyone was in town to see Taylor! With some perseverance, I came across a place in one of the suburbs, and after doing some research I discovered there was a tram stop within walking distance of the hotel which would take us into Dublin – perfect.
Shortly before our trip we headed up to our local post office to obtain some Euros and because you can travel to Ireland visa free we didn’t have to worry about any additional paperwork.
Landing in Dublin was easy enough, we found our way out of the airport and onto a bus that would take us within walking distance of the hotel.
The tram was the easiest way for us to get into the city centre but I found it impossible to read the ticket machine to purchase tickets and there was no ticket office in sight. Luckily a helpful man working at the station helped us out, but it did raise the question of how visually impaired will cope in the future with the closure of many ticket offices.
Finding our way round the centre of Dublin was quite straightforward with the aid of a maps app, both Apple Maps and Google maps were used, depending on which one of us decided to do the mapping. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the National Leprechaun Museum where they did lots of storytelling, we got some photos of me sat in some rather large chairs that I had to be lifted up onto! I’m fortunate to have enough useful vision to read signs so we came across it while walking around.
My advice to anyone who is visually impaired and wants to travel is do it! I personally love the freedom travelling gives me. I love wandering around a new city and getting lost is sometimes part of the fun. I think one of the most important things is to do your research before you travel. For example, I always use my mapping app to work out how far accommodation is from the centre of a city, and also check transport links to make sure I’m not going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere!
Written by Claire-Louise Fallis