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Traveling alone with a visual impairment

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Green Pass in hand, even those with a visual impairment can try to travel alone without fear of Covid or the limits of their sight. Because taking advantage of this time ‘window’ is important to reconnect with the world before resuming life as usual in September. And, as happens for everyone, it is only a matter of organization with some extra precautions because the idea that those who cannot see cannot do anything independently. We asked Laura Giardina, suffering from degenerative retinitis pigmentosa and author of the blog “You with my eyes” which she created precisely to share her situation as a ‘legally blind’ with those who are living the same experience, to give us her suggestions on how to enjoy the holidays even with a visual impairment.

Not leaving anything to chance

Many people will go on vacation after the first week of August. There is still some time, then, to prepare for the best. Never like this year many have not booked in advance to be sure of what the epidemic situation was. So, can those who can’t see well afford to decide at the last minute? “In reality – replies Giardina – it would be better to plan, but you can do it even just a week before, perhaps by relying on reliable and experienced Tour Operators or Agencies specialized in accessible travel. They will find tailor-made solutions based on our particular needs whether we travel alone, as a couple, with family, groups of friends etc. or they can also offer the possibility of traveling with other visually impaired people and with professional sighted guides ”.

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Choose a destination

Where is best to go when the view is not the best? “Tourism and travel don’t require sight,” says Laura. “The other senses, smell, touch, hearing and taste provide everything we need to enjoy the wonders of our planet and its people.” Those who are undecided about where to travel can rely on the proposals of specialized tour operators or ask their visually impaired friends on online blogs for ideas on what to do and where to go. “It is important – continues Giardina – to find out about the accessibility of the place we want to visit, perhaps by contacting the tourist offices to understand what resources there are for people with sight problems and blindness. The more we learn about the accessibility of the destination, the better we will organize ourselves with the rest of the preparations ”.

Ask for the assistance you need

A good way to start your vacation or a trip to an unknown place is to ask for special PRM (Reduced Mobility Passengers) assistance at airports and train stations. “I often travel alone, and personally I always request it and find it useful. To book assistance, you must inform the airline you are traveling on or the Blue Room website if you are traveling by train. The attentive and specially trained staff offers the necessary support throughout the journey ”.

If you are traveling with your dog

If you have an assistance dog, depending on the countries you travel to, you will likely need to present vaccination certificates and any other relevant health information. “In order to travel – explains Giardina – the assistance dog must be in possession of a pet passport issued by an authorized veterinarian, which indicates the vaccinations carried out as well as information relating to the subject such as name, sex, breed, tattoo, microchip, proprietary address “. Dogs have prophylaxis to follow to go abroad: in addition to the normal vaccinations, procedures against internal and external parasites must be carried out every year. “The assistance dog must be vaccinated at least 21 days before departure. For certain countries it is necessary to carry out the ‘blood test’, a sample of the dog’s blood on which the tests for positive rabies will be carried out “. This test must be performed with certain times and deadlines, so it is good to ask your veterinarian.

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Be recognized

Even if you are traveling in company, it is a good idea to ‘signal yourself’ to others using the white stick or the sunflower strap. “In this way, the service personnel are able to clearly identify a person who needs different attention and at the same time considerably reduces the stress of the visually impaired who knows he can ask for help from the staff”, explains Giardina.

Device check up

Another fundamental thing is to start with all the ‘equipment’ in good working order. Therefore, it is best to make a checklist of the aids you use every day to see if they are in good condition or should be replaced or repaired. “Make sure you have enough batteries and chargers, with adapters that match the plugs used in the places you go. It may be convenient to duplicate some items that may be lost or stolen. For example, I always have a spare white cane in my suitcase ”, says ‘our’ expert.

The help of technology

And, then, there is the technology thanks to various smartphone apps that can help by providing GPS locations and audio descriptions of the environment in which you are. For example, Be My Eyes is an app that connects users with volunteers who can describe objects visible from a smartphone’s camera. Not only that: even those who do not see well or not at all can post on social networks. BraillePad (iOS, free), in fact, allows users with visual impairments to write SMS, emails and posts on the most popular social networks in a more convenient and faster way using the Braille code. A text can be entered using the Visual Braille technique for which two modes have been set up: classic (time-out) and assisted (for beginner users).

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To pack

Everyone must pack their bags to go on vacation, but the visually impaired must be aware that they will have limits on luggage both in size and weight. Backpacks are an ideal solution to have your hands free so you can grip your dog’s cane or leash. “It’s a good thing – adds Laura Giardina – to make your luggage recognizable: I personally use trolley covers with special patterns. Then just describe it to the assistant on duty to facilitate the task of retrieving and identifying the suitcase on the conveyor belt.


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