Being born visually impaired is something I have learnt to live with as I’ve grown older. I am blind in my right eye, and the sight in my left eye is far from perfect. I wear contact lenses and glasses which help improve my sight considerably. It has never affected my travels, and never classified myself as disabled. The purpose of writing this is to offer tips for visually impaired travellers.
Common sense travel tips
A lot of my advice for travelling alone with a visual impairment is common sense; be cautious when you cross the roads, and look around when in a crowded street. Yes, I do occasionally bump into people, I apologise, and carry on with my day; thankfully, the people that get arsey are the exception.
Another tip is to make sure your glasses or contact lenses are near your bed; on a few occasions the hotel fire alarms have gone off in the early hours and I’ve had to run around my room, trying to find them so I can make my way out of the fire exit. It’s a good idea to know where the emergency exits are, that way if you cannot find your eye wear, you know which direction to head in.
Book regular eye check-up’s
Before you go on holiday or commence the big adventure round the world, make sure you visit your optician for an eye test, especially if you haven’t been for more than twelve months. Two years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and this was picked up through my annual sight test, so, not only can the eye tests detect sight problems, but other illnesses too. While on the subject of diabetes, you should also have an annual retinal screening, so make sure you plan this in if you are travelling for a while.
Look after your eye wear
Without eye wear it is likely that you will not be able to read airport departure screens, or signs while you’re travelling, it’s therefore important that you guide these items with your life, as drastic as that sounds. I know I couldn’t travel without my glasses or contact lenses. Purchase sunglasses with prescription lenses and a spare pair of normal glasses. It’s also a good idea to take with you a prescription from your optician should the worse happen, and that you have to purchase eye wear on your travels.
Hygiene while travelling is important
If you are flying long haul then I would seriously recommend not wearing contact lenses, as the environment makes them dry up, and your eyes become uncomfortable. I wear my glasses and regularly visit the bathroom to wash my face. Just as you would do at home, it is especially to keep up with your eye hygiene, especially in places which aren’t as sanitised as western countries. Take hand wipes, and sanitiser on your travels.
Book on tours
Mixing tours with solo travel helps you meet new and interesting people, and takes the hassle out of planning certain legs of your trip. Many museums and art galleries develop special tours for the visually impaired people, where objects from the collection can be touched. These have to be booked in advance, especially for famous museums like the British Museum.