Winter travel can be particularly challenging if you’re visually impaired or blind. Lighthouse Guild’s wide range of services for people with vision loss includes instruction in independent travel, including becoming oriented to your environment and traveling safely in all weather conditions.
Here are some safety tips as you prepare to venture outdoors this winter:
- Dress in layers. Loose-fitting wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers of clothing protect you from wind and frostbite. Layer your clothing—including coat or jacket, sweater and scarf—to retain body temperature when outside and allow you to remove layers as needed indoors.
- Cover your skin in frigid temperatures. If you travel with a guide cane but find it difficult to use while wearing gloves, it might help to cut off the tip of the index finger (or more fingers) so you can feel the cane. For a mitten, you can make a hole at the tip and insert the cane so you can hold it inside the mitten. You can also purchase “mobility mittens” that cover your cane and hand with cuffed openings. And to make sure you hear important sounds while traveling, avoid hats with ear flaps or ear muffs.
- Wear waterproof winter boots that have good traction. Although traction will help prevent falls, the soles of your boots should be thin enough so you can feel the surface as you walk. Another option are footwear traction devices attached to the bottom of your boots.
- Stay connected. Travel with a cell phone and charger. Take with you a device you use for reading such as a handheld magnifier, portable video magnifier, tablet or e-reader that provide magnification.
- Tell family or friends where you’re going. Identify your planned route, and what time you expect to arrive and return. Ask them to inform authorities if you’re very late.
- For peace of mind, stay at home in very bad weather. If you must travel, if possible, consider riding with a friend, or taking a cab or public transport instead of walking. Should you encounter a problem, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
You don’t have to give up traveling independently because of vision loss. Lighthouse Guild’s Orientation and Mobility Instructors can help you learn to travel with confidence. Call 212-769-6299.