Traveling With Vision Loss

By Carol Moog

With summer almost here, many people are getting out and about locally or planning vacations.

Whether traveling near home or overseas, there are guidelines people with vision loss can follow to help make the trip as comfortable and safe as possible.

Plan Ahead

Gather information about the destination and decide the best method to get there as far in advance as possible. For a trip to a local museum, is the best option the subway or bus? For a wedding in Boston, is flying or taking the train better.

After deciding the mode of transportation, map the route. Even with the best plans, delays or last minute changes can occur, so allow plenty of time and try to be flexible. Also remember to share the itinerary with a friend or family member.

Seek Out Experts

Consult websites and travel experts. Consider meeting with a mobility instructor who will provide guidance on safe, confident and independent travel. Mobility instructors offer training on traveling by foot, subway, train or bus, including how to enter and exit public transportation, cross streets, and use a white cane.

Learn more about Vocational Rehabilitation

Mobility instructors also provide pointers on interacting with the public — how to know when to ask for assistance, and how to let someone know to back off. Crowded train and bus stations, such as Grand Central, can be confusing and chaotic.

A mobility instructor can accompany a person to these sites and practice until the person feels comfortable enough to navigate alone. Mobility instructors are available through the New York State Commission for the Blind and similar offices in other states.

Travel Tips

  • Ask customer service representatives for help getting around bus and train stations and airports
  • Hold on to handrails when exiting and entering buses
  • Ask bus drivers to announce stops
  • Ask fellow passengers on the subway or train platform if the train pulling into the station is the expected train; Avoid missing the right stop on the train by being familiar with the names of other stops and allowing enough time to get off the train
  • Call ahead to airports at least 48-hours in advance to arrange assistance with check-in, boarding and baggage claim

Consider receiving training with a white cane. They have worked for over 100 years and remain one of the best tools to provide tactile information as well as identify that a person is legally blind.

Travel can be challenging under any circumstances. Traveling with low vision can seem overwhelming. However, with preparation, a flexible attitude and an adventurous spirit, it can be fun, safe and rewarding.

The Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped has offices in New York City and one on Long Island.

Harlem Office
163 W. 125 Street – serves Bronx, western Queens, and Manhattan north of 23 Street
212 961- 4440

Downtown Office
80 Maiden Lane – serves Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan up to and including 23 Street
212 825-5710.

Carol Moog is senior mobility instructor at Lighthouse Guild.