Travelling during the festive period when you’re visually impaired

If you’re anything like me, once Halloween is done, it’s Christmas time! I appreciate November is a month early, I just love this time of year. For me, finding the perfect present for someone is a must. Although this can be harder at times.

I’m registered blind and I have mild cerebral palsy. This can make travelling problematic — especially when it is busy! Here are my top tips for visually impaired people who will be travelling during the festive period.

Travel off-peak if possible

It might sound obvious, but off-peak travel is cheaper and often quieter.

Get ahead of the crowds and leave more time for that all-important festive shopping. When travelling during the festive period, I tend to leave plenty of time. For example, I might choose to travel the night before an event so there is less rushing and I can travel when it’s quieter.

Off-peak travel isn’t always possible. However, it can help to check for train disruptions before you travel.

Bring a suitable bag

Are you armed with luggage to keep all the presents together? I don’t know about you, but I find multiple bags a logistical nightmare. This is especially true when I’ve spent the day buying Christmas presents.

It is hard to carry everything in one hand if you use a long white cane. Also, it can be easy to leave a bag behind when you have a must needed coffee shop break.

I tend to use a backpack when I know I will be shopping. Even if that means I get on the train with an empty bag!

Using mobility aids

Some people who are visually impaired will use a long white cane or guide dog to mobilise. This can be vital in terms of getting about, but also is a visual symbol for everyone else.

If you are visually impaired and don’t use a long cane, you might find it helpful to use a symbol cane when travelling during the festive period. Here’s why:

● It could help you get a seat when the train is busy.

● It’s easier for train assistance to find you.

● Means people give you space when in crowded areas.

● Mobility aids can be empowering and not something to be afraid of.

I appreciate that not everyone will want to ‘announce’ their disability, and that’s okay! I started to experience sight loss when I turned 18 years old. Using a long cane took time to adjust to.

Book train assistance with Passenger Assistance

Whether you’re a seasoned train traveller or want to attend a festive gathering, Passenger Assistance can ensure your journey is as smooth as possible. They can help you:

● change trains or find the station exit

● get a seat on a crowded train

● carry bags and make sure no presents are left behind

You can download their free app on android or IOS, or use the online booking website. I use the app and love the profile feature. It has all my access needs saved and can be customised to accommodate multiple impairments. This makes it quick and easy to fill out, so I have more time for Christmas shopping!

About the Author

Chloe Tear is an award-winning disabled writer, speaker and advocate. In her blog, Chloe Tear, she writes about her lived experiences of being registered blind and having mild cerebral palsy. Chloe also works as a content designer within the charity sector. When she’s not writing, she can be found exploring new coffee shops, going to the theatre or playing Stardew Valley on the Nintendo Switch.