Traveling Alone Safely

One of the most challenging aspects of having low vision is traveling safely. This past summer, I took my independence to a new level when I had the opportunity to visit friends and family and attend a convention in Alberta Canada. Of course, I had traveled before and this wasn’t even my first time taking a plane out of the country. It was however, my first experience flying without the safety net of my parents, as well as the first air plane trip Cindi - my guide dog - and I had ever taken together. We definitely had some adventures, and it wasn’t always easy, but it was an absolutely wonderful vacation and we learned a lot along the way. 

My first plan of action once I booked my plane tickets was making sure I had proper accommodations during my flights. My trip consisted of two airplane rides and three airports each way, and I wanted to make sure I traversed all of this successfully. It’s important to call ahead to your airlines and inform them you have a disability and will need assistance. The last thing you want when traveling is to have trouble finding your gate. Most airlines will have specific departments to help passengers with special needs. If you call ahead, you can request an employee from your airline to help get you through security and escort you to your gate. Though a lot of people with low vision could find their way around an airport with the help of a monocular or similar device, the time a sighted guide saves can be invaluable when you need to catch a flight. Calling ahead will also help if you need to request special seating. As I travel with a guide dog, it helps for me to sit in bulkhead seating so that Cindi has enough space to lay on the floor at my feet while flying.  

Whether you have a cane or guide dog, it’s a good idea to inform TSA agents that you have a disability and will need a little extra help. I remember once at a different TSA checkpoint before I had Cindi, I had put my cane through the x ray machine and the agents thought it was a knife because of how the metal looked when scanned. Guide dog equipment is full of metal, and although the dog is allowed to walk through the metal detector, it’s suggested that you leave your dog in a stay, walk through first, and then call your dog through. It’s important to remember that for everyone’s safety, the TSA agents might check your equipment to make sure it’s not a threat, as well as swipe your hands to test for explosives. This is all very normal, and the agents are just working hard to keep everyone safe. As long as you are clear in communicating what you need, everything should go smoothly. 

through downtown Edmonton. One thing that really stood out to me was how lucky I was to have easily accessible public transit. I realized that because I was traveling, my normal means of getting around would have to be changed slightly. I took light rail and city busses a lot, and was able to download a map of the city and its public transit app while there. This made catching the right bus and figuring out how to get from place to place stress-free and fun! I relied heavily on google maps as well.  One time in particular I had gotten myself lost while walking with Cindi. I knew where my destination was, and was able to ask my phone how to get to that specific location. My trusty phone gave directions, and I found my way without further incidence. As long as you are properly prepared, getting lost and finding your way is just a part of the adventure!

through downtown Edmonton. One thing that really stood out to me was how lucky I was to have easily accessible public transit. I realized that because I was traveling, my normal means of getting around would have to be changed slightly. I took light rail and city busses a lot, and was able to download a map of the city and its public transit app while there. This made catching the right bus and figuring out how to get from place to place stress-free and fun! I relied heavily on google maps as well.  One time in particular I had gotten myself lost while walking with Cindi. I knew where my destination was, and was able to ask my phone how to get to that specific location. My trusty phone gave directions, and I found my way without further incidence. As long as you are properly prepared, getting lost and finding your way is just a part of the adventure!

When traveling home, I did have a little snag. As mentioned earlier, I had called ahead to book specific seats. One of my flights was booked through a partner airline, and neither airline would help in getting the seat I needed. I could have stayed very frustrated when I wasn’t able to confirm needed accommodations, but I decided to wait and see if I could get any help when back at the airport. I am glad I did, as a very kind lady at check-in was able to rearrange seating for me. It’s good to try and get everything sorted ahead of time, but the knowledge that there is a backup plan if things don’t work out makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. Because of all the planning ahead and an ability to advocate for myself, I had a wonderful trip and hope Cindi and I can go again next year!


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