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Spring/Summer 2010 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Sue Melrose and Ginger Irwin
Published with permission from Hadley School for the Blind
Abstract: Sharing their own experiences, two instructors from Hadley School for the Blind give tips for traveling with a family member who has a visual impairment.
Keywords: family wisdom, travel, visual impairment
Editor’s note: I first heard these women share their travel experiences listening to an archived Hadley eConnect seminar. Then I ran across the transcript posted on the FamilyConnect website. Both sites have valuable information for families. Check out the list at the end of the article for links to these and other travel resources.

A driving trip or resort vacation for the whole fam-ment? Below, instructors Sue Melrose and Ginily can be lots of fun, but how do you maximize ger Irwin, from The Hadley School for the Blind the experience for a child with a visual impair-which offers free distance education courses for family members of a person with a visual impairment, provide their expertise and some ideas to make your family getaway fun for everyone:


Keep the whole family involved in the travel planning process. Children and teenagers who know where they’re going and what to expect are more willing travelers, especially if they have the opportunity to help pick out fun activities.


Once plans take a definite shape, create a simple, accessible map of the travel plan for your child to trace with his/her finger. If traveling by car, a map consisting of paper and string, pipe cleaners and tape, or string over an existing map will do. This helps children understand the travel plan, track the distance traveled, and learn about maps as a useful tool.


If you can’t see out windows, the world becomes very small when you get in a car. Combat con-fined-space fatigue by creating a travel bag with favorite activities like braille playing cards, an audio player, puzzles, and reading materials. “Making braille notes as little surprises along the way can make the trip more fun,” says Ginger Irwin.

Be prepared to make more stops on the trip to get fresh air and take short walking tours of new locations, especially points-of-interest. Go on small gathering missions and collect simple tactile souvenirs provided by Mother Nature, including interesting rocks, pinecones, leaves, and sand. Melrose has a collection of bottles of sand from many road trips throughout the years.


Trips to the gift shop are essential if you’re at a large tourist destination. Buying miniatures of your location, like the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, or the Golden Gate Bridge, can help your child understand and tactically navigate your location.


If you plan to go to museums, always call ahead and inquire about tours and accommodations for people with visual impairments. It is best to speak with management, as seasonal employees don’t always know about these opportunities. Some museums and tourist attractions offer audio tours or special “behind the scenes” tours that are not advertised. The same rule applies to special activities and day trips off cruise ships and resorts. By calling ahead and explaining her visual impairment to managers of different day trips during a cruise, for example, Melrose was able to swim with dolphins and go zip-lining. “Explaining my abilities and limitations as a blind person helped the tour staff understand that it wasn’t a risk to let me do these activities, they just had to communicate with me. It’s important not to assume you won’t be able to participate in fun vacation activities because you’re visually impaired.”


Founded in 1920, The Hadley School for the Blind’s mission is to promote independent living through lifelong, distance education programs for people who are blind or visually impaired, their families, and blindness service providers. The world’s largest educator of braille, Hadley enrolls more than 10,000 students in all 50 states and 100 countries each year. For more information, visit or call 800-323-4238.
Past Seminars@Hadley:


Hadley’s travel links.

Access-Able Travel Source. National Park Service. To qualify for a free “Ac<>. cess Pass” to national parks for people with disabilities,
you must provide proof of disability using SATH: Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitali-one of the following: a statement from a licensed ty: Succinct article containing helpful information physician, a document issued by a Federal agenabout services for the blind and visually impaired cy such as the Veteran’s Administration, proof of . Social Security Disability Income or Supplemental
Security Income, or a document issued by a Fred’s Head from APH. Contains links for infor-state agency such as a vocational rehabilitation mation, blogs and twitters, and postings from agency . individuals .