Travelling with a Vision Impaired Person

Travel around the world with country icons

Mark and I had only been dating for about 6 weeks, when I first asked him if he wanted to join me in travelling to the New Orleans Jazz Festival.  Other than Mark, I had only had some minimal experience with visually impaired people, so I had no idea of the challenges we would face.  I love to travel and have travelled on my own many times over the years.  Mark too had his own previous travelling experiences so could guide me with many of the opportunities available to people with disabilities.

Time To travel Sign pointing right Airports


Arriving at the Brisbane airport, we were offered assistance to take us to the departure gate, but we had plenty of time on our side, so we opted to make our own way.  When we arrived at other international airports however, the time between connections was limited and it became helpful to utilise the offered services.  Having an airport employee who knows their way around the airport, to get us to our next departure gate was a God-send.  Mark agreed, that even though it is not ideal for able-bodied people to have to be put into a wheelchair, on these occasions it certainly was beneficial.  Not only did we move through the airport faster, we were also diverted to the wheelchair accessible pathways and often skipped long queues in the process.  During the times when we completed the travel process on our own, the digital immigration process proved a little challenging.  This is a solo process when a person places their passport on a scanner whilst positioning themself in front of a camera for identification.  If staff were inattentive, I would assist Mark as best I could, but would usually end up being yelled at by (now alert) staff telling me to stand away from him.  At this point, staff would intervene and move Mark toward someone who could complete this process with him.  I have to say, it’s quite funny watching their frustration when they tell him to look at the camera for identification…. It took awhile for them to realise that he had no idea where the camera was.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA street cars.

New Orleans

Travelling around the French Quarter in New Orleans was challenging due to the uneven streets and the many hinderences on the side walks (rubbish bins, fire hydrants etc.).  I found myself walking with my eyes constantly focused on the ground as we walked.  This is very different to my normal gaze with my eyes straight ahead and using my peripheral vision.  I tried to give Mark as much description of the shops, architecture, and informative signage that I could.  Completing an orientation prior to the Jazz Festival proved to be so helpful when it came time to navigate paths and stages. The digital access to a bus ticket was fabulous, but finding the actual bus stop proved to be the most difficult.  It seems that (in New Orleans at least) bus stops are often identified by a sign up high on a telegraph pole that faces the road – to notify the bus driver.  From ground level, unless there is an actual bus shelter, it is extremely difficult to identify bus stops. It also doesn’t help that many of the local people we asked, also had no idea where the bus stops were.  Luckily Uber is readily available and not overly expensive.

Vancouver Canada Cityscape



We flew up to Vancouver and discovered the streets were much more manageable and when it came time to board our cruise, we again took advantage of the wheelchair service.  Mark carrying a backpack, me pushing a suitcase on wheels both of us having small backpacks, proved quite challenging when guiding Mark simultaneously. It certainly was quite stressful trying to navigate terminals with luggage, but once the luggage was offloaded, everything became easier.  Perhaps if we both had suitcases on wheels, it may have been easier… I’d love to hear what other people have experienced and recommend.


Hand moving a blue pawn one step forward.


From a sighted person’s perspective, I’m embarrassed to say that I never realised how many issues the vision impaired confront on a daily basis.  This experience has helped me to understand the need to advocate for better services and better access to the everyday conveniences that we, the sighted, take for granted. Travelling with Mark has also demonstrated how, an independent, visually impaired person can have their adventures enhanced by travelling with someone willing to be patient and empathetic by making a few small adjustments.