Caption: Nothing says summer like a road trip – a picture I took from our last summer road trip at a highway rest stop near Jasper, Alberta.
Have you firmed up your vacation plans for this summer? My wife and I have settled on a long road trip around BC. We'll be covering lots of highway and byway miles, car camping for our accommodations, hiking actively and relaxing in campgrounds and scenic spots. I have had low vision since birth and my wife and I have been together long enough that, for the most part, taking my visual needs into account while planning vacations is second nature. However, it struck me that for families with someone who has recently lost sight those vision specific preparations may not be so obvious.
Your specific needs will likely be different from mine but the main concepts you'll need to consider should be the same. In all cases, preparedness and communication are the keys to success and both the person with vision loss and family members with normal sight have roles to play.
It is so important that each family member knows how the person with vision loss functions in different conditions. For me, depth perception can be a real challenge. Low light and dappled light cause me difficulties as well. Knowing this, my wife keeps a closer eye on the surroundings when these factors are present and we both slow our pace. The conditions that you find challenging might instead be bright light or you may have difficulty detecting objects in your periphery. Talk openly with your family about the conditions you find visually difficult and realize that because you're about to travel away from your usual surroundings that these challenges may be somewhat amplified.
Next, being in new territory, you'll want to be especially prepared by carrying the tools that will make exploring easier and safer. I always make sure to have my sunglasses and carry my iPhone to use as a telescope and for its GPS. Although I'm not a white cane user, my walking poles help me immensely with depth perception and balance while we're hiking. Whether it's a magnifier, monocular, white cane or large print directions to a monument, keep the tools that will increase your independence and safety close at hand.
Of course, there will be countless other small but helpful tricks that families can learn over time. For instance, my wife has taken to wearing a bright coloured shirt or dress when we're out in a crowd so that I can more easily find her if we get separated. When we're looking for a place to sit in a restaurant or at a live show, we try to make sure the sun or bright lights are at my back. We always agree on a meeting place in case we get separated and we splurge on a mobile roaming package so that we can reach each other if one of us ventures off alone.
I hope this post provided your family incentive to discuss ideas and techniques that will make your summer vacation a joy. Do you have a question on how best to deal with a particular situation or a suggestion that has made vacationing easier for your family? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.