Tips and Resources for the blind or visually impaired traveler

Traveling with a vision impairment can be challenging, but that shouldn't deter you from getting out and seeing the world. Here are some suggestions to make your trip smooth and your stay stress-free.
Consider using brightly colored luggage or high-contrast tape on dark colored bags to make it easier to identify your luggage on the baggage claim carousel.

Invest in a specially designed "luggage locator" that includes a receiver unit (attached to your luggage) and a transmitter for the traveler. With the press of a button, the luggage beeps as long as it is within a five-foot range of the transmitter.

Carry a signature guide for signing credit card receipts. It's a good way to educate others that people with vision impairment are capable of signing their names.

Be mindful of your money and stay organized. If you're traveling in Europe, the new Euro currency can be distinguished by size, color and tactile characteristics.

Fred's Airport Tip

I have found when a blind person travels a route that entails various bus or plane connections, one of the carrier's staff members often promises to help such travelers to make his or her next connection. Over the years, I have adopted the attitude that while such persons might have the best of intentions, life is uncertain and, for whatever reason, they don't always show up at the appointed hour. This being the case, I have learned to pay close attention to the time-of-day so I will know exactly when I should be en route to make the next link in the chain of connections.

Once my connection is announced and my would-be helper still hasn't arrived, I typically wait a few minutes to allow the attendant to finish whatever he or she is doing that has caused the delay. In the event that I receive no word that his/her arrival is imminent, however, I will stand, gather my luggage, and head in what I believe to be the correct direction.

Whether or not I am taking the correct direction is far less important, I believe, than the fact that I am taking some action. This is because I have come to understand over the years that the responsibility for making the next connection is mine--and not that of the carrier or the person who offered help and for whatever reason didn't show up at the critical time.

Also, it's heartening to say that while other travelers may seem perfectly willing to let you sit for hours (probably assuming that you are waiting for your next connection), I have found that once I start to move, it is not long before someone asks if I need help.

Helpful Tips for the Airport Screening Process

The Transportation Security Administration has developed guidelines for the training of airport screeners to make the screening process both comfortable and secure for people with disabilities. If you're visually impaired, take note of what you may ask the screener to do:
  • Explain the security process to you.
  • Verbally communicate to you throughout each step of the screening process.
  • Provide you with assistance by placing your items on the x-ray belt.
  • Provide you with assistance by providing you with an arm, hand, or shoulder as you move through the process.
  • Find someone to escort you through the security process.
  • Let you know where the metal detector is located.
  • Let you know when you will be going through the metal detector.
  • Let you know when there are obstacles you need to avoid.
  • Perform a physical inspection (in lieu of an x-ray inspection) of your white collapsible cane. This will allow you to guide yourself through the walk-through metal detector. Inspection of your white collapsible cane will be completed after you go through the walk-through metal detector. If your white cane cannot be cleared by physical inspection, the screener will notify you that the cane must be x-rayed.
  • Perform a hand inspection of equipment (e.g., Braille note-takers) if you are concerned that the x-ray inspection may damage them.
  • Reunite you with all of your carry-on items and assistive devices after the x-ray or physical inspection of the items is completed, including electronic equipment that has been specially adapted for your use.
  • Verbally direct you toward your gate once the screening has been completed.

Traveling With a Dog Guide

  • If you have a service animal, you are encouraged to inform the screener that the animal accompanying you is a service animal and not a pet. This may result in moving you to the front of the screening line since the screener may need to spend more time with you.
  • People using a dog for assistance are encourage to carry appropriate identification such as cards or documentation, presence of a harness or markings on the harness, or other credible assurance of the passenger using the dog for their disability.
  • Advise the screener how you and your dog can best achieve screening when going through the metal detector as a team (i.e., whether walking together or with the dog walking in front of or behind you while you continually maintain control of the dog with the leash and/or harness).
  • The dog's harness will likely set off the alarm on the metal detector. In such cases, the screener will perform a hand inspection of the dog and its belongings (collar, harness, leash, backpack, vest, etc.). The belongings will not be removed from your dog at any time.
  • The screener should ask permission before touching your service animal or its belongings.
  • At no time during the screening process will you be required to be separated from your service animal.
  • Screeners have been trained not to communicate, distract, interact, play, feed, or pet service animals.
  • If you need to leave the sterile area to relieve your animal, you must go through the full screening process again. Inform the screener upon your return to the security checkpoint and she/he will move you to the front of the screening line to expedite the screening process.

Additional Travel Tips

When making a reservation, it's a good idea to let the hotel know you're traveling with a service animal. Although it's against the law in the U.S. to prohibit service animals or to assess extra fees, this may not apply to other countries.

When traveling by air, you may want to use a collapsible cane. This is because a regulation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires airlines to stow all carry-on items during air flights.
In order to comply with this regulation, airlines must stow rigid canes elsewhere on the plane because they represent a safety hazard in the event of an emergency. Collapsible canes, on the other hand, can be folded and stowed safely on your person or in a nearby luggage compartment.

When you arrive at the hotel registration desk, ask staff for any assistance you might need, such as orientation to facilities (restaurants, fitness center or gift shop).

Today, most hotel room keys are made to resemble credit cards with magnetic strips. These cards must be inserted properly into a key reader that is positioned on the door handle. This reader magnetically identifies whether the bearer has the proper key prior to releasing the door latch.

As with credit cards, blind persons using these keys may encounter difficulty knowing which way to hold and insert the key card into the reader. To facilitate identifying the correct way to insert the key every time you need to use it, there are several ways to mark them. The important thing is to choose a convenient method that makes a detectable impression in one of the corners opposite the magnetic strip of the card.

One way is to mark a corner of the key card with a bit of tape, or a sticker. Another way is to cut a small edge of the card with a pair of scissors, or a nail clipper. You can also make recognizable marks with other instruments. For instance, punch a hole in one corner of the card with your stylus, or wear out the corner with a nail file. If you do not have any tape or other instrument on hand to make the mark, you can bend the corner of the card using your fingers or your teeth.

Ever had one of those moments when you just HAD to get into your hotel room like NOW? If you had to wait another minute something embarrassing was going to happen?

It turns out that simply rubbing the magnetic side of your key on your shirt prior to inserting it in the door lock gives you hasty access to your room via a key that was, just moments ago, on strike.
It's a good idea to be shown the nearest fire exit to your room. Even if you're traveling with a companion, you may be alone when an emergency occurs.

In your room, ask to be shown the location of the TV remote and in-room service bar, how to adjust heat or air conditioning, who to call to request a wake up call or anything else that's important to you.
Ask hotel staff if newspapers are placed outside of hotel door rooms, as this could pose a hazard. You can request that newspapers be held at the front desk for you.

There's a big world waiting for you out there. And it's filled with interesting and exciting people, places, cultures and cuisine.

Though few in number, there are travel agencies that offer services tailored to the needs of the blind or visually impaired traveler. There are also many online resources that can be of assistance in planning a fun-filled and relaxing vacation, cruise, tour or quick-get-a-way.

Travel Agencies

Campanian Society
The Campanian Society, Inc. is a non-profit organization that fosters appreciation of the humanities and cultural arts of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Among the services the organization offers are travel services for people who are blind or visually impaired.

The society offers travel programs to destinations across Europe and the United States. Tactile and hands-on encounters, audio descriptions and readings give travelers the opportunity to experience each destination. Travel programs are typically limited to twelve to fifteen members each. Sighted guides accompany all programs: sighted friends and family may also travel with the group.

The Society's programs vary from year to year. Past programs have included tours of Key West, Florida; Washington DC; Hawaii; and an Ohio River Cruise.

"Optical Dimensions", the organization's bi-monthly newsletter, contains travel information about Campanian Society activities and tours, and resources for accessible materials. Optical Dimensions is available to subscribers in large print or email formats. To subscribe, send an email to the address below.

Campanian Enterprises, Inc.
Address: PO Box 167
Oxford, OH 45056
Phone: (513) 524-4846
Fax: (513) 523-0276
Web: http://www.c
Access Aloha Travel
Get Hawaii travel information from a locally owned business, with over 30 years travel industry experience! This company offers general travel services as well as specializing in travel plans for the disabled community. Support an agency that donates 1/2 of all profits to the disabled community!

Access Aloha Travel
Address: 414 Kuwili Street, #101
Honolulu, HI 96817
Toll Free: 800-480-1143 Phone: 808-545-1143
FAX: (808) 545-7657
Traveleyes is a UK travel company with a difference. It aims to provide holidays for both blind/visually impaired and sighted travellers, journeying together in a spirit of mutual independence.
Whether you come to Traveleyes as an individual or with a group of friends, you will be part of a small cohesive group. Traveleyes offers the customer a flexibility in world travel to a variety of destinations that was previously unavailable or certainly very difficult to arrange for the blind/visually impaired. Whether you want an adventure holiday, a relaxing break or a cultural expedition, Traveleyes is here to help.

Traveleyes offers you a unique experience - the luxury of a customised holiday to suit your needs, and the independence to discover new worlds. We plan each venture with close attention to quality and detail. Their holiday destinations cover Europe, Africa and the Americas, and vary from the unique and exploratory to relaxing sunshine breaks.

There are three simple steps to take before 'jetting off' with Traveleyes:
  1. Register to become a member (this is free of charge).
  2. Choose a holiday from the "holidays" area of their website and then contact them for availability.
  3. Complete the booking process and send your deposit.
For information on their products, including the first ever range of accessible electronic Lonely Planet travel guides, contact: Traveleyes
PO Box 511
Phone: 08709 220221

Web Resources

Access-Able Travel Source
Access-Able Travel Source is an online resource that contains general information about travel for people with disabilities, and links to travel-related magazines, access guides, transportation, travel agencies and more.

One of the most helpful features of the Access-Able web site is the Travel Database. Users can search the database country-by-country, state-by-state and even city-by-city to gather info about accessible hotels, attractions, travel agencies and other data that can assist in travel planning. The attraction information, for example, includes mention of the provisions that have been made to make the attraction accessible to blind and visually impaired, or other special need travelers.

Access-Able Travel Source
Web: m/
Institute on Independent Living
The Institute on Independent Living is a Swedish, not-for-profit organization that promotes independence and participation for persons with disabilities. Via the Institute's web site, users can access a wealth of links to resources for travelers who are blind, visually impaired, or have special needs, including: travel agencies, rights and advocacy groups and destination information. Contact:

Institute on Independent Living
Petersens Vag 2
127 41 Stockholm-Skarholmen
Phone: +46 8 740 42 00
Fax: +46 8 750 45 00
Email: admin@independentl
Web: http://ww
Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH)
SATH, a non-profit advocacy organization, strives to promote accessibility for disabled and mature travelers and increase employment opportunities for persons with disabilities within the tourism industry. The Access Resources section of the society's web site contains a lengthy list of resources for travelers with disabilities, including links to: books, newsletters, magazines, government and private sector resources.

SATH publishes "Open World," a magazine that covers topics of interest to blind, disabled and mature travelers. Past issues have contained travel tips, and info on finding accessible lodging, airlines, cruise and destination services. Contact:

Address: 347 Fifth Avenue, Suite 610, New York, NY 10016
Tel. 212-447-7284
Fax. 212-725-8253
Deb's Unofficial Walt Disney World Information Guide (WDWIG)
Deb Willis created and maintains this web site that is dedicated to Mickey's home in Orlando, Florida. Among the site's areas of note is a section dedicated to hints and tips for blind and visually impaired visitors to Disney's "Magic Kingdom." Contact:

Deb's Unofficial Walt Disney World Information Guide (WDWIG)
Web: visual.htm
Walt Disney World with Disabilities
Walt Disney World with Disabilities contains in-depth descriptions of the physical and emotional "feel" of Disney World attractions. It's also filled with a wide variety of tips for increasing comfort and avoiding problems at Disney for people with a serious health condition or disability. In addition to ride descriptions, the book also offers information on Disney's special services, as well as expert advice regarding: how to get your needs met in the parks, resorts and restaurants; details on handling medication and medical equipment; meeting special dietary needs; transportation; wheelchair use; and dealing with specific conditions in the parks and resorts. Walt Disney World with Disabilities is available on the web at It is also available from and
Your Guide To Airline Seats,
Well the time has finally come. You've finished all the work at the office, your bags are packed, the hotel room is waiting, and flight tickets are in hand. You've planned on this vacation for a long time, and now it's here. You've thought of everything, or have you? What about the seat on your plane? Will it have enough room for you to stretch your legs? What about your dog guide? Can you watch a movie? What are you going to munch on while in flight? Don't call the airline to get the answers to these questions, just keep reading!

In October 2001 Matthew Daimler, a frequent flier and avid traveler, founded Having realized the vast differences between airline seats, he was determined to build a repository of this useful information and share it with other travelers. Over four million unique visitors later, has established itself as the most up-to-date and complete guide to airplane seat information on the internet. The site currently provides comprehensive airplane seat information for the following airlines:
  • Air Canada
  • Air France
  • AirTran
  • Alaska Airlines
  • America West
  • American Airlines
  • ATA
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Continental Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Frontier
  • Hawaiian
  • JetBlue
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Northwest Airlines
  • Qantas
  • SAS
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Spirit
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic employs a powerful combination of detailed seat map graphics, in-depth remarks and observations, a color-coded system to help identify superior and substandard seats and icons to denote amenities such as laptop power and audio/video entertainment. This blend of features successfully conveys highly specific seat information such as extra legroom, limited recline, decreased width and obstructed movie screen viewing. All aspects and features of the site are displayed in a user-friendly interface and an easy-to-navigate format. Note that some features may not be compatible with screen reading software.

Benefiting both business and leisure travelers, is a tool for anyone booking airline travel. The site helps business travelers locate seats with laptop power and internet access and aids leisure travelers by identifying seats with extra legroom and in-seat video screens. Whatever your travel priorities may be, will help you find the seat that best suits your needs.

By using the feedback link located on every web page, site visitors can submit their comments about a particular seat or aircraft. This unique feedback system allows visitors to send their seat comments directly to the database. Once verified these comments are incorporated into the site. To date, thousands of comments detailing specific seat and aircraft information have been received. This feedback model ensures that information provided on the site is always current.

Click this link to visit
This site provides unbiased travel reviews, giving you the real story about hotels, attractions and restaurants around the world. Stories, secrets and special places from people just like you. Search, travel, then share your own experiences. Over 2,273,955+ unbiased reviews and opinions were online at the time of this writing.

Select the site you plan to visit, and follow links to articles in newspapers and travel guides, to reader-submitted photos and tips, and to user forums.

Click this link to visit the TripAdvisor home page:
Search for Cheap Airfares with ITA Software
From the website: People are always looking for low-cost airfares. Yes, they do exist, but you need to be armed with the right tools. For me, it's the trip planner from ITA Software. It's a web-based airfare search engine that searches published airline fares for the best deals. You can't actually book tickets from this site, but it will give you all of the information that you need to make your reservation. What sets this site apart from others is its simple interface and highly-customizable search language. Basic searches let you check every airfare within 25 to 300 miles from your own city. The advanced query language lets you limit the search to certain airlines, flights, or even specify that you want your flight from Chicago to Seattle to have a connection in Boise. The tool is free, accessible, and is fully-functional, although it is labeled as a beta.

Click this link to check airfares with ITA Software.

Flight Delay Information: Air Traffic Control System Command Center

Here's accessible help for visually impaired travelers. Search for delays by name of city, or airport code. Note that this covers all commercial airports, not just the ones highlighted on their fancy map.

Click this link to see if your flight is delayed.

Hotline and Websites for Disability-Related Air Travel Problems

In August 2002, the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Enforcement Office), established a toll free number that consumers who experience disability related air travel problems may use to obtain information and assistance. The hotline is staffed from 7 am to 11 pm local time in Washington, D.C., seven days a week, and provides general information to consumers about the rights of air travelers with disabilities and assists air travelers in resolving time-sensitive disability-related issues that need to be addressed in real time.

Unfortunately, many members of the public are still not aware of the existence of the hotline, and as a result the hotline is not being sufficiently used. The Enforcement Office asks that you advise members of your respective organizations about the existence of an aviation consumer disability toll-free hotline and encourage them to call the hotline if they should experience disability-related air service problems. The toll-free number for the hotline is 1-800-778-4838 (voice) or 1-800-455-9880 (TTY).

The Enforcement Office is committed to improving the quality of air transportation for people with disabilities and believes that with your help the toll-free hotline can be a major step towards accomplishing this goal.

The main Department Of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection home page is located at:
This page has a number of resources including regulations, reports, statistics, complaint procedures, etc. You can file a DOT complaint via email off of this web site.

While most generic complaints are pretty much just logged in the database, if you enter in the subject line "disability complaint Part 382", they should pull it and complete an investigation. FYI the investigation that DOT completes on a disability complaint is supposed to be similar to that which would happen if a Congress person files a complaint :). Basically there is an email address on the above web site that you can use to send in your complaint.
I would also bring your attention to a study that NCD (National Council On Disability) published: NCD - Enforcing the Civil Rights of Air Travelers with Disabilities:
Mind's Eye Travel
Mind's Eye Travel creates tours for people who are visually impaired or blind. Itineraries are planned not only for great comfort, camaraderie and enjoyment but also for full sensory discovery, and they offer options for independence.

Click this link to visit has Braille travel and tourism information. These Braille Readable-only Files (BRF) are excerpted from popular published guidebooks (such as Lonely Planet and Fodor's), brochures, Tourism Authority websites, and newspaper travel sections such as The New York Times.
Persons who are blind must first register on the website. They must certify that they have legally blind status in their country of residence, that they will use Braille materials for research purposes only, and that they will not communicate the files to others.
Braille files available include Tibet, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Belize, Kenya, Tasmania, Greece, Italy, the City of Rome, Thailand, and an introduction to the World Heritage program.
All Braille format information is provided FREE OF CHARGE, upon request, to persons who are blind under 'fair use' or 'fair dealing' rights afforded by their country of residence and international copyright treaty (TRIPS). will provide Braille travel materials to persons who are blind for special situations. These might include destinations of interest to disabled veterans, athletes who are blind, persons who are blind traveling on tours, etc.
John Edwin Miller, a US Library of Congress Certified Braille Transcriber, has supervised all Braille transcriptions.
For further information, please contact: or visit the website:
Emerging Horizons
Emerging Horizons: The Accessible Travel Newsletter, produced by Candy & Charles Creative Concepts, is a consumer-oriented publication that addresses the needs of travelers with disabilities. The publishers offer choices and options to their readership, and cover both domestic and foreign destinations in both group and independent travel. They accept no advertising in order to present unbiased accessibility information. The focus is on overcoming barriers, whether they are architectural or attitudinal.
You can subscribe to the newsletter through their website:
This website contains "comprehensive listings of: Travel Agents, Tour Operators, Adventure Travel Companies, Accessible Van & Equipment Rentals, Travel Companions, Home Exchanges, and Access Guides for wheelchair users and other disabled travelers." Click this link to visit
Tourism Offices Worldwide
"The Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory is your guide to official tourist information sources: government tourism offices, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, and similar organizations that provide free, accurate, and unbiased travel information to the public."
That sums up what you'll find here, but it does leave you wondering^DEL How does it all work? Well that's pretty simple too-there are two search engines: one for outside the USA, and one for inside the USA. p>To use the search engine, click in the drop-down box and choose the country (if looking outside of the USA) or the state (if looking inside the USA) and click "Go". This will then search and generate a list of tourism offices and their webpage if they have one.
For instance, if I chose to search inside the USA, and chose Colorado, then clicked go it would generate the list for Colorado. Let me tell you, a lot of these travel sites are beautifully crafted and definitely make you want to hop a plane with your passport and go. Click this link to plan your next vacation by visiting the Tourism Offices Worldwide website:


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