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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Traveling with a Baby: Tips from a Blindness Perspective

by Lori Miller

Lori Miller, an O&M specialist who is blind, experienced traveling in a new light when she became a mother! Her son Khareus was born on May 4, 2005. She wrote the following article for From the Field: Tips and Strategies, Winter 2006, Volume 12 Number 2, pages 18-19 and agreed to share it with Fred's Head.

Traveling with a baby has certainly had its challenges, but it can be tons of fun for baby and parent. One essential aspect is to find a method or form of travel that works best for both adult and child. There are many variables that factor into the process and I will attempt to share what has worked for me, which may or may not work for others. The following information is based on my personal experience and likes and dislikes.

Selecting the right stroller:

I have discovered, after going through several different types and styles of strollers and literally going around the block several times and up and down store aisles that there are a number of features that are very important if you intend to pull the stroller instead of pushing.

In the typical stroller, the wheels closest to you are fixed and the others swivel, creating a fishtail effect when you pull it, and the baby is facing backward, looking away from the adult. Working with the fishtailing requires a whole lot more effort and caution when navigating narrow sidewalks and close confines, and for safety reasons I don't like the baby facing away from me. My first stroller operated this way and after a 3-mile walk with it I was exhausted!

So I like a stroller that has a reversible handle which allows baby to face forward or backwards, and wheels that have the option of being fixed or rotating (this makes it travel more like a standard stroller if you decide to push it, although some people do not like how it feels at first). Over all, even when pushing, we have found that when all the wheels are rotating, the flexibility is a plus because you can turn the stroller in close areas like elevators and hallways. Minimal height adjustment for the handle is also helpful to me, as I'm not very tall.

Another wonderful feature to look for in a stroller is what is called a boot -- a cloth covering that zips over baby, providing warmth and protection from weather. This makes me feel like the baby is safer because it lessens the risk of small objects (like blowing leaves) from falling in on the child, and it may discourage toys being thrown out while on the move.

The harness should be fairly simple and easy to operate, especially if you have to frequently remove the child while riding on public transportation.

One stroller that has all the features and more (and is baby and mommy's preferred choice for travel) is Peg Perego's Venezia stroller (http://www.perego.com). This particular stroller is rather pricey but in addition to having all the features, (the adjustable-length handle can be reversed and each set of wheels can be fixed or swiveling), it is easy to fold and unfold and has handles on both sides for carrying. It isn't the lightest stroller on the market, but I am able to manage carrying baby in one arm and guiding the stroller up or down the 6 steps outside of our home. I also like the fact that the seat back can fully recline so baby can sleep, which helps when you need to figure out what to do with baby while eating in a restaurant. My baby has been content to sit or lay in his stroller and play with toys while we eat -- of course, this was a solution before he reached the stage of wanting to sit in a high chair!

I am constantly back and forth between environments ranging from semi-rural (streets without sidewalks), to the narrow hilly streets of San Francisco, maneuvering on and off Muni and across street car tracks, and I have found this stroller to fit my lifestyle of travel.

Tips when traveling:

While in transit and in public places I have found that a pacifier clip to keep the pacifier attached to the child has been a big plus. I choose pacifiers that have swinging handles because you are more likely to hear them if they are thrown to the ground. I also choose toys that make a sound when they contact something, such as interlocking rings, etc.

When flying, I've found it helpful to place an infant car seat in the stroller and push or pull it to the gate. You can take the stroller on the jet way and the flight attendants will check it at the last minute and bring it back to you when you deplane. It is a real plus when transferring through gates because you can use the stroller to transport baby instead of carrying.

Next steps:

My baby Khareus is almost ten months now and crawling! We just did another cross country trip, and traveling with an infant convertible car seat this time was much more of a hassle. So, I've invested in a Sit & Stroll which is a car seat and stroller in one. It is supposed to be superb for public transportation and flying, I saw another woman using it on one of my flights and realized that she was having much less of a struggle to juggle everything. So, after I actually get it and use it, I'll have more to share.

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