Living with sight loss doesn’t need to be a barrier to travelling. Jean explains in the account below, her great experience of using Travel Assistance with both train and flight companies to travel to family and friends.
For several years, I have had assistance when travelling by train as I have limited central vision so cannot read signs or information displays.
Assistance has meant that I can visit family in Yorkshire regularly and have visited friends and been on holiday in Wales, the Lake District and the West Country travelling alone.
I avoid trying to cross London, so I pick up most of my connecting trains at Reading Station. I buy my ticket and seat reservation over the phone and Assisted Travel is booked at the same time. For an extra £2.00, tickets and a copy of the Travel Assistance schedule is sent to me by post.
At the start of a journey I report to the booking office or information desk and an Assistant takes me to the platform, sees me onto the train and then phones the station where I need to change or alight. Each station where I need to change or alight has a copy of the Assistance schedule. Assistants will come onto the train and find me to help me on or off, assist with luggage, find reserved seats and even provide wheelchairs on request.
I find a white symbol cane invaluable because if there is a slight hitch and the assistant hasn’t found you once you leave a train, I wave the cane at anyone who I can make out is wearing a high visibility jacket and they find the assistant for me. I have been helped through train strikes and delays that have meant I have missed my connection.
Recently I used Travel Assistance for air travel. Some of my family had been visiting the UK and wanted me to return to New Zealand with them for a holiday. I booked Assistance both ways so I could find out how it all worked by air before having to travel back home alone.
You meet up with an Assistant at the check-in and they help with the paperwork and checking in of the baggage. You are then taken through security and helped with any more paperwork. Once through security, you can get help to fill your water bottle and visits to the toilets. There is a special waiting area within the departure lounge for people needing assistance and you are taken on board the plane ahead of the other passengers, taken to your seat and shown where the toilets are. (It helps to book an aisle seat near to the toilets too!)
Cabin crew read out the menu to me and are friendly and generally assist with most things. At the destination passengers with Assistance wait for other passengers to leave the plane then you are met by an Assistant and taken by wheelchair or buggy through the necessary check-in points and to collect your luggage. You are then taken to the arrival’s hall or to a connecting plane if travelling on.
I had excellent help on my solo return journey from Auckland to Singapore and then onto Heathrow.
Using the Travel Assistance service, whether by train or by air means that living with sight loss doesn’t need to be a barrier to travelling.
- By Jean, a 4Sight Vision Support Member
If you live in West Sussex and need support with the effects of sight loss — either at the point of diagnosis or finding extra advice and guidance — the 4Sight Vision Support Team are here to help. For more information regarding the support on offer, visit the services page.