This post might be slightly controversial, but it is my take on the subject, and I make no apology for coming across as perhaps being a little negative. I am generally a hugely optimistic person, but this is one subject where a bit of realism is required in my view.
Millions of people do it every year, sometimes even more than once. But arranging a holiday if you are blind can be a bit of a nightmare, particularly when you and your partner are without any useful vision. For us, staying at home is our ideal holiday, and here’s why…
WHERE TO GO
I guess the first thing to decide is where to go for a holiday, depending on your budget, of course. What sort of help will you get? Will you need a sighted guide? What is accessibility like where you want to stay? Will the excursions/activities suit your requirements? What assistance will you need to book? These are some of the questions you will have to ask yourself, and that’s before you settle on a destination and worry about getting there.
Once you have decided where to go, your next hurdle is organising travel. Many airline websites are frankly diabolical to navigate when you have to rely on a screenreader. And if you want to take some access tech with you, such as a Braille display, you need to make sure airport staff handle it appropriately because most of them don’t know how delicate a Braille display really is. You also need to organise assistance at the airport, train station or ferry terminal and, with the best will in the world, who you get to help you can be a mixed experience. Now I can vouch for this as I travel by air at least twice a year to see my family in Scotland. Using websites like EasyJet or Flybe is a complete nightmare, they are just not developed adequately for screenreaders which, in this day and age, is a disgrace! When I arrive at the airport, I am asked to wait for someone to take me through security, then to board the aircraft. I always worry that I will be forgotten and therefore miss my flight. When you have no sight at all, you don’t know your way round the airport to look for assistance, and with time marching on, you feel completely stranded.
GETTING AROUND ON HOLIDAY
So you choose a destination, make travel plans, and arrive in one piece! But how do you get around a strange place with next to no sight once you get there? Some companies can organise a guide to take the pressure off you completely, but this can be extremely expensive when you rightly have to pay part or all of the guide’s costs as well. And if you are brave enough to go abroad, the language barrier can be extremely frustrating when you are trying to make yourself understood.
When you are in unfamiliar surroundings, getting around can be really stressful. If you stay at a hotel, simple things like finding reception, your room, the dining-room or bar is a really big deal. And choosing what to eat from a menu you can’t read yourself is frustrating to say the least.
You can, of course, go with friends or relatives which allows you to travel and experience the sounds and smells of somewhere different. But you don’t want to feel a burden to your companions, especially if they like different things to you.
STAYING AT HOME
Luckily for me, my husband loves the garden, and has absolutely no interest in going away for a holiday. Yes there are places we wish we could visit if we were able to see. But we both love what we have where we live. We have a lovely big garden that is filled with the sound of birdsong, home-grown fruit and veg to eat when it is ripe, familiar surroundings, and our hobbies to pursue when we want to. No, we don’t have fantastic weather in Northern Ireland most of the time, and winter in the countryside can be bleak. But we like being at home with our dog, and are both quite happy to leave the stresses and strains of going away to those who want to. On a fine day, we can sit in the garden reading, or go for a walk. The simplicity of staying at home doing our own thing in our own time, eating what we enjoy when we want to, and going to bed when we feel like it, are all the ingredients we need for our ideal holiday.
Of course, you can say this is a negative outlook, because plenty of blind and visually impaired people enjoy going away with their friends and family, or even on their own. And if this is your take on it, then I say good luck to you. But, for me, I cannot think of anything more stressful than sitting around in an airport, or being confined to a hotel room, relying on other people to get me from one place to another. In good weather – which I grant you is hit and miss – I can be just as happy in the confines of my own home as anyone else who spends a fortune on a cruise or other holiday destination, all without the stress!