How Do You Travel When You Can't See?

A multi-part series on blind travel.

Hello, everyone, I'm Jared Rimer. I've been blind since I was born. I know a lot of people are sighted out there, and they have no idea how we travel, and do other things in life. Picture yourself losing your sight, and you've been traveling and doing daily tasks your whole life.

Let's say you go blind tomorrow. You have nobody to help you, but you have an idea of some resources out there that will provide the help you need. Since I've been blind my whole life, I've learned various techniques where I can travel safely, and do other things.

I launched my website, WhiteCaneTravel.com to share the various techniques and resources that I rely upon to travel independently day in and day out. Some of the necessary skills for 'cane travel' are ones that everybody, both the blind and sighted, learns when they're young. Whether you're using a cane or your eyes to get around, you still need to know your surroundings, you need to still know your streets, and you still need to have an idea of how to get there.

When you have your sight, you use your eyes to navigate the world, whether you drive or decide to take public transportation. My site, White Cane Travel, will teach these same tasks from a blindness point of view.

We've got podcasts talking about how these skills are taught to us, as well as podcasts that share various experiences of blind travel–from a blind person getting injured because a passerby wasn't paying attention, to a close call that I experienced myself. 

The White Cane Travel podcast also covers learning new routes to various locations and how we do that. Recently, I learned two new routes to two different locations. I dedicated an entire podcast episode on one particular route.

Let's take the example I talked about within that particular podcast to demonstrate the huge difference in how we (the blind) learn travel skills from what you (the sighted) would learn.

First, as you do now, you go ahead and look up the address using a map.

Then, you may drive the route and plan it out on GPS.

Then, you might find that there is a better route, and the GPS tells you to take a different route, so you follow its guidance.

You finally get there.

That was easy, you think, as you find a parking spot, find the right building, and make your way in to where ever you needed to go.

For us, it's a lot harder than that. There are different methods we can use; when we take the bus, we often need paratransit. Paratransit is different in every state, but it is a subsidized transportation network that is based anywhere from a half mile to a mile of a fixed bus route.

The bus may have different routes, times, and specific locations it covers. If I want to go to an address, I can go to a web site or call the bus company to look up the route to determine if it is practical to take the bus. On WCT's site, podcasts do cover bus travel and how we would do that. Depending on the route, you may need to leave an hour or two from the time you need to be there, just to make it on time.

Granted, the bus may have an issue, and you may still be late, but take this example; in order for me to be at a place by 9, I leave at 7 to take a 7:20 bus. Why? Because I have a school that starts at 8, and navigating at 7:30 may cause me to miss the 7:53 bus. How do I know this? I've looked it up, and I know my area.

There are other factors we have to consider, too, which you would too, if you had lost your sight. Does the fastest route have sidewalks? Is it safe to be in the street even if you're a half or quarter mile from the closest bus stop?

In upcoming posts, I'll talk more about how I learned how to get to a particular address, and what other resources and logistics were involved. I hope this first post made you curious about the resources and programming I have available; please feel free to check out my site www.whitecanetravel.com. The discussion list, the blog, and the resources are all free for you to have, learn from and enjoy. I look forward to your participation, questions, and comments. Thanks for reading!


Jared Rimer
Jared Rimer

My name is Jared. I'm a visually impaired user of a computer, and I'm looking to write about a lot of different topics. If youfind you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. E-mail [email protected]

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