The National Braille Press is offering free copies (in braille
or PortaBook) of the American Cancer Society booklet, For Women
Facing Breast Cancer. The publication covers mammograms, biopsies,
cancer staging, treatment options, and breast reconstruction as well as
how to join clinical trials and where to find emotional support.
Each section includes a list of questions that individuals
might want to ask their doctor or nurse. Copies are limited to one per
NBP has other health-related braille publications, including:
After Diagnosis: Prostate Cancer, free
Menopause Guidebook, free
Simple Ways to Control Your Weight
Atkins Carbohydrate Gram Counter
Diabetes Cookbook: Desserts
NPB also offers a free four-week trial of Syndicated
Columnists Weekly, a braille magazine that includes columns and
editorials print and online newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal,
New York Times, and Washington Post. You can download a free sample
(text or braille) on the National Braille Press website:
Business travel can be tense enough without the added hassle of being
blind or visually impaired. I talked to some experienced visually
impaired business travelers to see what they do to make the process
more pleasant so they can concentrate on doing business.
Being prepared for your business trip that will lessen or eliminate
headaches which commonly plague travelers but which are even greater
hassles for people with disabilities. Here are a few tips for being
prepared that I found specifically for blind or visually impaired
Write down the names and addresses of all destinations,
such as hotels, meeting places, and even airports. Don't assume taxi
drivers and others will know where they are, and don't rely on your own
memory. Bring the information in a form accessible to you. Include
phone numbers you may need to get help at your destination, including
hotels, ground transportation, business contacts, and tourist bureaus.
Make it known to everyone you deal with (starting with your
travel agency) what your disability is. Don't assume people will figure
it out themselves. Tell them directly and specifically what help you
need. If you keep it to yourself out of reticence or pride, you may
discover that something you really need will be missed or that you will
be overlooked, for instance, in an emergency. Believe me, it's not
Don't hesitate to ask people for information or help. If
you cannot see the departures monitor, just cheerfully ask someone
standing near it if they can help you out. In my experience, most
people are more than happy to help, especially if you are specific
about what you need. Be courteous and grateful. It's called "positive
Carry your white cane whether you are going to use it or
not. At the very least, it will validate your requests for help, and
you may run into situations, such as dark stairways, where you will
need it. Bring an extra folding white cane in your luggage in case
something happens to your regular cane or your guide dog.
Keep valuables and important documents on your person:
keys, money, tickets, identification etc. You can get a small zippered
pouch that you wear around your neck under your clothes where you can
carry these items securely, but make sure you can get to them when you
need to -- such as when going through security.
Have small bills in your pocket for tips. Chances are you
will be asking for more help than the average person. It is only right
to show you appreciate rather than demand it.
Find out ahead of time whether you can bring your guide
this article's Traveling Abroad section.) Don't assume just because
you are traveling within your country that you will be able to bring it
along. Hawaii., for example, limits the circumstances under which you
can enter the state with a service animal.
Find out if your health insurance will cover you when you
travel, especially to other countries. And bring your medications with
you in their labeled bottles so they can be identified as prescription
drugs if you are searched.
Research hotels. A hotel is a hotel, right? No! If you have
concerns about sharing of a bathroom, availability of toiletries,
locations of transportation or availability of meals, find out about
all of these services before you make your reservation. At a hotel I
stayed in Paris the "toilet" in the room was not a toilet but a bidet
-- the toilet was down the hall. And every morning there was a tray
with coffee and a baguette on the floor in front of the door. I'm glad
I did not find out about this by tripping over it!
Search disability travel sites. While the dozen or so sites
dedicated to accessible travel emphasize wheelchair users, it is wise
to read every one you find. Use the words "accessible travel" in a
search engine because there is plenty of helpful advice that is
applicable to all disabilities.
Read general travel advice meant for the average traveler.
What you learn may be even more important to you -- such as not
assuming you will find a room with a vacancy when you arrive like my
friend Ellen and I did when we spent a night in Juneau, Alaska, one
August. One great resource on the Web is Rick Steve's Travel Tips, which has advice about packing,
safety, communicating, using money, staying healthy and other
potentially risky aspects of traveling.
Read about your destination ahead of time. I can't tell you
how many times I've come back from a business trip where I had extra
time only to find out that something I would have loved to see or visit
was down the block from my hotel!
The airline and other travel industries are slowly adapting to the
disabled market, but, with each travel or hospitality worker you meet,
there is the potential for running into unexpected problems. Other
obstacles can come up from your own lack of knowledge (understandable
enough) of the nuances of each industry. You can lessen the chance that
an inconvenience will become a serious problem by learning a thing or
two about the destination, the transportation and the services you
expect to use.
Each aircraft, for instance, has emergency exits, some of which are
right by passenger seats. People with disabilities are not allowed to
sit in those seats because the person in them is responsible for the
lives of every other individual on that flight. When you make your seat
selection, be sure to tell the ticket agent you have a disability to
prevent being given an emergency-exit row seat and then having to later
haggle over who has to trade with you.
The Disabled Traveler suggests you choose an
airline based on its record of accommodating disabled travelers.
Mika Pyyhkala, who travels more than 50,000 miles a year for business
and pleasure, gave me several tips. In fact, they are so helpful that
I'm giving Pyyhkala a whole section in this article! Here is advice
from a pro:
Join and get to know airline/hotel frequent travel
programs. If possible, try to become an elite/prefered/premier member.
You receive many published and unpublished benefits once reaching these
Get to know (at least by first name and face) people who
work at the airports and hotels you frequent. These people can really
make or break your travel. I just completed a trip where I ran into a
ticket agent who just recognized my face, and she waived a $100 change
fee for me, even in the era of supposedly no waivers and no favors.
Keep a person's direct telephone number when you have a
complaint or problem -- when you want to issue a compliment. These key
people can help you. Last summer, I had to change a trip. I called a
friend of mine who I have dealt with over the years at Boston Logan,
and she said, "Usually there is a charge for this, but I will waive it
for you since I know you have had problems in the past." Also, this
past summer, I needed a two-bedroom suite at a major hotel but wanted
to pay just the standard room charge. I got a contact name from someone
I had worked with, and presto, I got the two-bedroom executive suite
for the price of an economy room.
Use the internet as a resource. An excellent web site is FlyerTalk.com,
which has forums or chat areas about all major airline and hotel
companies. There are countless tips and useful undocumented sources of
advice. For example, on FlyerTalk.com, I learned of a deal where I
could fly the BA Concorde for $1,200 round-trip (usual price is $10k --
give or take a few k).
Try to get bumped from over-sold flights in order to get
free tickets, upgrades, and other benefits.
Ask the venue for a tour of the facilities at a convention
center. I recently did this at the Orlando Convention Center, and it
worked out very well.
Get a laptop with an ethernet connection, and an 802.11
(wifi) wireless connection, so you can stay connected wherever you
might be. Look at an ISP called i2roam.com for dial
up and other connections around the globe.
Learn to get around by yourself at the airports you use
most frequently. It is easier than you think. This way, you do not have
to wait for or be dependent on others for connecting flights etc.
Rethink your need for special assistance. I prefer not to
request special assistance from the airlines. I find that this type of
service gets in my way more than it helps.
Trade favors. If you frequent a particular hotel, ask for
guest service information in braille. Offer to publicize this fact for
the hotel and help the facility find a vendor to do the work.
Be careful when checking into hotels because many front
desk agents think a person who is blind needs either a room near
elevator or one equipped for people in wheelchairs.
File a complaint if you encounter disability-related
issues. You would be surprised at the compensation you might receive
for your trouble. Plus you may help the company in its service efforts.
Plan for computer access. I bought a very thin and small
Cannon scanner to do OCR on the road. There may be difficulties if you
need to go to a client site, for example, and access a lot of paper
Try to get the materials ahead of time in electronic format
when you go to conferences.
Access laws and customs for people with disabilities are far from
universal. Your "rights" where you live may not be what they are in
another country. They may be more limited. They may be stronger.
Further, the age of buildings, roads and other public places may affect
their potential for accessibility. A 13th century cathedral is not
likely to be as accessible as a 21st century hotel and so forth.
Customs vary as well, and these include attitudes towards people with
disabilities. My husband tells me that tourists from overseas often
look with shock at me as we walk by them in malls -- white cane in my
hand and all. I have noticed that some immigrants appear to be unaware
of what my cane even means and make no effort to move out of my way. On
my part, I'm sure that, if I were in a part of the world where "the
crippled" sit on the street and beg, my very American look of reproach
would not be appreciated.
In particular, attitudes towards service animals, whether regulated or
cultural, can cause blind or visually impaired people some problems.
The United Kingdom has strict rules about admitting dogs because, being
an island, it can prevent the spread of rabies in do so. In some
countries, dogs fall into the same category as rats and, as a result,
are regarded as unclean. My friend, Bern, has had rotten fruit thrown
at her when she ventures out with her guide dog, Hazey.
It is critical that you do your homework before you travel abroad,
whether for business or pleasure. Fortunately, AccessAble Travel
Services has made this rather easy. In its "World
Destinations" database, you can select the country or countries you
will be visiting and obtain information (including links about local
access issues, laws and customs.
Definitely look at foreign travel advice intended for every type of
traveler to get information about communicating, money exchanges and so
forth. Rick Steve's Travel Tips is very thorough.
Be selective when it comes to seating. In my own travels, I
try to take an airlines such as Southwest Airlines which allow me to
choose my own seat. When I can't go Southwest, I always take the
airline's offer of priority seating so I can get help finding my seat
and get settled before the rush of boarding really gets started.
Don't kid around when talking to travel and security
personnel. Sure it's tempting to respond "Always!" when the airline
check-in person asks you if your luggage has been out of your sight for
any period of time or to hold your white cane like a sword when going
through security. We use humor to deal with others' awkwardness, but
these people are required by law "not to take a joke." You may be
detained or even jailed for your witticism.
Don't assume being disabled means travel and security
people will cut you slack. You must be as much or more serious and
Ask about discounts when planning to visit entertainment
venues such as amusement parks. Many charge people with disabilities
the same lower rate they do seniors.
Ask about companion fares. Some modes of transport charge
lower fares or allow you to bring a companion at no extra charge, if
you are disabled. When my husband and I took a bus across country, we
only had to pay for one ticket. It was worth it to the bus company not
to have to have drivers and station staff helping me out.
Make hotel card keys accessible. Kathy Blackburn suggests,
"For hotel key cards, ask the desk clerk to place a piece of tape on
the side of the card that should be toward you when you insert the key
into the slot. Make sure the clerk doesn't place the tape on the end of
the card in such a way that some of it is on both sides."
Make luggage tags accessible. Blackburn also recommends the
large plastic luggage tags
which can be brailled with a slate and stylus.
Book your hotel yourself. Vicki Ratcliffe says, "When
traveling alone, I always book the reservation for the hotel rather
than have the agency book it for me. By doing this, I can choose a
hotel that meets my needs such as one that has a restaurant for meals
or one with interior corridors to get from place to place."
Select gift shops which allow you to touch. AccessAble Travel Services offers this advice:
"Enhance your sensory experience by going on tours and visiting gift
shops. Some tour groups allow travelers who are visually impaired to
experience an exhibit by touching objects otherwise off-limits. Gift
shops often sell small scale replicas of monuments you can touch."
Don't forget your tape recorder. On Rick Steve's Travel Tips, a site visitor writes, "When a blind
friend of mine travels, he takes a small tape recorder. He tapes all
sorts of things -- from pub conversations to train announcements to the
sounds of nature. These tapes are his 'photographs.' It is so much fun
listening to the sounds of places he has visited. I think I'll take a
tape recorder on my next trip!"
State Department Travel Warnings - USA. The U.S.
Department of State monitors traveler safety issues around the world
and issues these advisories, called Travel Warnings (updated promptly)
about whether it is safe to travel in certain cities, countries or
regions of the world. The web site gives safety advisories for each
country as well as some other very significant information about
conditions for travelers, entry and exit requirements, incidence of
crime, air travel and traffic safety, health concerns, customs law, and
a lot more -- even disaster readiness advice. For example, I discovered
that, if I should plan to travel with my child to Papua, New Guinea, I
need to bring her birth certificate and other legal documents that
prove she is not being abducted. This site is fascinating reading, even
if you are only armchair traveling!
Accessible Everything: An Accessible and Inclusive Travel
Blog for People with Disabilities
Accessible Everything is a blog about accessibility for
disabled people with a special focus on the tourism industry. From the
"I have travelled quite extensively and indepedently in Europe
and I think it's important to share these experiences, both good and
bad, with other disabled people."
"I worked for several years with the Spinal Injuries
Association in the United Kingdom which gave me many opportunities and
broadened my knowledge of Spinal Injury. I also volunteered for other
disability associations which helped me understand other types of
"In January 2002, I moved to Barcelona and taught English as a
Second Language for several months. During this time I travelled
independently in Germany for over a month, going from town to town by
train. I had some problems in Berlin due to the lack of information for
disabled travellers, such as accessibility in museums, hotels and
British Website Lists Accessible Rentals in More than 20
AccessAtLast.com is a one-stop shop for accessible bookings
(it guarantees level-access showers) to vacation home and apartment
rentals from England to Indonesia.
The site bills itself as "the only website in the world
advertising only accommodation with at least one room with a level
The company's goal is to make life accessible for mobility
impaired people wishing to travel the world, regardless of one's
physical limitations. The website provides detailed information
covering all aspects of accessibility for its property listings,
located in twenty countries around the world, including the United
Kingdom, continental Europe, Turkey, Indonesia, and the United States.
Most properties are high end, such as a Normandy farmhouse
that includes a private heated pool fitted with an Oxford Dipper Hoist
(there's one in the house, too), or the Cotswold cottage with an
electric bed, shower chair, and teletext; Canary Island bungalows,
Turkish hotels, Italian resorts, all can be booked through
Each AccessAtLast listing includes enough information for a
disabled traveler to determine if the house, apartment, or villa meets
their accessibility needs. Listings specify such details as:
Width of doorways
Bed, toilet, and clothes rack heights
Availability of electric beds
Level-access showers (guaranteed)
Manual shower chairs and grabrails
Pool and indoor wheelchair lifts
Availability of accessible transportation.
Disabled travelers seeking getaway ideas can find inspiration
in the site's Accommodation of the Month. Bargain hunters might search
the site's "Last Minute Offers" section for even greater deals!
AccessAtLast's WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)
compliant website, which supports screen readers used by the blind,
also includes customer reviews, a mobility shop featuring wheelchairs
and accessories, and a signup for an accessible travel newsletter. A
recently added feature is an advanced-search capability for multi-room
accommodations sorted by country or region.
Since 1997, AbilityPLUS has sought to make year-round
recreation, such as snow sports and cycling, accessible to those with
physical, emotional, and sensory
AbilityPLUS, located in Waterville Valley in the heart of New
Hampshire ski country, is dedicated to availing the disabled of
opportunities to experience
adaptive sports, including Alpine and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, sled
hockey, kayaking, hiking, bicycling, and therapeutic horseback riding.
Executive director Kathy Chandler founded AbilityPLUS in 1997
with the help of a small group of volunteers who were inspired by the
of the region^D>'s disabled skiers.
The organization now runs affiliate and partner program with
major New England ski centers, Attitash-Bear Peak (Bartlett, Mount
Snow, VT, and Wachusett
Mountain, Princeton, Mass) and over 250 volunteers who have helped
thousands of individuals and their families experience the joy of
AbilityPLUS serves people from every demographic, including a
growing number of disabled veterans in the Wounded Warrior Disabled
Sports Project, which
it coordinates with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The program,
now in its fifth year, pairs veterans with specially trained
instructors at Waterville Valley to learn the use of mono- and sit-skis.
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