Low Vision Challenges
Communicating Needs While Traveling

From carrying heavy suitcases to mobility needs, communicating your needs is especially important when outside your familiar environment.
Do you have the nerve to ask for help?

Whatever your need is, communicating it is especially important when outside your familiar environment.

Traveling with vision loss can create difficulties because of the unfamiliar and often uncertain situations you find yourself in.

I thought I’d overcome so many hurdles, like I…

  • carry a cane now–not literally, mind you because I use it.
  • walk with confidence (or at least I like to think I do!)
  • don’t even hide my cane  immediately when I sit down like I used to
  • ask for directions if I lose my way
  • smile a lot more to put others at ease

But it’s still hard for me to do one thing.

That is to let people know when I need help.

And my response to that is to take…
baby steps.

Sometimes my bag is too heavy and I’m trying to navigate with my cane in the airport. I just keep taking baby steps, literally, rather than ask anyone to help me.ag. Stop. Clutch. Move. Stop. Drag. Cluck…I mean CLUTCH. Move. (sometimes I feel like Sometimes people even offer. But I always refuse!

I don’t know why I do that .  It’s a wonder I never missed my plane.

A close second is when someone attempts to guide me in an unfamiliar place. He or she takes my hand and pulls me forward. The truth is, I feel like a three-year old, especially when I unconsciously pull away and they squeeze my hand to get a better grip. need to get a grip on this situation!

Why can I not say,  “This works best for me.” Let me hold onto your arm (taking a firm grip on someone’s elbow) or crook of their arm.”

The person obviously wants to help me. But he or she doesn’t know the proper way. It’s up to me to communicate that information.

If only I had a lighthearted knack. Why can’t I do that? I always think it … but the words get stuck somewhere between my brain and my mouth.

The most humorous situation was when I took a short trip with a writing colleague and we stayed overnight  at the house of someone he knew.

The home was very, very dark. It was like stepping into a movie theater after the movie started. Or a mausoleum. But that’s only a guess as I’ve never stepped into one of those.

It was like stepping into a … mausoleum. But that’s only a guess as I’ve never actually set foot in a mausoleum, mind you.

I saw only one small light, and that was barely enough to see the faces and clothing of my colleague and new friend–nothing else. The friend–I’ll call her Rita–was on oxygen. So she had a narrow plastic tube trailing behind her.

The first question I wanted to ask was, “Do you keep your house so dark to make it cooler so it’s easier for you to breathe?” That would like me know if I could take a chance and ask if she could turn up the lighting, but not at risk to herself.

But I felt like I was treading on personal ground.

So, I  said nothing and felt my way into the bedroom with my cane to set my bag down.

But I had to come out.  Sometime. Right?

When I did, I could see absolutely no furniture.

I wanted to scream, “Help! Help! Furniture alert! Invisible! Gone! MIA!”

Instead, I plopped myself down on a large carpet, which sat on top of her living room carpet — the one spot the weak light hit and lit up.

Immediately, Rita exclaimed, “Have a seat in one of the chairs.”

(I assume she meant where the big people sit)

My response?

Not “Where is it???”

Not “Gladly if I could only see it!”

Not “Sure. Can you give me the coordinates?”

Nope, instead I said, “I love sitting on the floor. I always have. I’m not picky. In fact, I’m kind of like a gypsy. Give me a good old carpet any day!”

All this because I couldn’t ask for help to find her chairs or any of her furniture. And this was after she saw my cane and slammed the basement door shut with its many steps down.

It’s really quite ridiculous–this pretense! Don’t get me wrong. I like a good carpet as much as the next guy or maybe even more–especially one with butterfly designs, like she had as I found out in the morning sunlight.

But I did feel a bit odd seated in the middle of the floor while my two counterparts sat nicely on the the cushions of their respective chairs.

I felt like “The Great Pretender.” And once I declared how  much I loved sitting on the floor, practically screaming out my exotic  gypsy heritage (of which I have no blood relatives), I felt obligated to continue my charade and love of all places LOW.

The truth was once I was seated on that plush carpet, I was afraid to take a step.

I might trip over Rita’s oxygen cord.

Actually,  I did step on her oxygen cord that next morning and she stopped in her tracks.

I held my own breath and could have suffocated  from the thousands deaths I was mentally dying … until I suddenly remembered to remove my foot and let the air stream flow unrestricted to poor Rita.

So that’s why I said I loved sitting on the floor.

Who says that anyway?!

It cracks me up when I think of that scenario.  Especially when Rita handled the stepping-on-the-tube situation fine. She simply pushed me ahead of her and verbally guided me to the restroom that morning. That was it. A simple fear resolved.

I wonder how many other vision impaired people pretend. Probably more than I think.

Mostly because so many awkward situations exist that don’t even involve furniture or the layout of a new house! Other people are also in the dark as to handle the situation. Just like me. They don’t want to offend, or admit or share…

Am I right?

Once when I confessed this to another person with low vision, I got this response:

The cane is a huge first step…you’ll eventually get to the point where help me” doesn’t feel like fingernails screeching down chalkboard.”

She went on to say, “Just remember we are all so, so dependent on each other in this crazy world. I’ve had to accept that independence doesn’t mean I can do everything without asking for help. . . that is certain!”

It doesn’t matter if we’re  sighted or vision-impaired, or why we pretend–because even if we admit to being the Great Pretender only deep down and to ourselves–if we choose to, we can move forward toward honesty, even if that means taking it one step at a time.

We can step beyond.

Off the carpet and into the dark.

Without fear.

What have you pretended to like or do or say? Did you laugh at yourself afterward and wonder why? Or simply feel stressed? Share in the comments below! If you liked this, Like and Share it with your friends. I always love to read your comments!

You have read “Communicating Needs While Traveling.” © Copyright Amy Bovaird June 12, 2015.

Low Vision: Communicating Needs While Traveling
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2 thoughts on “Low Vision: Communicating Needs While Traveling

  • June 18, 2015 at 12:48 pm
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    “Are you pregnant?” The nurse asked me this, but I was afraid of answering, just in case there was any chance she wasn’t even speaking to me. I replied, “Who, me?” like an idiot.
    🙂
    I shouldn’t have hesitated. There was no reason she would ask the other nurse that, for no reason, considering it was my hormone levels that were being tested.
    🙂
    I am always just so afraid, but my brother thinks I need to get over it. “What will happen if you answer a question not meant for you?” He always asks me that. He’s right, but I’m just so afraid of suffering any level of embarrassment. You have it correct. That feeling is like fingernails across a blackboard, but I wish I could get over that.
    Travel is even more nerve-racking.

  • June 20, 2015 at 2:10 pm
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    Kerry,
    I totally know how you feel, especially when the person doesn’t say your name! These kinds of things seem silly after but at the moment, there is a level of uncertainty and I have done the same kind of thing! Once, an activity director was seated at a table where I was speaking to a group of senior citizens. Beforehand and afterward, she made a lot of small talk. At the beginning, she complimented me on my bag. And at the end, she also said, “Beautiful bag!”so I thanked her again. It turns out that this is what she says to a lot of the women! Probably as an ice breaker. But as your brother said, what will happen if you answer something not meant for you? The woman just ignored me. And the other woman for whom the comment was meant talked about her purse. No I figured it out. 🙂 That happens a lot to me, as a matter of fact! Ugh!
    Thanks for sharing this with me. I am so there with you!
    Amy

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