A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the NFB STEM2U program as a mentor to 15 elementary school students. However, one of the biggest obstacles wasn’t the actual event, but the travel process it takes to get to the event. In this post, I want to share some tips on air travel as a legally blind person.
In preparation for a flight, I always try to pack everything into one bag so I can do carry on. This is not only simpler, having one bag, but it is also cheaper. However, in some cases, this might not be very easy. With most airlines, you are allowed to take two bags, a carry on and a personal. That is why, if necessary, I will attempt to fit things into something like a computer bag. If you do end up having to check luggage, some blind students will try to make their luggage obvious to them whether it be a unique texture, maybe a fabric on one side, or a ribbon that can be felt, maybe tied to the handle, in order to be identified at baggage claim.
Another aid to air travel, which is one of my favorites, is using digital boarding passes. When obtaining your boarding pass digitally, you check in at the same time through your airline’s app. The benefit of this over obtaining a physical ticket at airport check in, is that you do not have to wait in lines. Once you walk into the airport, you can head right over to security. At security, you can show them your boarding pass whether it be on your phone, or in my case, my Apple Watch. Finally, as you get through security, you can prepare for boarding, and as you’re about to get onto the jetway, you can pull out your pass and airport staff will scan the QR code.
You may think, “That’s great and all, Elijah, but all that is useless if I can’t even find my way around the airport.” Luckily, there is an answer to this predicament. With many airlines, you can obtain a digital copy of the terminal’s layout, and with that, you are able to find your way around. I personally took advantage of this feature when I landed in Charlotte. I was hungry, and looking for a fast food restaurant. Quickly, I opened the American Airlines app, located the terminal map, and plotted my route to the closest restaurant.
You’ve heard me talk a lot about the apps that are offered up by the airlines, but what else could they possibly offer? In the TSA and other airline apps, you can find out how long the lines are at the airport, and determine how early you need to leave to be on time for you flight. With them, you are able to see your flight’s arrival, departure, delays, and even find out what luggage carousel your checked bags will arrive on. If you need to, you can also upgrade your travel, and add additional amenities. Once you arrive at your final destination, you are able to head wherever you need to go.
There are some other minor things that can be done to speed up travel. If you have been through security, there are a few things they ask you to do: take off your shoes, pull out your computer from your bag, and ensure you empty out your pockets. To speed up the process, you can begin part of this process while waiting in line. You can pull out your computer or other pieces of technology, and hold onto them as you approach the security check point. While I’m on the subject, you should pack so that these items are easy to access when you have to present them. Finally, one minor thing that can really aid in the packing process is to use the TSA app. This will tell you what you can pack and which bags it can go in. This was very useful, especially when I wasn’t sure what was allowed.
These are the things I try to accomplish whenever I travel by air, but I bet others can share input on their experiences and what all they do to accommodate for themselves. This brings me to my concluding questions. What would you do to ensure an easy experience? What steps would you take to achieve those expectations? How would you accommodate when you’re traveling by maybe another form of public transportation: boat, train, and bus? I would be interested to hear your response.