Mastering Air Travel As a Blind Person: The Flight
The easiest, or perhaps the least stressful, part of flying as a blind person is the flight itself. There are only a few things to keep in mind to make it a little less difficult than it might otherwise be.
- Is this a full flight? If the gate agent isn’t swamped at check-in, I always ask if we’re going to have a full flight. If there’s going to be an empty seat, I’d like to be sitting by it. There’s no reason why, as a blind person, you’re more entitled to this prime real estate than anybody else, but neither is there any reason why you are less entitled so ask. Incidentally, if there has been so much chaos at the gate that you didn’t get a chance to ask the agent, ask the flight attendant as you enter the plane. Once you are on the plane, the airline gives the attendants the authority to make this decision.
- Restroom. Getting to the airplane restroom is inconvenient for anyone and even more so for a blind passenger so, to repeat what I’ve said in earlier posts, if at all possible, you will have been wise to attend to this while you are on the ground.
- Seat assignment. This may just reflect my preference, but the ambient noise on most aircraft can make it difficult to hear. For this reason, if I can, I’ll try to get an aisle seat which, in turn, makes it a bit easier to hear the flight attendant as he/she tries to talk with you when standing in the aisle.
- Planning for a passenger assist. Sometimes, the flight attendant will ask if you will “need assistance when we land?” This is intended to assure that someone will be there to meet you at the gate. Don’t count on it. If it happens, that’s wonderful, but you should be prepared to deal with the issue once you deplane.
- Stay seated. The airlines prefer that you remain seated until everyone has exited the plane. While there have been a few times when I’ve been pressed for time to make a connecting flight that I’ve exited with everyone else, waiting until everybody else has fought and clawed to be the first one off is something I would do if I had 20×20 vision.
One final observation: My wife and I, both experienced air travelers, have noticed that airline and ground personnel, who are otherwise good when dealing with one of us individually, mysteriously have a melt-down as soon as we appear as a couple. It’s as though, when both of us check-in or appear at the gate together, there was a note in our ticket that said, “This couple is carrying plague.” The solution is relatively simple: just be patient with whomever is assisting; after all, they need assistance too in figuring out how to cope with these two aliens. I’ve yet to meet the blind couple whose experience doesn’t duplicate ours.
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