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“Gearing” up for Cold Weather Travel

woman man and girl sitting on snow
Photo by Victoria Borodinova on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

So for the past few weeks I’ve been sharing some of our strategies for traveling out of doors in the winter months.  As I mentioned in the last post , one of the challenges with winter travel is keeping track of all the extra gear needed to keep you and your children warm.  .  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been searching for a mitten, boot, sock, snow hat, etc. right as we’re getting ready to head out the door or how man

 

y times I’ve back tracked my path to locate one of the afore mentioned items my child has pulled off during the walk.  I’m happy to report that I have a pretty good track record of locating things–once had a Cinderella moment at Disney World where we lost a sandal and were able to locate it three days later.  , It’s always better not to have to spend the time looking for things if you don’t have to though.  So, since colder weather brings the need for some extra gear, here are a few strategies for keeping track of all that gear along with some suggestions of other useful gear when traveling with your children.

 

Tips for Keeping track of Cold Weather Clothing

  • Create a “launching station” a.k.a. a designated spot for all the things you need when you go out (i.e., cane, bag, coats, etc.)  in this same area, keep a basket or bin to store extra mittens, boots, hats, scarves–all that little loose stuff you don’t want floating around your house when you’re trying to get out the door.  This way when you’re getting ready to leave, all your items are hopefully in one place so you don’t have to go searching around for them.
  • Train your family members to put all their items here when they come home–a constant process I know, but maybe one day they’ll catch on.

    toddler wearing red shoes standing on snow
    Photo by Nikita Khandelwal on Pexels.com
  • Safety pin snow hats/beanies to the back of your child’s coat or the hood of the coat so that they don’t get lost if your child pulls them off
  • Mittens on strings are a life saver! Definitely look for these. Not only does it keep gloves with the child’s coat if your child pulls his gloves off, but you won’t have to waste time looking for gloves before going out. Then, leave the mittens strung inside the coat when you put the coat away.  You could also safety pin mittons to the cuff of your child’s coat sleeve, in a pinch, but this is a bit more awkward for your child and the pins tend to pop off if your child pulls too hard . You can also try these cute mitten clips which come in a variety of colors and patterns.
  • Purchase a package of several pairs of mittens for your children.  Keep a pair with each coat/jacket for your child, and a pair in each of your outdoor coats (just in case.” This way you will have extras for those inevitable occasions.
  • Keep a pair of gloves/mittons for yourself in each of your coats/jackets. This way, you’ll always be prepared and don’t have to worry about remembering to switch out your gloves if you use different coats (i.e., dress coat, everyday coat, etc.)

Continue reading ““Gearing” up for Cold Weather Travel”

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

 

Well, it’s still cold and we’re definitely in the thick of winter around here.  Not my favorite time of year, but trying to enjoy some of the more fun elements.  2013-12-07 22.32.47As promised, here are some more ideas of things that help us as blind parents when traveling out of doors in the winter months.  two of the most challenging things I find are first, keeping me and my children warm for long periods of time, and  second, carrying and keeping track of all the extra gear.  This week I’m sharing some of my tride and true practices for you and your children to stay warm in cold weather.  Here goes!

Tips for Baby waring in Winter

  • Use a baby waring device as much as possible when you are out using public transportation or running local errands. . This will help keep your child warm and you won’t have to worry about dragging a stroller through plowed up snow on walkways or along icy sidewalks. (See my recommendations here)  It also allows you to use a large umbrella if needed, to cover both you and your child.
  • When waring your baby on your front(facing in or out), wrap a medium weight  blanket (something that you can easily tuck back into a bag when indoors or carry on your person) around the child and tuck the blanket into the straps on either side of you and also tuck the bottom of the blanket in around your child’s feet. Presumablily, Your child will also be bundled up in warm clothing, but the extra blanket will help  add an extra layer of warmth and trap your body heat in with the baby, and it can also shield your baby from the wind as you can pull it up around his face.
  • If your coat is big enough, you can put the baby on first and then xip your coat up around the baby.
  • For children who are a little older and can ride on your back, make sure they are waring longer socks as the backpack can sometimes make their pants ride up as it pulls between their legs, exposing their ankles or legs. . Using leg warmers for girls which can be pulled over socks and leggings, or even over the heel of a shoe and up onto the leg also work great.
  • Use beanies/skull caps/snow caps to keep your child’s head warm. Hoods on coats are also great, but often the hoods will slide off when your child turns his/her head or leans backward. I suggest putting on some kind of snow cap and then pulling the hood over the top. The hood will keep cold air from hitting your child on the back of the neck or blowing down her coat.

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Cold Weather Clothing Advice

  • Fingerless gloves with a mitton cover are great because they allow you the ease of using your fingers without having to remove your glove. This is helpful if you’re trying to use a braille notetaking device for directions, your phone, clean up after a guide dog, etc. so that you can feel what you are doing but still keep your hands warm. You can then cover your fingers with the mitton top to keep them warm after you’re done.
  • Snow caps or beanies are really helpful as they keep your head warm, thus keeping your body from losing a lot of heat, but still allow you to hear, unlike a hood that can block your ears or deflect sound.
  • Mittens are great with little ones because you don’t have to mess with lining up all of your child’s fingers.  It saves time and sanity.  I also really suggest using mittens that are attached by a string–so much easier to keep track of them.
  • Give yourself or your child permission to be mis-matchie. Don’t worry about using mis-matched gloves. If you lose a glove, don’t worry about putting it on with another one from another pair. I used to worry about people judging if my children weren’t matching in some way—blaming it on the fact that I was blind—but truthfully, if it’s cold, you just want gloves on you and/or your child.
  • Keep an extra pair of socks for you and your child in your bag. Sometimes plowing through snowbanks or puddles can result in wet feet or pant legs, and a pair of warm, dry socks can help warm you up, especially if you are going to be at a place for awhile before returning home—just in case your boots aren’t as waterproof as they seem.
  • Depending on the type of outing you are taking, and the duration of it, Consider bringing an extra pair of slip on shoes (i.e., canvas sneakers or ballet flats which will fit easier in your bag) to change into at your destination so that you can slip off your wet boots and warm up your feet. You can easily step into a restroom and change out your shoes and slip off any extra layers so that you aren’t too bulky or hot inside a building.
  • Layer up. It’s easier to take off layers if you’re too warm than it is to get warm if you are out and about. Light layers also work well because you can put several on and be warm (e.g., t-shirt, long sleeve pull over, light weight hoodie and a pull over sweater, etc.)  but not feel as bulky as you might with thermal underware or heavy sweaters, especially if you are wearing your child in some form (it’s harder to get a pack or wrap on and off if you are really bulky with a coat and several thick layers.
  • Consider fleece lined tights or leggings (for women) or mens light-weight Under Armor style or jersey thermal pants under your clothing–not as bullky as traditional thermal under ware but still warm and bareable when you are indoors.

    person wearing gold patent leather snow boots
    Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com
  • Invest in a good pair of winter boots and rain boots with insulation and good traction.
  • Use bell bracelets on your child’s boots. Often boots do not have loops on the back or laces where you can easily attach a bell. A bracelet will fit over the boots and still work as well in helping you for locating your child. I used women’s bell bracelets on my daughter and they worked great and were really cute.  (We had a lot of friends want them for their daughters.)  I suggest a bracelet on each foot to make sure they are loud enough.  Here is an example for a girl .  If you feel a little strange about your son wearing a bracelet. You can use something more plain like this, or even make your own using some kind of hemp cord, yarn, or even pipe cleaners, and craft bells.

 

Well, there you go.  Hope some of these suggestions are helpful to you.  Let me know what other tips you’ve found to help you stay warm for long periods of time out of doors.

 

 

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The Scoop (or should I say shovel…) on Winter Travel

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Photo Caption: Hartle kids bundeled up in winter gear with Mom’s cane waiting

behind them at the door.

 

Winter is finally upon us. Well, the holidays are over and while I contemplated writing this on Dec. 21, it just didn’t seem right to spoil the holidays with talk of cold, dreary days ahead. Thankfully, our winter season where we live hasn’t been too bad thus far, but we’re about to get slammed with several rough weeks. In fact, as I write this, we are anticipating our first real snow storm of the season. Last night my children participated in several snow making rituals—throwing ice out the front door, flushing ice down the toilet, sleeping with a spoon under their pillow, and wearin

g their pajamas backwards and inside out to ensure a successful snow fall. (Not exactly sure where all these strange customs come from except to say they learned it at school.) In any case, while there are a lot of fun things about winter, and the thought of snuggling up in doors with a good book or movie and some hot coco is great for a day or two, the reality is that winter can be a bit rough when you don’t drive and still have everyday life tasks to carry out amidst cold temps, uncovered sidewalks, and slushy puddles. Sure, I could hibernate in my house all season, but that’s not really practical, nor would my children or I enjoy it. So, over the years I’ve learned a few things for navigating in cold weather with children. I talk about this in more detail in an upcoming episode of Everyday Blind Parents, so check it out for more ideas. But for the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting some of my suggestions for traveling around in winter.

 

Sure, it would be nice just to take a ride everywhere, and if you have that luxury, great. But if you don’t and still want to maintain some independence in getting where you want, when you want, and without inconvenience to your spouse, family member, friend, or neighbor, or without having to work around or wait on someone else’s schedule, you’ll still need to use public transportation, and ride services in the winter. It would be great just to take Lyft or Uber everywhere too, but not every budget will allow for that, so here are some ideas:

  • Be creative with ride use. Use rides when you can, but think about saving your “ride chips” up for extreme weather days and supplement this with public transit on less rough or cold days.
  • Exchange favors like babysitting, making dinner, buying lunch, or errand-running for a friend or neighbor for rides to/from places.
  • Team up with a friend to run your errands at the same time he/she is going
  • Subscribe to online delivery services (if you haven’t yet done so). See a list of other helpful online services here.)
  • Carpool-If you take your children to school/extra curriculars via public transit or by walking, email the parents of your child’s classmates and ask if another parent would be willing to pick up your child for a few weeks while the weather is rough.
  • Adjust your budget to allow for more use of services like Lyft and Uber (e.g., have a ride share freeze time in the spring and fall so that you can save up for more extreme weather conditions, or cut out weekly trips to Star bucks or fast food places)in order to allow for a bit more discretionary income.2013-12-07 22.29.35
  • Don’t forget that public transportation is still a viable option, but be prepared with the right gear to keep you warm and allow you to travel with your children to/from your destination.

 

Photo Caption:  J and K trying to walk down the driveway in a foot of snow

 

  • Make use of transit aps (like the “Next Bus App”) that show real time wait times  and that allow you to purchase tickets through them. This will minimize how long you have to wait outdoors if you can see when the bus is coming, and don’t have to stop to purchase a ticket (i.e., you can wait inside a local business near the bus stop, stay at work a little longer, or leave your house a little later if you know the arrival times in real time.
  • Teach your children not to put their feet on the seats of cars (i.e. uber and lyft vehicles) and train them not to drag their boosters on the sidewalk or driveway in rainy and snowy conditions. (As my children have gotten older, they’ve learned to carry their own seat.) This will help you avoid muddy footprints and extra expensive cleaning fees on your fare. Trust me! My kids have become pros at knowing not to drag their booster seats down a sidewalk or driveway when it’s rainy or snowy.
  • Carry a plastic trash bag to set your car seat onto if you need to set it on the ground thus avoiding getting the car seat wet or muddy prior to installing it in a vehicle, or don’t be afraid to ask the driver to hold it or place it in another part of the vehicle until you’re ready to install it.

 

Hope these ideas are helpful. Let me know what other transportation tips you’ve found helpful in the winter months. More to come !

person wearing brown boots and blue denim jeans standing on snow
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Some Assembly Required

black claw hammer on brown wooden plank
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

The holidays are in full swing around here and tis the season of gifting. Chances are high that something you will get or give will require some assembling. Even more than “Batteries not included,” the words “some assembly required can bring feelings of angst and anxiety to any parent trying to create some Christmas magic for their little ones. . Many are the years my husband and I have found ourselves sitting up well past Midnight in the early hours of Christmas morning playing Santa’s elves and piecing parts together like a jigsaw puzzle in an attempt to fulfill someone’s Christmas wishes. In fact, I’ve been known not to purchase a particular toy just because of this fact. Having lots of pieces floating around to keep track of and no idea how to put them together makes me really anxious, especially the longer said item is unassembled. Thankfully, my husband is much more patient than I, and pretty mechanically inclined. Over the years, we’ve tackled the assembly of quite a number of things on our own. It usually means my husband looking at an assortment of parts while I unsuccessfully try to look at diagrams with a magnifier and describe it to him as he uses his mechanical skills to try and figure out how things fit together. By the way, I highly recommend putting stuff together with your spouse. It’s great marriage therapy. You have to work together to solve a problem and try to do so without yelling even though you will yell and get frustrated with each other. When you’re finished, you’ll feel so empowered and bonded together over the bookshelf, Barbie house, elyptical machine, or air hockey table you just built together.

woman doing gift wrapping
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

 

 

Searching for instructions online or Youtube video tutorials can also be helpful in finding instructions in an accessible format. But, if you’re not so inclined to tackle assembly on your own, I suggest hiring someone to do it for you. Not only will it actually get done, but it will hopefully be done well and in a timely manner. We’ve hired friends and neighbors before to come and help us assemble play sets and small projects. The cost is worth it for our time and sanity. For example, last year after Christmas, we hired our neighbor’s two teenage boys to help us put some toys together after several unsuccessful attempts on our part. We paid them each about $10, and after about an hour, and some neighborhood bonding, things were ready to go. It was a win-win. Posting to a neighborhood group or church bulletin are also really good resources and can help you avoid any awkwardness of asking someone directly.

repairman doing screw drilling
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

 

Amazon also has a great assembly service. When you purchase something that needs assembling (furniture, exercise equipment, etc.), you can pay a fee to have someone come and do it for you. It can be a little pricy, but paying someone $50-100 to come and assemble something can be worth it depending on the complexity of the item, and save your sanity. Sometimes they will also offer discounts on assembly fees, so keep an eye out for those. We ordered a set of bunkbeds with built-in drawers once and paid an $80 fee to have them assembled. It took the technician about six hours, so this was totally worth it as this was too big of a project for us to tackle on our own.

 

For other big jobs, hiring a local handyman is also a great resource. The fees will probably be higher, but it may be worth it for your time and sanity. Lastly, I recently heard of an app called Takel for “tackling” projects. I have yet to check it out, but it may be a great source for things like this too.

So, if the words “some assembly required” are in your near future, I hope this post is helpful and brings you a little peace. Happy holidays and May the true peace of the season be with you and yours.

 

“Some assembly required”:

 

The holidays are in full swing around here and tis the season of gifting. Chances are high that something you will get or give will require some assembling. Even more than “Batteries not included,” the words “some assembly required can bring feelings of angst and anxiety to any parent trying to create some Christmas magic for their little ones. . Many are the years my husband and I have found ourselves sitting up well past Midnight in the early hours of Christmas morning playing Santa’s elves and piecing parts together like a jigsaw puzzle in an attempt to fulfill someone’s Christmas wishes. In fact, I’ve been known not to purchase a particular toy just because of this fact. Having lots of pieces floating around to keep track of and no idea how to put them together makes me really anxious, especially the longer said item is unassembled. Thankfully, my husband is much more patient than I, and pretty mechanically inclined. Over the years, we’ve tackled the assembly of quite a number of things on our own. It usually means my husband looking at an assortment of parts while I unsuccessfully try to look at diagrams with a magnifier and describe it to him as he uses his mechanical skills to try and figure out how things fit together. By the way, I highly recommend putting stuff together with your spouse. It’s great marriage therapy. You have to work together to solve a problem and try to do so without yelling even though you will yell and get frustrated with each other. When you’re finished, you’ll feel so empowered and bonded together over the bookshelf, Barbie house, elyptical machine, or air hockey table you just built together.

Searching for instructions online or Youtube video tutorials can also be helpful in finding instructions in an accessible format. But, if you’re not so inclined to tackle assembly on your own, I suggest hiring someone to do it for you. Not only will it actually get done, but it will hopefully be done well and in a timely manner. We’ve hired friends and neighbors before to come and help us assemble play sets and small projects. The cost is worth it for our time and sanity. For example, last year after Christmas, we hired our neighbor’s two teenage boys to help us put some toys together after several unsuccessful attempts on our part. We paid them each about $10, and after about an hour, and some neighborhood bonding, things were ready to go. It was a win-win. Posting to a neighborhood group or church bulletin are also really good resources and can help you avoid any awkwardness of asking someone directly.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

 

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Amazon also has a great assembly service. When you purchase something that needs assembling (furniture, exercise equipment, etc.), you can pay a fee to have someone come and do it for you. It can be a little pricy, but paying someone $50-100 to come and assemble something can be worth it depending on the complexity of the item, and save your sanity. Sometimes they will also offer discounts on assembly fees, so keep an eye out for those. We ordered a set of bunkbeds with built-in drawers once and paid an $80 fee to have them assembled. It took the technician about six hours, so this was totally worth it as this was too big of a project for us to tackle on our own.

 

For other big jobs, hiring a local handyman is also a great resource. The fees will probably be higher, but it may be worth it for your time and sanity. Lastly, I recently heard of an app called Takel for “tackling” projects. I have yet to check it out, but it may be a great source for things like this too.

So, if the words “some assembly required” are in your near future, I hope this post is helpful and brings you a little peace. Happy holidays and May the true peace of the season be with you and yours.

 

 

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Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Hack!

IMG_0011The holidays are in full swing around here. It’s been a busy season, but a lot of fun. As I write this, I’m enjoying the sounds of Christmas music playing in the background and my children chattering as they make cookies without supervision. Throughout the season as I’ve been working on some of our family Christmas preparations, I’ve realized some of the things we do alternatively because of our blindness and I thought I’d share some of our strategies for tackling a few common challenges with Christmas tasks.

Gift Wrapping:

I personally love wrapping gifts, but my husband does not. He never learned how, and while this is a pretty hands on task, I think a lot of blind people are not taught to wrap presents. (I admit I’m making this really broad assumption from blind people I’ve worked with over the years.) If you’re in this camp, here are a few tips:

  • Ask a trusted friend or family member to teach you. It’s a fun skill!
  • Use gift wrapping services at the store.
  • Check the “gift wrapping” option on Amazon.
  • Pay a neighbor—the teens from our church were offering gift wrapping services as a service project, and a lot of youth need service hours for school, or are just looimagejpeg_1king for ways to earn money.

 

Gift Identification:

Also with gifts, since both my husband and I are blind, we have to find ways of identifying the gifts once they are wrapped since we can’t read print gift tags on them and we don’t have Santa make braille ones for us, even though we read braille. I suppose we could request this of him, and express to our children how great it is that Santa accommodates for us, but we just haven’t done that. It would be really easy to braille on an index card the name to whom the gift belongs and tape it to the package. Instead, we group the gifts together as we wrap them by child and then I write one big sign or print out a sign with the child’s name on it and place it near their pile. (WE don’t place gifts under the tree prior to Christmas as we have young children and the gifts wouldn’t last.) Using different textured wrapping paper for different children is also helpful, or using different colored paper. (if you can distinguish between the prints). On Christmas morning, we open our gifts one at a time as a family, and I or my husband passes out the gifts we want to be opened for each round, taking one from each child’s pile. Since we’ve wrapped it, we usually can tell what the gift is once we pick it up by the size or shape of the package.

Photo Dec 06, 6 35 03 PM

Holiday Photo Ops:

From visits with Santa, participating in fun winter activities, or taking pictures of friends and family at gatherings, holiday photo ops are abundant. Sometimes as blind people, we don’t often think of taking photos because we can’t see them, but I highly encourage you to still take photos. It’s a great way to document your life and your family’s experiences. While you may not find much use for them, your children will enjoy them and appreciate them, especially when they are older. The iPhone camera gives pretty good feedback to aid you in making sure your pictures are aligned properly if you want to take them yourself. Even if you feel a little self-conscious, something is better than nothing. Remember the adage, “Done is better than perfect.” But the best thing to do is to hand your camera over to a friend, relative, or passer-by to capture those special moments. Alternatively, you could try using a video calling service with family members during times like gift opening or special holiday programs and have them take pictures and send them to you, labeled as to what it is of course.   Even an older child can take pretty good pics or videos with a little practice and instruction, so try this out as well during your family time. As our children have gotten a little older I’ve let them take photos and videos for us. (Be sure to remind them when videoing to watch the person/event through the screen or else you end up with a great view of the ground during your son’s first t-ball game.) My seven-year-old does a pretty good job at both now. I recently let her video my son’s preschool pageant and she did a great job capturing him singing. Your kids will thank you one day.

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Well there you have it—a little glimpse into our home during the holidays.   I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. WE feel so blessed and have enjoyed a great year. I hope this season finds you and yours well and that the peace of the Savior may fill your hearts and homes. Happy new year too!

 

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You Know You’re a Blind Parent When…

Photo captions: 1) Dad and girl reading braille together, 2) Dad walking with cane while holding his son’s hand, and 3) parents standing with small child and canes; mom is wearing a t-shirt that says: “i’m a Blind Mom”  and child is wearing one that says: “I’m the child of Blind Parents!” (Dads says: “I’m a Blind Sig Ep!”-ha ha.)

 

 

Okay, so while being a blind parent can be challenging, we know we can do it. But, there are still some hard moments along the way so it helps to have a sense of humor sometimes. We have to be willing to laugh at our own mistakes too. One thing I love about sharing on this site is the feedback and comradery I feel with other parents when we share our funny moments. So, here’s a little light hearted post that only those of us “in the club” will understand.

 

You know you’re a blind parent when:

  • You consider anything within a fifteen minute walk to be close or “doable.”
  • You’ve ever put your child in the bath with his/her socks on. Some would call this a blind blooper, but I call it multi-tasking.
  • Your two-year-old who often talks in his sleep says, “There’s the Uber!”While dreaming.
  • You have arms of steel from carrying groceries, car seats, children, etc. Home, or anywhere for that matter.
  • You have rock hard calf muscles from all the walking you do.
  • Your kids can walk a mile without breaking a sweat or complaining.
  • Your kids “pretend play” includes them riding their ride-along toys up the driveway and announcing, “Your uber is here!”
  • You’ve ever heard your kids acting out a storyline where their dolls are taking public transportation.
  • Your child is looking at books at the public library and asks you were the bumps are.
  • When you read together as a family and your pre-reader grabs a print book and begins running his fingers across the pages like he’s reading braille and pretending to follow along.
  • Your seven-year-old comes home and proudly announces how she put a classmate in his place when he doubted her parents could take care of her because they couldn’t drive. She pointed out how her dad takes the train to work every day and we go to Disney World each year, so obviously we’re capable. Duh!  J
  • When you watch t.v. At someone else’s house and your kids think that person’s t.v. Is broken because it doesn’t talk to you.
  • When your kids prefer to watch movies with the audio descriptive dialog turned on.
  • When your kids know how to use your phone with voice over on and how to disable it on their own.
  • If you’ve ever poured milk over a bowl of scrambled eggs instead of cereal for your child.
  • If your kids get car sick when they ride in cars but have no trouble on busses or trains.
  • If you can install a car seat in under thirty seconds.
  • If you’ve ever wished a shopping cart would miraculously appear along the side of the road.
  • If you’ve ever wished a shopping cart would miraculously appear along the side of the road and one actually did!
  • Your children have their own transit pass and know how to use it.
  • You make up silly songs or chants to sing while you’re walking with your kids to keep them motivated.
  • Both you and your kids get excited when you go someplace in a car and you can leave your car seats inside it.
  • Your three-year-old knows what “cardinal directions” means.
  • If you’ve ever placed a late night Amazon prime order in lee of a Target run for one of the following: snacks for your child’s class the next day, a birthday present for your child to take to a party, toilet paper, or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Don’t judge!
  • You’ve ever mistakenly microwaved a bag of frozen blue berries instead of veggies in a rush to get dinner on the table.

 

I hope these brought a smile to your face. I’d love to hear what other signs you’d suggest for this list in the comments below. Keep them positive please. Thanks!

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How We “Make It” at Disney World–In a Nut Shell.

 

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I have been wanting to write this post for a long time. It’s actually morphed into a couple of different posts and projects as well which is mostly why I haven’t written about this before. I wanted to put everything up together. But I decided that something is better than nothing, so I’m putting up my first post. Now is a great time for it anyway given that a lot of people love to travel to Disney World for the holidays, or may want to start planning ahead for upcoming spring or summer vacations.

 

My husband and I are huge Disney fans. For the past twelve years or so, we’ve been going to Disney World each year, sometimes twice even. WE could talk for hours about our trips and share WAY more with people than they really want to hear, so we often have to rein ourselves in. Over the years, we’ve picked up a few tricks and tips for traveling around the parks as blind people. WE get a lot of questions about how we do this non-visually, especially with small children in tow. I should also tell you that while we have gone twice with Jesse’s family out of the fifteen plus trips we’ve made there, we typically go by ourselves—no sighted guide taking us from place to place. So, I’m going to be tackling this topic in the future in a few different ways because there is A LOT to share with respect to getting around as a blind person. For now, this post is mostly to share a few things sort of as a way to “satisfy the curious” or inspire other blind parents who want to tackle this with their families. My husband and I are working on a couple of episodes for our podcast, Everyday Blind Parents where we will talk about different pieces together, such as how to prepare ahead of time, what gear works best, strategies for navigating each park individually, using customer service, using Guest Assistance passes (should you or should you not), monitoring your children in crowded settings, and using accessible apps to get fast passes and access park info. So, lots more is to come!

So, if you ask me how we travel around Disney World with our family, here is what I’d tell you in sort of a nut shell. Part of our success with this is that first, my husband and I are willing to be adventurous and problem solve.  I think just having this initial perspective is what helped us even be willing to go to Disney by ourselves, let alone to introduce children into the mix when going.  So, after the initial willingness to “get out there”, I would say the next thing that has really helped us is having really good travel skills which we learned from our training at the Louisiana Center for the blind.  As part of our training, we had to attend Mardi gras under blind fold in order to practice traveling in a crowded, condensed area. This experience would also expose you to a variety of people and public attitudes.  I also traveled under blind fold in New York City as part of my training, and we’ve lived and traveled in Baltimore and Washington D.C., so I guess after doing this, Disney World seemed like a piece of cake.  We knew we had the skills and given that it’s Disney, it would be a much friendlier and potentially more helpful atmosphere right?

 

We ended up joining the Disney Vacation Club a few years ago since we were committed for another reason to be in Orlando each summer for a few years, so this has also helped us in that we’ve really become familiar with a lot of things about Disney World and learned our way around from multiple visits.

 

Tips for Navigating the Parks

 

If you’re considering a trip to Disney, I would highly suggest reading some other blogs and travel guides just to get an overall sense of what Disney World has to offer and which will help you plan your trip. With respect to actually getting around the park, I’d definitely recommend using the audio descriptive units that you can check out from Guest Services at each park for starters.  These were really helpful for us during our first couple of trips.  Basically it’s a GPS device with a headset that you wear and as you are getting close to an attraction, eatery, or restroom, it will announce what you are near.  It doesn’t tell you where to go though so you still have to have good navigating skills, but it helps you create a map in your mind and gives you useful info.  The attractions are also described as you are going on them so you know what is happening on the screen or what your car is passing by.  These really helped us learn the parks and get more enjoyment out of the attractions, but now that we’ve been there so much, we don’t use them much anymore.  I’d still highly recommend them though.  Disney also has braille maps and guides that you can also get from Guest Services in the parks, but keep in mind that these do not get updated as often as the printed or online material and things are always changing and growing around the parks.

 

The My Disney Experience app is pretty accessible with voice over on the iPhone, so we use this in the park just like any other guest would and we’re able to get Fast passes, see ride times, and read menus on our own which is really helpful. You can also now order on the appp which helps us avoid having to navigate some of the switch-back lines when ordering food. .  Disney also has great customer service, so we often find a cast member at a ride to ask questions or get directions.  There are a lot of custodians pushing large loud carts around or sweeping up trash too, so we often will hear this and flag down one of them for directions. ON a funny note, Disney does an impeccable job of keeping things clean, so I guess if we ever really got desperate for help, we could just drop a wrapper and someone would come rushing up to us.

We also are pretty good at just asking questions of other guests too in order to get information.  Like for example, when we think we’re close to a certain ride, we will ask a passer-by where the line entrance is.  People are generally very friendly and willing to help.

There are also a lot of auditory cues in the parks like music from the movies playing outside the attraction which you can use to get to that place.  Each “land” or section of the parks also has different music playing throughout it. For example, Adventure land in Magic Kingdom has jungle drum like music while Tomorrow Land has futuristic space age music. The same is true for the different countries in the World Showcase at Epcot. The music gradually transitions between each country to fit its culture. Some attractions have very distinct sound cues too , like the infamous “pew, pew” sounds from2017-09-08 08.08.51-56 the Star Wars sand walker in Hollywood Studios which you can use as a cue to the ride itself or as a point of reference. You’d also be surprised how much you can pick up on things other visitors are saying that can help you know where you are or what direction something is.

 

Smells are also helpful.  For example, there is a cart at the entrance to the World Showcase in Epcot with a delicious honey roasted nut aroma wafting from it(it never moves); and the heavenly waffle cone smell on Main Street in Magic Kingdom lets you know you’re coming up to the ice cream parlor and a turn off to Tomorrow Land.  This is sort of a random tip, but since its Florida, it’s generally hot, and Disney parks actually keep the AC on quite high and doors open to areas to help cool the walkways. (Learned that actually from a cast member on a “Behind the Scenes” tour.) You can almost always locate entrances to eateries and gift shops because you will feel the cool air pouring out as you pass by the store fronts.

 

Monitoring Our Children

We use the same monitoring strategies with our children there that we would use at the park or some place at home.  (Check out my post on strategies for monitoring your children in different settings here) WE hold hands, set up meeting places or boundaries of where they can go, and do a “Marco Polo” type of communication when they are not next to us.  We’ve been going with our children since they were babies, so they’ve either been in a stroller (which we pull behind us), a baby carrying pack, or holding our hands. There are a lot of distractions that tend to pull their attention, but we’ve laid firm ground rules for staying together and have patterns of making sure that everyone gets to see and do what they want so as to minimize any potential running off from us.  We also “hover” a lot. Like for example if we’re going around a gift shop, we just stay right behind them  or hold their hands and let them show us what they want so they don’t run off.  Of course, we also use bells on their shoes which works really well inside buildings. I’ve even had my preschooler wear bells during our trip evenPhotoPass_Visiting_EPCOT_410763249208 though he’s graduated from using them for the most part at home. It just really helps as an extra layer in a crowded and unfamiliar area. Thankfully, we’ve never lost anyone in all the years we’ve been doing this. I am blessed with good kids that stick close, but they are still kids and are easily distracted, so it’s good to have measures in place.

 

Benefits to Staying On Disney Property

 

With respect to where we stay, it’s always on Disney property.  This is because of the transportation options it provides us. If we didn’t, we’d have to pay a lot to take rides to and from our hotel and the parks. Most people don’t realize, but DW is its own community and has its own zip code. It’s about a twelve mile span so you have to drive a bit to get from the Orlando area or fringe hotels to actually be on Disney property. For us being non drivers, this would take a lot of time and expense, not to mention create the extra challenge of hauling car seats around with us throughout our trip. So, we’ve found that while we may pay a bit more to stay on property, in the end it kind of is a wash and provides a little less stress.

 

We use the Disney magical coach to travel to/from the airport, and use the buses that take you to/from the parks and your hotel.  There are also buses that take you between the parks and other Disney World locations, and of course, the monorail. These are all complementary services.

 

When we first get to theIMG_0073 hotel, while we’re checking in, we will ask a few questions of the attendant to get an overview of the hotel. For example, what the layout is like, where the restaurants or food courts are located, what floor or area of the resort the pools and rec areas are, and so forth. .  This helps us start putting together a map in our mind. We also will take some time that first day to just explore the hotel or resort and familiarize ourselves with where things are.

 

Using Lyft or Uber there can also be helpful, but it’s expensive and I’d only suggest using it to go off-property and utilize the free bus services instead. Disney also has their own ride cab service. You can request vehicles with car seats with each of these services, but keep in mind these will have a higher cost. Generally, these vehicles will have only a booster seat, or one booster and one five point harness car seat, so you may not get enough car seats for all your children or the right style they need in order to be buckled up properly. So, if you use these services, you may need to still carry your own car seats with you. Just some things to consider with your transportation needs. WE do always take our own car seats with us on trips, but the less we have to carry them around with us, the easier things are.

 

Amazon Prime, Instant Cart, and Uber Eats are available on the property and can really help with food options or if you don’t want to eat at the park all the time. They are also great if you want a few groceries in your room or if you forget to pack something and only want to pay an arm for it instead of an arm and a leg like you would on Disney property.

 

I will say that we often get stopped by other guests and told how “amazing” or brave we are for traveling there, especially with small children. We’ve even caught people taking our picture or filming us more than once because they are so stunned or impressed. Awkward! That’s a touchy issue I’ll have to save for another conversation.) We’ve even seen Facebook posts by complete strangers about us through friends of friends who happened to be there when we were. So, we definitely get a lot of direct and indirect opportunities to educate the public. This can be flattering, and we appreciate the support, but it can also sometimes be a little mentally taxing to always feel on display. Honestly, we just love going and don’t want our blindness to be a hindrance from us doing something we love and enjoy with our family.

 

So there you have it in a nut shell. If you’re a blind parent reading this and you’d like to try it with your own family, don’t let your blindness intimidate you, because it can be done. Sometimes it’s not pretty, and there will be challenges along the way, but you’ll definitely feel empowered for trying; and the experience with your family will be worth it! Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this. If you have more specific questions, please feel free to reach out to me through the comments or email them to me. Also, keep a look out for more posts and our podcast episodes for lots more tips and in depth explanations. Thanks for reading!

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