Public transport

If keeping your independence is important to you then at some stage you may need to rely on catching public transport by yourself. This was a very scary and exciting experience for me, but I am a bit of an adrenalin junkie, so it was an adventure.

I needed help for the first trip so that the person could show me where to go. It was difficult for me to find someone to accompany me on the first journey as all my friends said, “don’t’ worry Jenny, I will take you where you want to go”. That was not what I was asking. It was only when a friend of my sons, who was staying with us, said he needed to get from the suburbs into town that I jumped at the opportunity. The poor fellow didn’t imagine leading a half- blind person around the town explaining landmarks, pedestrian crossings, bus timetables and how to pay the taxi driver. If it hadn’t been for this day, I would not have ventured out on my own – thanks KB.

I believe that God is always with me, so I never feel alone when I am on the move. I sometimes need to stop and remember that God knows where I am even if I don’t! Since I was a teenager I prayed, half tongue-in-cheek, that God would assign me a ‘traffic angel’. Well, when I say aloud, “Please send my traffic angel” it is amazing what provision unfolds. I have had strangers come up to me and ask if they can wait with me to hail my bus and offer to help me over a busy road. My travelling experiences have restored my faith in human beings. People love to help and it makes them feel valuable – a win/win for all.

I always use my symbol cane when out and about, because it frees me to ask people for help. I have only occasionally found people avoiding me and all of them have been white. I think they think I want to beg for money! Coloured and black folk are awesome in helping. Oh, South Africa!!!

Minibus Taxis

This is the most useful mode of transport. I know that private vehicle owners get mad that minibus taxi’s stop anywhere and everywhere, but if you are a pedestrian it is absolutely marvellous! The folk in the taxi have always been helpful and told the driver where to drop me off. I once left my handbag (with wallet and cell phone) in the taxi. It pulled off and then screeched to a halt and one of the ladies called out to me and handed it out of the window.

I do hold out an A5 card with the word ‘taxi’ written in bold black Koki pen, as I cannot see which vehicle is a taxi. I presume the driver can see it!?

Another Plus for taxi’s – Taking the taxi has strengthened my faith. Every time I climb in I thank god that He has numbered my days ….and not the taxi driver!!

Buses

The cool thing about busses is that you can generally plan what tine you will get the bus ans where exactly it will stop. I do carry a card that says ‘bus’ in large letters and the destination e.g. BUS CITY or BUS DURBANVILLE. Once again it relies on the driver to read the sign and stop for me. It has worked so far.

In Cape town we have a toll free number 0800 65 64 63 , where you can get information updates on bus and train times.

Smart App taxi’s

Using Uber, or the like, with low vision, requires you to know how to use your phone under pressure. Using a hand held magnifier may enable you to see the App or you could use built in Accessibility features, such as Zoom or VoiceOver (iOS) or Talkback, Speak or such (Android device specific). Voice assistants are becoming more handy as technology advances, but it is important that you feel comfortable with your ability to use the App efficiently. It really helps to go with a sighted someone. As a back up who will let you struggle a bit until you get it right.

Uber has given me wings, not just wheels. I can go anywhere confidently …as long as Eskom has no surprise load shedding.. (If you do not know what that is, then you are not South African and you can thank God for your national electricity supplier)

Air travel

Assisted or non- assisted, that is the question.

The one will probably require more adrenalin, more asking strangers and spotting perceptual clues. The other may land in persuading the ‘helpers’ that there is nothing wrong with your legs. And then you feel the stares on the back of your neck as you are led to front of the queue. There have to be some bonuses for having sight problems.

Tips, take a bright top or scarf with you so that you can mark your seat for safe return after using the loo.

– Count the number of rows to the facilities on the plane.

– If you got assistance, the air steward will know to explain what food is provided or what is on the menu.

– Google the movies beforehand and ask the steward to set it for you. Screens on airplanes are not vision impaired accessible (as far as I know) . Please email me if you find one.

Conclusion

Low vision does not stop us from being public and, where there are people, I trust there will be help.

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