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Ali’s Journey: Travelling solo with low vision

15 November 2017

For Ali Pearce, travel is a part of life. A New Zealander, Ali moved to Australia six years ago and has travelled all over the world to places like South Africa and Thailand.

When overseas Ali navigates with a white cane.

Most recently, Ali travelled solo to the UK for a month, and loved almost every minute of it - except for some of the accessibility challenges of the old world.

“I love the whole experience, everything from packing your suitcase,” Ali says.

“I’m a big person that asks for help, so I let the airline know I needed assistance beforehand, and from the minute I got to the airport to when they handed me over to my the friends I was staying with in Birmingham, I was looked after.”

Ali stayed in Birmingham before heading north to Scotland for camping and castles.

“We went to Alnwick Castle, the Harry Potter castle, which was amazing,” Ali says.

Because Ali couldn’t see the castles in the same way as other guests, she was given a rare opportunity.

”They let me touch the furniture in the castle to get the feeling of what they were like,” Ali says.

“It was some very old furniture that people aren’t allowed to touch, I was very blessed. They tried to make my experience the best it could be.”

However, Ali found accessibility in castles, and on the cobblestone streets of Scotland, to be a nightmare.

“There’s a lot of stairs, no colour contrast, no tactile markings. When you’re on uneven surfaces, if you haven’t got your wits about you, as you are running the cane back and forth it can jolt back into your arm,” she says.

In Melbourne, Ali uses a Seeing Eye Dog. “By the end of the day, I wasn’t physically exhausted, but I was mentally exhausted, from having to keep my eye on it, so to speak. With a dog you just follow,” Ali says.

For Ali the highlight of the trip was a U2 concert at Twickenham Stadium in London.

“It was brilliant. You didn’t need to see anything, you could just feel the electricity in the air from the moment you walked in,” she says.

When asked what advice Ali had for other travellers who are blind or have low vision, Ali says, “Just do it”.

“As we get older we get less confident. You see children, they run and laugh and jump and play, but as adults we get fearful. The experience is so worth it, and it builds up your confidence as well,” she says.

“To hell with the fear – just do it. You’re a long time dead, you know?”

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