Travelling on trains can be stressful for everyone, but I want to talk about the challenges a Blind person faces while traveling on trains and how they can be overcome. I will share a recent trip I took to London, so you can understand how I, as a Blind person, travel on trains.
Planning and Buying Tickets
For anyone with a disability, planning is key. For this trip I found out I needed to travel two weeks before hand. I start by finding the trains I want to travel on. For this, I personally use trainline.com to find and buy the tickets. Once I have the tickets booked, I need to book Passenger Assistance. Passenger Assistance is a fantastic service that allows me to specify the support I need along my journey. I use the Passenger Assistance app to book my assistance, but this can be done over the phone. The assistance is confirmed, and I now know I have done all I can ahead of time to reduce the stress of travel.
Day of Travel
On the day of travel, my first check is to ensure I have AirTags in all my key belongings. For me, this is my white cane, coat, and luggage. Apple AirTags are fantastic little round devices that you can use to help find your items if you lose them. They also alert you if you leave something behind.
Once all packed and ready, I make my way to the train station. At the train station, I find the Ticket Office and advise them that I have booked assistance. I am asked to take a seat and wait until it is time to board.
The passenger assistant collects me and guides me to the correct platform and helped to find my seat. The assistant calls the destination station and informs them that I am on the train and where I am seated. On this occasion I was changing at Doncaster to get on to a train to London.
On pulling into Doncaster station, I stay in place until the assistance arrives. They help me find my bag and get off the train. As they picked my bag up, they asked me to check it was the right bag from the luggage rack. From what I could see, it looked to be the right size, shape, and colour.
I was advised that the next train was running late, so I asked the assistance to show me the waiting room and where the coffee shop was. I grabbed a coffee and proceeded to sit down in the waiting room. As I sat drinking my coffee a notification popped up on my phone “Tim’s Luggage Left Behind”. In denial, I thought that can’t be right, the bag is in my hand. On closer inspection of the bag, I realised it wasn’t mine!
For some, losing a bag may just be inconvenient and a loss of clothes, but for me the bag had my medication in and CPAP medical device that I needed to sleep that night. One thing that I have learnt on my sight loss journey, is that panic doesn’t help and things generally have a way of working out. So, I calmly approached the assistance and advised of the issue. I showed them my bags location on a map (thanks to AirTags). They had a look around, but time was running out with my next train about to arrive. I left the mistaken bag with the staff at Doncaster and they helped me on to my next train.
Tracking My Bag
While on the train down to London, I rang my wife to let her know what I had done and sent her the location of my Bag. She could tell it was still on the train by it’s location. She reached out to the train company and the customer service assistant was able get hold of the conductor on the train. The conductor was able to find my Bag and agreed to bring it back to my home station on the return train later in the day.
While my wife worked miracles with finding and getting my bag returned home, I contacted my doctor to get my medication prescribed to the pharmacy at Kings Cross in case I couldn’t get my bag that day.
With the bag being returned home for 4pm, my wife set about how to get it from Cleethorpes to London, some 150+ miles away. A few calls to couriers, and she found one that could collect the bag and deliver it direct to my hotel that evening.
Arriving in London
The train pulled into Kings Cross where I was greeted by assistance who guided me to the pharmacy at the station. Unfortunately, after a bit of waiting, the prescription still hadn’t been sent through, so I decided to head to the office and return later to collect my prescription. I always use black cabs in London as I know they will be helpful and get me to where I need to be. Normally, I have the assistance take me to the Taxi rank, on this occasion I know the Taxi rank location relative to the pharmacy from previous visits, so I was okay navigating with my white cane. I took the Taxi to the office and starting my working day.
Reunited With My Bag
After work, I went for food with colleagues and then on to my hotel. By this point the courier had contacted me to confirm the delivery time and location. I used What3Words to help the courier know exactly where I was. If you haven’t heard of What3Words, it is a fantastic service that provides three words which translate into a metre square location anywhere in the world. With this and my mobile number, the courier found me easily and handed over my bag just after 9pm. With a sense of relief, I could settle down for the night and collect my prescription later in the week.
A couple of days later, I repeated the trip in reverse. This time I didn’t have a mix up with my luggage and made it home safely. It would be much more challenging without the Passenger Assistance service, which really does remove a lot of trepidation from any journey.
Lessons From The Journey
After settling back home, my kids were keen to help me find ways for this never to happen again. Being creative, my son suggested that I fit a voice box to my bag, so when the handle is picked up it says my name. While I don’t think I will go to those lengths, I did learn a few things that I am taking forward.
- My wife is amazing and life would be so hard without knowing she has my back whenever I need it
- Staying calm and believing everything will be okay is key
- I need to have something that allows me to check my bag by touch. I am looking for a braille keyring that is unique to me to attach
- Put some medication in your coat or backpack to reduce the immediate impact of losing medication
- Triple check everything!
So this is how I, as a Blind person, travel on trains.
Tell me what you think in the comments below or on X @timdixon82