How travel training can change lives

The Disability Support Service enables people of all ages living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to make informed choices about their future. We are here throughout their journey offering expert support, guidance and skills, helping people to fulfil their potential. Along the way, we've built up a vast amount of tips to make the journey easier, and we're happy to share those with you today.

Top 5 tips - Sam's story

“My name is Sam Taylor, and I live in Henshaws Housing and Support. I have been increasing my mobility and travel through specialist training. I can now travel independently; beginning with local places and recently by aeroplane to Cyprus and back!”

With these top tips we’d like to share basic principles we always consider when undertaking training, including when we helped Sam achieve her mobility goal.

You too can apply these when helping someone to travel, or supporting an individual to become a safe, confident traveller.

Sam pressing the buttons on her microwave which are embossed with stickers.

1 in circlePerson-centred assessment

Accurate assessment is essential, and should always be person centred, tailored and considerate to individuals needs, capabilities and aspirations. Completing a detailed, often multi disciplinary type assessment will help identify with the person what they want to achieve, are most confident in and what training and support they need to get there.

Close-up shot of Sam in the kitchen, smiling at the camera

Learning, reinforcing and maintaining skills

2 in circle blue backgroundBuilding confidence and self achievement are central to what the disability support service does.

We work with the person to create resources to help them learn and achieve skills. For example writing things down, videoing or sequencing a route using photographs on an iPad, could help them learn a route to the local shops using a long cane. Once a person has successfully achieved their goal, they need encouragement and opportunity to practise and maintain the skill.

Working alongside mobility staff will ensure you are informed of what the person can do for themselves, what parts they may need help with and how this help should be given. Initially some people may need guiding whilst they become familiar with a new environment.

You should always check the person’s well-being before they go out, if they are distracted, tired or un-well, they will find it hard to keep safe.

Booking assistance over the phone and at the airport customer service desk or by instructing the taxi driver on her preferred side to be guided, helped Sam maintain her communication skills. Using a Dictaphone to record a checklist to complete before each flight helped organise herself. Liaising with Sam’s support staff ensured they were informed of progress and any specific areas Sam needed help with."

Icon of a phone

3 in circlePlanning and preparing for your journey

Consider simple things that may affect the journey. These can include time of day you are travelling, aids or equipment that may help such as a Dictaphone or a long cane, type of ticket to purchase and how and where it can be bought from. What assistance is needed and how to get it? e.g. sighted guide from station staff. Some travellers will need help choosing suitable clothing for the journey, taking into account changes to the weather, or help to re-cap safe travel skills before setting off.

Sam feels more alert and able to concentrate earlier in the day, so we carried out our training then. She struggles with memory so used her Braille skills and a Dictaphone to record and write up key information such as contact numbers, what to take with her each time she travelled, to refer back to later. She also benefitted from visiting the airport before she flew to familiarise herself with the sounds, smells etc."

Sam using Braille machine

4 in circleClear, consistent communication

Many people we support have learning disabilities, and may have difficulties with communication and language, and may take longer to process information. Added sight impairment could increase these difficulties.

It is essential to adapt your style to suit the individual. Use clear, simple language, avoiding jargon, but try not to be patronising. Observing body language and facial expressions may help you to understand what the person is trying to communicate. Use your own gestures and facial expressions to aid communication.

Some people may find it easier to use real objects or objects of reference to aid their communication. Photos or pictures can also help if objects aren’t available. Try to find a good location to communicate – somewhere quiet without distractions. Remember – all communication is meaningful; but you may need to adapt your own communication style.

Due to Sam’s total sight loss, she relies on tone of voice and choice of language to interpret meaning and emotion. We used role plays to simulate different scenarios she may encounter on her journey, from booking the taxi to locating her seat on the plane. Using positive and negative situations in a controlled role play environment helped promote problem solving whilst helping Sam recognise what questions and responses to give in different situations."

5 in circleTaking risks and staying safe

Taking risks is essential when developing confidence and the ability to problem solve and deal with unexpected situations such as cancelled flights or losing belongings. These risks need to be identified and safeguards put in place to minimise or remove the risk. All of our training includes dealing with new situations and learning ways to identify solutions to problems that may arise. It’s another simple way to promote independence and discourage over dependence.

Visiting the airport beforehand and talking to customer service staff gave Sam the opportunity to ask the airport staff the “what if” questions, putting her mind at rest. Role playing different but potential scenarios including stranger danger and staying safe in the airport and on the plane again helped Sam feel more confident and empowered to deal with any unexpected circumstances."

Bonus tips!

Don’t forget about time management. The length of time it takes to achieve a goal will vary from person to person, and this is why all training needs to be tailored to the needs of the individual. Safe independent travel should not be rushed but managed at the pace of the person.

Technology definitely can be your friend. There are many new aids to assist independent mobility from hand held electronic echo devices to mobile phone apps that help navigate across towns and cities. We help individuals to trial and assess the suitability of different aids and evaluate which will best suit their needs.

At Henshaws, our affordable therapies, rehabilitation support and training can be delivered at our purpose-built facilities in Harrogate, in the home or at a workplace. 

Working together for people with disabilities, our reputation is built on delivering a quality and affordable specialist service, providing outstanding levels of care, guidance and support for people with a range of disabilities. We can work within a variety of funding models to meet your needs.

Our experienced team is always happy to talk about any service you might wish to purchase or develop. Please contact us: call 01423 886451 or email

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We can't do it without you

Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.

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