While attending public school in Virginia, I had many opportunities to go on field trips with my class. This included historical sites, museums, special events, and many other places. Even though we didn’t know how bad my vision was, my teachers always were great about including me, and never discouraged me from going on trips just because I had an IEP. Here are my tips for going on field trips with vision impairments, including blindness and low vision- and a low amount of stress too.
Have a familiar chaperone
Whenever possible, my mom would chaperone field trips so that I would have a familiar person I could go to that wasn’t the teacher. Parents of my friends would chaperone a lot of trips too, so there was always a familiar face.
Let the location know there is a low vision student
Call the field trip location ahead of time and specify there will be a visitor with low vision. They can tell you about resources available, or modify the tour so it avoids common obstacles.
Have a quiet place
When my middle school went to watch an IMAX movie at a museum, I had to leave ten minutes in because the 3D effect was making my eyes and head hurt. One of the chaperones, a parent of one of my friends, took me to another quiet area of the museum where I sat with them until the rest of the class returned. Two of my friends came to join me because they didn’t want me to feel left out, and the movie was apparently boring anyway. I really appreciated having somewhere to go when I was super overwhelmed.
Request accessible materials, if possible
If the class is going to a museum, request a large print/Braille exhibit guide, and read more about my tips on visiting museums here. If it’s a trip to the movie theater, get an assistive listening device and read more about my tips on visiting movie theaters here. If there are worksheets or activities the class will be completing, make sure the assignments are in an accessible format.
Bring small assistive technology devices
If they are used regularly, bringing a video magnifier (read my review on the Eschenbach SmartLux here) or other small, easy-to-carry device can help with exploring surroundings. A simple magnifying glass can also go a long way.
Don’t have the low vision student get off the bus first
One time, the school bus parked in front of a gravel pothole, and the chaperones made me get off the bus first, not realizing there was a pothole. Normally, I would have someone help me off the bus, since I have no depth perception and I didn’t use a blindness cane at the time. Nevertheless, they persisted, and I tripped off the last step of the bus, fell into the pothole, and broke my ankle. What was supposed to be a normal event turned into a very stressful one for my teacher, chaperones, and parents- not to mention fellow students. While not all low vision students are as accident prone as I am, it still doesn’t hurt to not get off the bus immediately. For more on my broken ankle story, read this post about dealing with injuries.
Have a buddy
In addition to a chaperone, having a fellow student help is invaluable. I usually would have one of my friends or another familiar person help informally guide me around. For more on being a human guide, read this.
When walking around outside or viewing an exhibit, talk about what’s around. Is there a blue fish swimming by? Are there strawberry bushes on the left side? Or is there a set of stairs coming up? Verbalize these things to the entire group, so the student with low vision doesn’t seem singled out.
Be careful with photos
Some students with low vision may also have photosensitivity, and be sensitive to flashing lights. Let chaperones and other staff members know if this is the case, so they know to avoid flash photography. Read my post on flash photography here.
Understand if the student doesn’t want to participate
This is more common for older students, but understanding when a student would prefer to be excluded from trips is important. For example, I used to be very sensitive to loud noises, so I didn’t want to go to a military cannon firing event. I also decided to skip the movie theater field trips because I don’t really like movie theaters that much, and I’m sensitive to flashing lights. Thankfully, no one really insisted that I be included in these events if I didn’t want to be.
I’m glad that I was able to go on various field trips and explore my community, as well as surrounding areas. Hopefully these tips will help other students, parents, and teachers ensure that trips go smoothly, and that everyone is included.