A few semesters ago, I decided it was time to upgrade the backpack I had been carrying since eighth grade, and went to my college bookstore to check out my options. While I was there, I started making a mental list of tips for choosing a backpack with low vision and what would be the best backpack for visual impairment. After spending about an hour testing out different backpacks, I was able to find the perfect backpack for my needs. Here are my tips for choosing a backpack for people with low vision.
Choose something that doesn’t blend into the floor
My previous backpack matched the floor of my dorm perfectly, so I would sometimes have trouble finding it before class started or I would accidentally run into it if it was left on the floor. My new backpack is a bright pink floral pattern and stands out against the floor in my dorm and classroom, so I can easily find it without having to resort to using a remote visual assistant to help me locate my backpack on the floor.
Look for high contrast lining if possible
Another thing that helps me is having bright contrast lining in my backpack so I can easily find items that may have fallen to the bottom of the bag. This is especially helpful when I am looking for my smaller electronics or am using my backpack when going on a trip, since a darker lining would cause many of my most-used items to blend in.
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Make sure it can accommodate assistive technology
One of my friends once purchased a new backpack along with a new 17 inch laptop, and was frustrated to discover that their backpack’s laptop sleeve wouldn’t fit the new computer. They ended up having to go buy another backpack with a larger sleeve so that the laptop would fit properly. Since I have a small Surface computer, I don’t really have to worry about my laptop not fitting, but I do make sure there are pockets for other assistive devices I use such as my eReader, video magnifier, headphones, and similar tools.
- Questions To Ask When Choosing A Laptop For College
- eReaders and Low Vision
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Think about how to store a blindness cane, if relevant
One of my favorite ways to store my blindness cane in the classroom is by collapsing it and putting it in the water bottle pocket of my backpack. Sometimes, I also put my cane in a smaller section of my backpack or in another discreet but easy to access area. This is especially helpful in my college classes since I don’t need to keep my cane out in class and I don’t want it to get stepped on.
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Ensure items won’t be damaged if the backpack is dropped… or falls out of a car
Once upon a time, I was getting in a car on my way to my internship and the door didn’t close correctly. As the car was driving away, my backpack fell out of the car and onto the pavement, and I started frantically telling the driver to stop the car. While I hadn’t considered the possibility of my backpack falling out of a moving car, I was thrilled to discover everything inside was completely intact, including my internship laptop. In that moment, I was beyond grateful that I had chosen a backpack that could withstand falls without damages to the contents inside.
- How I Learned To Navigate My Internship Building With Low Vision
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- Ten Things To Know About Going To College With A Blindness Cane
Add a unique texture or other label
Since I bring my backpack on many different adventures, I like to ensure that it can easily be identified or returned to me if something happened. I have a large print luggage tag attached to my backpack that has a distinct texture on the back of it so I can ensure I don’t walk off with an identical looking backpack. This was especially helpful to have with my internship backpack, as almost all of the employees on my floor had the same backpack as me.
- How To Create Tactile Images With Everyday Objects
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Check measurements to ensure it fits in a locker/under a desk
While I don’t use a locker in college, I did use one when I was attending public school, and the school district had rules about what backpacks were allowed to be brought to school. If this is a concern, check to make sure that the backpack will fit in a locker, under a desk, or otherwise be compliant with safety requirements. It’s worth noting that while wheeled backpacks were not allowed at my high school, I received a special accommodation to use one due to my chronic back pain.
- School Lockers and Low Vision
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- Choosing A Backpack With Chronic Pain
One of my favorite things about my backpack is that I don’t have to think about it very often, as I know that it will keep all of my stuff safe and that it will last me for many years to come. I hope these tips are helpful for purchasing a backpack with low vision!