O&M Division newsletter, Winter 2006
This column is for you to share ideas and strategies that have worked;,
raise concerns; and share information -- send them to the editor (page 2).
Lori Miller, an O&M specialist who is blind, experienced traveling in a new
light last spring when she became a mother! Her son Khareus was born on May
4, 2005 -- congratulations Lori!
Traveling with Baby -- Tips on Strollers for Blind Parents
Lori Miller, COMS, Indiana
Traveling with a baby has certainly had its challenges, but it can be
tons of fun for baby and parent. One essential aspect is to find a method
or form of travel that works best for both adult and child. There are many
variables that factor into the process and I will attempt to share what has
worked for me, which may or may not work for others. The following
information is based on my personal experience and likes and dislikes.
Selecting the right stroller:
I have discovered after going through several different types and
styles of strollers and literally going around the block several times and
up and down store aisles that there are a number of features that are very
important if you intend to pull the stroller instead of pushing.
In the typical stroller, the wheels closest to you are fixed and the
others swivel, creating a fishtail effect when you pull it, and the baby is
facing backward, looking away from the adult. Working with the fishtailing
requires a whole lot more effort and caution when navigating narrow
sidewalks and close confines, and for safety reasons I don't like the baby
facing away from me. My first stroller operated this way and after a 3-mile
walk with it I was exhausted!
So I like a stroller that has a reversible handle which allows baby to
face forward or backwards, and wheels that have the option of being fixed or
rotating (this makes it travel more like a standard stroller if you decide
to push it, although some people do not like how it feels at first). Over
all, even when pushing, we have found that when all the wheels are rotating,
the flexibility is a plus because you can turn the stroller in close areas
like elevators and hallways. Minimal height adjustment for the handle is
also helpful to me, as I'm not very tall.
Another wonderful feature to look for in a stroller is what is called a
boot -- a cloth covering that zips over baby, providing warmth and
protection from weather. This makes me feel like the baby is safer because
it lessens the risk of small objects (like blowing leaves) from falling in
on the child, and it may discourage toys being thrown out while on the move.
The harness should be fairly simple and easy to operate, especially if
you have to frequently remove the child while riding on public
One stroller that has all the features and more (and is baby and
mommy's preferred choice for travel) is Peg Perego's Venezia stroller
(www.perego.com ). This particular stroller is rather pricey but in
addition to having all the features (the adjustable-length handle can be
reversed and each set of wheels can be fixed or swiveling), it is easy to
fold and unfold and has handles on both sides for carrying. It isn't the
lightest stroller on the market, but I am able to manage carrying baby in
one arm and guiding the stroller up or down the 6 steps outside of our home.
I also like the fact that the seat back can fully recline so baby can sleep,
which helps when you need to figure out what to do with baby while eating in
a restaurant. My baby has been content to sit or lay in his stroller and
play with toys while we eat -- of course, this was a solution before he
reached the stage of wanting to sit in a high chair!
I am constantly back and forth between environments ranging from
semi-rural (streets without sidewalks), to the narrow hilly streets of San
Francisco, maneuvering on and off Muni and across street car tracks, and I
have found this stroller to fit my lifestyle of travels.
Tips when traveling:
While in transit and in public places I have found that a pacifier clip
to keep the pacifier attached to the child has been a big plus. I choose
pacifiers that have swinging handles because you are more likely to hear
them if they are thrown to the ground. I also choose toys that make a sound
when they contact something, such as interlocking rings, etc.
When flying, I've found it helpful to place an infant carseat in the
stroller and push or pull it to the gate. You can take the stroller on the
jet way and the flight attendants will check it at the last minute and bring
it back to you when you deplane. It is a real plus when transferring gates
because you can use the stroller to transport baby instead of carrying.
My baby Khareus is almost ten months now and mobile -- crawling! We
just did another cross country trip, and traveling with an infant
convertible carseat this time was much more of a hassle. So, I've invested
in a Sit & Stroll which is a carseat and stroller in one. It is supposed to
be superb for public transportation and flying -- I saw another woman using
it on one of my flights and realized that she was having much less of a
struggle to juggle everything.. So, after I actually get it and use it,
I'll have more to share here in the newsletter.
Fall 2006 Newsletter, O&M Division
The author of this article, Lori Miller, is a blind mother who is also a
Certified O&M Specialist. After writing an article about strollers for our
Winter, 2006 newsletter, Lori's adventures expanded as her baby grew into a
toddler, and she is back with more wisdom that we can pass along to blind
Kids and Traveling
Lori Miller, COMS, Indiana
As my baby entered toddlerhood, I decided to look around for
alternative ways to travel besides the stroller. I began to dread pulling
the stroller up and down the stairs of our home before securing my toddler
in the stroller, and at the bus stops I was tired of having to quickly fold
the stroller as the bus pulled up and then board the bus while juggling
child, stroller, cane, and a diaper bag. Other parents had talked about
using a backpack, but I hadn't tried it because it wasn't an option when my
son was recovering from surgery for a birth defect.
However once he had healed, I was determined to find a backpack that
would work for both of us, even though it was difficult to find something
that would fit me because I am petite. I went to REI because it had the
biggest selection and was the most convenient location to travel to,
although our adventure to get there reminded me how much I really wanted to
try out a backpack!
It is important that the parent try several styles and toy with
adjustments. Some of the packs have waist belts and frames like a true
hiking backpack which helps distribute the weight more evenly, and adjusting
the height of the child's seat can also effect where the weight rests on the
person carrying it. For instance, at first, the packs tortured me by putting
to much pressure on my neck and shoulders and made me feel like my head was
going to explode. We found that by raising the child's seat, this resolved
Packs can range in price from around $50 to $250. They also vary in
terms of how much weight they can hold. Some hold children up to 60 pounds.
Some are equipped with sun and rain shades while others aren't. Certain
packs have a "kickstand" which allows the child to be sat down on the floor
securely while you are loading or unloading him or her. Other features may
include loops to assist in putting the pack on or attaching toys, pouches
for storing travel items, and netted bottle holders for beverages. Each pack
may in itself range in weight from just a few pounds up to the hiking packs
which may weigh as much as six or seven pounds. The packs with an
adjustable length of torso allow more than one person to use the backpack to
carry the child.
There are a few advantages that I have found in using a pack verses a
stroller. I enjoy having both hands free to use for my choice of travel aid
while carrying items or doing such things as opening doors, etc. I can use
the stairs and escalators and not spend precious time looking for elevators,
as I must do with a stroller. I also like for my child to be up where people
won't accidentally trip over him or drop something on him, and he likes
being up at my level or higher in order to survey his environment. While he
is riding up close to me and near my head, I can tell which direction he is
looking and interact with him more (however this is not fun if child has a
Along with the positives come the negatives. The pack may be cumbersome
to put on or take off. Quite often you must be creative to do so and it may
take practice. If I use the backpack, I don't have a car seat for hopping in
and out of taxis and other vehicles. However, a few brands do make
stroller/backpack combinations which might be convenient if you didn't want
to carry the pack for the entire time. The packs can get awfully heavy, so
they may not be ideal for super long trips unless one has worked up to it.
Unfortunately, my son has reached a weight that is one fourth of my weight,
so I have about reached the maximum amount of weight that I want to carry.
Someone interested in trying to use a backpack for transporting a child
may want to plan for a decent amount of time to research and try out various
packs. It may be helpful to have someone who already uses a backpack
accompany you while shopping for yours because, speaking from personal
experience, store sales representatives may not have the time and may not
know how to make the proper adjustments. I have received more helpful info
about making adjustments from actual backpack users. Your success may also
depend on how cooperative the child is in regards to trying various packs
and making numerous adjustments. However, once you have found that perfect
fit for both child and adult, off you will go, wondering why you hadn't done
Stroller / car seat combinations
It is not uncommon for me to travel by car, bus, airplane, and taxi all
in one day, and when I am out and about with the stroller, my plans might
change and we need a car seat, or vice versa. When one travels using public
transportation, paratransit, and rides from friends and family, you just
never know who is picking you up and whether or not they have a car seat.
The big challenge of doing this is finding safe and convenient ways to
transport my baby in all of these modes of transportation. I need something
that can be safely collapsed and stowed on the bus and can also be used as a
car seat that is easily installed and removed from cars, fits with ease in
the airline seat or can be checked, converts to a stroller for the hustle
across the airport, and then switches back to a car seat for the taxi ride
from the airport.
The Sit & Stroll offers this flexibility, as it serves as both a
stroller and a car seat. As a stroller, the handle and wheels retract and
voila, you have a carseat. When you reach your destination, you take the
carseat out, and put down the wheels and pull up the handle and away you go.
It has a short wheelbase and takes up very little room, and I've also been
told that because it is so slim, it is easier to use as a carseat when there
is a limited amount of space in a car, such as when traveling with more than
one child who requires a carseat.. The combination does not come with a
sun-shade, but attachable sun-shades can be purchased separately. The rear
wheels also have brakes to keep it from rolling. It is not the easiest item
to find in the stores, but they can be purchased on line at places like
One disadvantage of the Sit & Stroll is that it is fairly low to the
ground so people don't always see it if they are in a hurry. But the more
important disadvantage is that, unlike Peg Perego's Venezia stroller that I
described in the Winter 2006 newsletter (www.perego.com), the handle does
not reverse, so when you pull it, the child must face away from you. Thus I
use the Venezia as my everyday stroller, but when I need the two-in-one
feature in order to commute, monitor a toddler, and travel using a cane, I
use the Sit & Stroll.