Diverse Abilities

Gina Martin

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Zip Lining

ziplining blindWays to navigate zip lining with low to no vision

The first time I zip lined was in 2016 while I was attending The Louisiana Centre for the Blind, receiving training to navigate life with sight loss.  What was unique about this adventure was that we all wore learning shades (a blindfold)!  It was another exhilarating experience in learning how to enjoy adventures, only differently than when I had sight. 

I have been on a few different kinds of zip lines now and I love the rush and the sensation of flying! I want to share some strategies that may be helpful for people who are partially sighted or blind and want to try zip lining. 

It is important to use your voice and ask for what you need. Once, I went to a ropes course alone. That was not manageable for me.  I learned that day to ask for help. A Father and his teenage son kindly helped me along the course. The Dad went down first, and the son waited with me, alerting me when the coast was clear and telling me when to go and the Dad yelled to me when to start braking. We managed to get through it, but I found it more challenging than I was comfortable with. I would not recommend doing a ropes course with a zip line to start. Start with a straight zip for a successful experience.  Strategy 1:  If you want to do the ropes course, it is fun, but I strongly recommend going with 2 friends or family members that you trust and start out on a straight zip.

The next zip line I went on was not going to allow me to go because I would not be able to see the orange flag markers on the ground that are the indicators of when to start slowing down. I did have 15% or so of my vision remaining at that time.  I advocated for myself and said, “You are right. I cannot see your markers, but there are other landmarks I could use to know when to start slowing down such as groupings of trees, buildings, body of water, and roads.” I was able to successfully manage. I did have a difficult time with my eyes adjusting from sun when transitioning to shade and will always wear my sunglasses from now on. For me, it is safer.  Strategy 2: advocate for yourself by pointing out workable, safe alternatives.

My next zip line experience, I was able to share with my best friend. There were 2 zip lines side by side about 10 feet apart. We could go at the same time, so I kept her in my peripheral vision and slowed when she started slowing. That was fun -- but I wanted to go faster ha ha!  Strategy 3: choose a side-by-side zip line and go with a trusted friend to act as a guide as you zip along!

Recently my husband and I went. Again, it was the side-by-side zip line.  This time a walkie talkie was fastened to my harness and the guide at the bottom spoke when it was time for me to start slowing down. Unfortunately, on the first of 4 zip lines I did not hear him telling me to slow down. I was going full speed, adrenaline pumping fast, and the sound of the zip line buzzing overpowered the walkie talkie!  Strategy 4:  find a method that allows you to hear and follow verbal directions. Maybe this would be a Bluetooth earpiece to overcome ambient noise that prevents normal hearing.

The next 3 zip lines I went slower. On the Eagle Flight, I controlled the speed. Going slower did help me hear when to slow down.   Strategy 5:  choose a zip line that allows easier speed management. You don’t have to go on the highest and fastest one.

One lady on our tour was a very loud whistler and she tried to alert me to slow down, but I did not hear her at all, so that was not an option on that course. An air horn could be a good indicator.  Next time I go I will take an air horn to see if I can hear it over the sound of the buzzing from the zip line. 

Do you have other techniques or methods to help you navigate the adventure of zip lining with low to no sigh? It would be great if you could share your way so others can be inspired to step out of their comfort zone. 

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