Have you heard of the Ramble Tag? Invented by two keen Scottish ramblers, partially sighted Tom Forsyth and his friend Laura McClean, it’s a guidance aid that aims to increase independence and enjoyment for blind and partially sighted people while walking with a guide. While the name (and the tartan themed packaging) might suggest it’s designed specifically for rambling around the highlands and lochs of Scotland, it is actually suitable for a multitude of applications.
It incorporates a strong neoprene rope handle, which provides a comfortable alternative to the linked arms of traditional guiding. This neoprene handle has adjustable Velcro straps so it can fit different sized arms, and there is also the option for right- and left-handed users. And, as you would expect from something invented by two rambling Scots, the Ramble Tag is suitable for use in all weathers, including Scotland’s own frequently dreich climate.
Based in Euston, we at London Vision don’t have much on our doorstep in the way of hikes and rambles so we had to put the Ramble Tag to the test with some more everyday applications. We frequently host events at our office for blind and partially sighted people, many of whom need guiding from Euston Station to the office – so our recent Networks Tea provided a perfect assignment.
Strapping on the Ramble Tag I met Darren at Euston, ready to guide him over to the office. Darren was more used to a linked arm guiding style, so using the Ramble Tag was initially quite an unfamiliar experience. He noted that compared to traditional guiding, the guided person does not get as much information from the tag as they might from an arm. This necessitated a need for more verbal cues than might not normally required when guiding. However, on a hike or ramble, where the terrain underfoot is likely to be more uneven and unpredictable, the fact that the Ramble Tag encourages verbal communication is a plus point.
One of the benefits of the Ramble Tag is the fact that it eliminates the need for physical contact between the guide blind or partially sighted person. Some people might question why you would want to prevent physical contact, but on a hot sunny day – such as the one we used it on – the guide or guided person might be uncomfortable with touching someone who might be a bit sweaty. Furthermore, for people whose religious views forbid them from having physical contact with the opposite sex, the Ramble Tag is a great new option. For this reason alone, sight loss organisations would do well to have a Ramble Tag around for these instances, likewise, TFL – whose Turn Up and Go service helps many blind and partially sighted people travel on the network – should look to invest in a Ramble Tag to ensure that all passengers are able to be guided comfortably.