On the Move
Vision Loss and Blindness does not mean that you cannot leave home independently or travel safely. White canes are the first tool used by the blind or vision impaired. The purpose of the white cane is to find the clear path ahead of you or to let others know you have vision loss. White canes do require evaluation and training by an Orientation and Mobility Specialist. People who have some remaining vision can learn tips on how to recognize stairs, curbs and identify landmarks for orientation. The use of pocket-sized telescopes can help identify street signs. Pennsylvania has recently expanded driver licenses for use of Bioptic glasses which are telescopes mounted into traditional glasses that allow the low vision driver ability to spot the road signs when needed. Drivers who would qualify must have these special glasses prescribed by a low vision optometrist and require additional training in their use while driving. And speaking of technology, most of the GPS apps on your smartphone have included pedestrian
Navigation in addition to driving directions. If you have text to speech enabled such as VoiceOver on an iPhone or TalkBack on an Android phone you can use these GPS apps to plan a route, announce points of interest such as libraries, grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants on your route. Street names and intersections can be announced as you approach. Wearing headphones that are open ear or have a transparency mode allows you to hear your GPS while still hearing traffic sounds. There are a few devices on the market that can identify obstacles in your path such as the low hanging branch or waist-high signs or other extended objects in your path. This can be a handheld or worn device which provides a vibration and/or audible beep which increases in intensity the closer you approach a potential obstacle. This gives you time to adjust and avoid a collision. No, I did not forget dog guides. I have personally worked with dog guides for over twenty years. My dog finds the clear path ahead and provides a warning when I reach a stair or curb. In many cases, dogs provide a faster travel experience as they are trained to avoid the obstacle rather than a white cane needs to encounter the obstacle while walking. The choice between using a white cane or dog guide is totally an individual preference and all should learn good white cane skills if using a dog guide is not the best option. Both white cane and dog guides cannot provide information of obstacles at the waist or head height for this reason some choose to use this additional obstacle detection described above to add that extra information needed. For more information on traveling blind or with low vision contact TechOWL!
The article was written by Jule Ann Lieberman MS, Certified Low Vision Therapist and Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist