Orientation and Mobility training
Orientation and mobility specialists teach people with vision loss to move around safely by using their remaining vision, auditory cues and/or other techniques (e.g. using a white cane, dog guide or a sighted guide). Detecting curbs, crossing streets, using public transport and getting in and out of cars safely are all possible when the correct techniques are used. Some basic suggestions are provided below:
Independent Travel: moving about the environment
- Allow ample time to travel.
- Slow your pace to be able to scan the environment with eye and hand movements.
- Choose best-lit and least-cluttered routes, both indoors and outdoors.
- Find alternate routes around dangerous intersections and construction areas.
- Look for cues and landmarks to stay oriented to surroundings.
- Use curbing or line up streetlights as a guide.
- Look for contrast on sidewalk vs. street to see curbs, asphalt, and concrete.
- Look at corners of steps to see contrast better.
- Mark door handles and steps with reflective tape.
- Watch for stairs, steps, and changes in level.
- Take the elevator to avoid stairs; when on stairs, use railings.
- Wear a brimmed hat for protection from branches.
Vision loss does not mean no longer travelling alone. As with any activity, confidence and skill come with time. The support and guidance of a mobility specialist can assist in the process of learning independent travel. Some people who are blind or visually impaired will be more open to the idea of independent travel than others. For those who need a period of adjustment, support from a carer in organising travel can be an excellent and practical option.
Here are some ways to manage potentially frustrating situations outside the home.
Independent Travel Checklist:
- Use large-print cheques and writing guides to make signing easier.
- Identify coins by touch and fold paper money or separate it in the wallet by denomination.
- Take a moment to let the eyes adjust when switching from a bright environment to a dimly lit one.
- Carry a magnifier and/or penlight to read labels, price tags, elevator buttons, or directions.
- Use a mini tape recorder to make a shopping list, instead of struggling with a handwritten list.
- Tell the bus driver in advance which stop you require.
- Sit at the front of the bus and near the door.