The Vision Rehab Podcast is a short monthly podcast about topics and issues related to vision rehabilitation therapists and vision rehab. You can also listen on your smart speaker, just ask for, “Vision Rehab Podcast.”
Let’s talk about getting from here to there with a recent vision loss. October is White Cane Awareness Month and it’s a great time to talk about independent travel skills after a vision loss.
If you’re like a lot of people with a vision loss you experienced later in life, you probably spent your whole life driving or using public transportation by reading signs, looking for stops, routes, and directions. With less vision you may need to add a few more tools to your traveling tool kit.
Last year on this podcast, in October, I mentioned the professionals who teach independent travel with a vision loss—everything from handheld telescopes to read far away signs, glare filters for seeing in the sunlight, and using a white cane. These professionals are called Orientation and Mobility Specialists and you’ll find them most often at state or local agency providing services for clients with a vision loss. These O&Mers as their often called are the skilled professionals who can teach you how to get around your neighborhood while you’re out walking, use a rideshare service like Uber, figure out the bus schedule, and so much more.
Recently I was reminded that it may not be easy to find and Orientation and Mobility Specialist, or with COVID, there may be a waiting list for services. What are the next steps?
OK, just a reminder that the best way to find and O&M professional is to look up your state in the VisionAware Directory of Services, online at VisionAware.org/directory. Or call the ConnectCenter and they can find the closest agency to you. Their number is: 800-232-5463. And by the way there is usually no charge for these services, or it is nominal, based on a sliding scale.
If you aren’t able to find an O&M professional, the next best thing is to put together some training for yourself. Start with one of the consumer groups, like the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Don’t be put off by the word blind here is you have some sight, the NFB welcomes people with low vision. Call the national number to find a chapter near you. There number is 410-659-9314 or you can find them online at nfb.org. They can provide you with a white cane if you’re interested and connect you with someone locally who can share resources.
Check out the workshops at Hadley. There is no charge to register, and once registered you can take any workshops you want including those on independent travel like the Tips for Guided Walking Series and Taking the Stairs Series. You can also get these audio recording on a Talking Book Cartridge instead of listening online. Just call Hadley’s Help Desk at 800-323-4238 for more information.
If you do have access to a computer, like almost anything else, there is information and tutorials available online. One resource I found is Michael Mulligan’s website, BlindOnTheMove.com. Michael is a nationally certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, and he offers a number of tutorials on O&M techniques and using a white cane. You can also find Blind on the Move tutorials on YouTube.
Once again, I think it’s worth mentioning, that if it all possible, the best way to start the process learning some of these independent travel techniques is with a proper assessment and training from an O&M Specialist, but if this is not available, don’t let that stop your progress!
Lastly, October 15 is National White Cane Safety Day, originally proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson. Be sure to check in your local community to see if there are some events being held to observe the day.
So this October, get out there and get moving!