Browse By Topic: Orientation and Mobility

Researchers Continue to Explore the Potential of Human Echolocation and Acoustics for People with Vision Loss

Logo of the AcousticalSociety of America Vision rehabilitation professionals, including Orientation and Mobility Specialists, Vision Rehabilitation Therapists, and Low Vision Therapists, have long been aware of the need to incorporate sensory input, including echolocation, in their instructional programs. Human echolocation describes the ability of humans to detect objects in their environments by sensing reflected sound waves from those objects. Now it appears that acoustic scientists are also


Aira: A New and Exciting Access Service for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Aira (pronounced "EYE-rah") has made quite a debut on the access technology scene recently. It has impressed the likes of CSUN2017, Assistive Media, Inc., and won "Best in Show" honors at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I learned about Aira at this year’s American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference, and it wowed me too!   What Is Aira? Aira calls itself a "visual


American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference Recap: Some Critical Issues for Older Persons with Vision Loss

Guest blogger Kay McGill (pictured at left recording a Public Service Announcement) is the manager of Project Independence: Georgia Vision Program for Adults Age 55 and Over. The Georgia Vision Program is administered by the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency and provides the following services to people who are at least 55 years old and have vision loss or a combined vision and hearing loss: comprehensive


The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss Is Moving Forward!

The 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss: Some Background AFB began a "national conversation" on aging and vision loss over a year ago in anticipation of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. As noted in our post on the outcome of the conference, AFB and other stakeholders have been extremely concerned that aging and vision loss issues have not been addressed in any significant way on a national level: "Older persons with vision problems should not be sidelined or forgotten because of their inability to engage – due to


Meet Dr. Gislin Dagnelie and Dr. Duane Geruschat: Pioneers in the Study of Restored and Prosthetic Vision

Gislin Dagnelie, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the associate director of the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center, a division of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. His work over the last 20 years has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation,


New Research Explained: Restoring Vision Following Long-Term Blindness: Prosthetic Vision and Considerations for Rehabilitation

During the past several years, there has been much "buzz" in the popular press about the capabilities of the so-called "bionic" eye, described variously as "miraculous," "restoring sight," and "letting me see again." At VisionAware, we have followed the development of "bionic" or "prosthetic" vision closely, avoiding hyperbole and striving to report factual, research-based information about the limitations of restored vision. Now, in this month's edition of the Journal of Vision Impairment & Blindness, two researchers who are pioneers in the study of prosthetic vision analyze the current state of the art in


AFB Press Releases New Edition of Making Life More Livable: Simple Adaptations for Living at Home after Vision Loss

by Mary D'Apice, VisionAware Contributing Writer An interview with Maureen A. Duffy, CVRT, Author Making Life More Livable Agencies that provide services to people who are blind or visually impaired offer vision rehabilitation to the 5.3 million Americans over 65 with


New Research: Gene Therapy Restores Some Vision in Clinical Trials for Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA)

Gene therapy for the treatment of specific eye and retinal disorders, such as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), has shown promise, but research has produced uneven results thus far and has not produced a cure. To date, gene therapy studies have raised concerns among researchers, including inconsistent initial and longer-term results, such as this LCA gene therapy study from the National Eye Institute, which reported that


Could Echolocation Become a "Complete Sensory Replacement" for Sight? New Research Says Yes

New research from the United Kingdom and Canada has examined the influence of echolocation (explained below), a method that many blind persons use to perceive the location and structure of objects in the environment. The researchers determined, via controlled experimentation, that "echolocation is not just a functional tool to help visually impaired individuals navigate their environment; rather, it has the potential to be an actual sensory replacement for vision." Psychological Science The research, entitled The Size-Weight Illusion


Do You Have Problems with Light and Glare Sensitivity? Meet Leann Gibson, Who Has Been There Too!

Leann Gibson was born and raised in the small community of Wainwright, Alberta, Canada. Leann and her husband Steve are professional chefs who "fell in love over a buffet line," as they like to say. Steve also serves in the Canadian military; thus, says Leann, "Moving is a way of life, so our home is truly where the heart is." Leann's vision loss journey began in June 2012, when she awoke one morning with a sense that something was "not right" and had seemingly changed overnight. Coincidentally, she was working in an optometrist's office as an optometric assistant at the time. At work later that morning, Leann was overwhelmed by a cascade of visual changes,


Celebrating White Cane Safety Day and Blind Americans Equality Day: October 15, 2014

White Cane Safety Day is an international observance that is celebrated on October 15 of each year since 1964. Its purpose is to (a) celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired and (b) acknowledge and pay tribute to the long white cane, a critically important mobility tool and potent symbol of independence. In 2011, White Cane Safety Day was also declared


Meet Lorraine Keller, Ph.D. and My Mobile Light™ Low Vision Aid at Technical Vision, Inc.

Lorraine Keller, Ph.D. is the CEO of Technical Vision, Inc., a medical equipment company specializing in the design and manufacture of quality personal assistive devices. Technical Vision's customers, many of whom are older adults, live every day with chronic, uncorrectable eye conditions. These conditions include macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal disease,


Meet Robert Wall Emerson, Ph.D. and the Newly-Funded "Better Long White Cane" Project

Robert Wall Emerson, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies at Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo. Dr. Wall Emerson, in conjunction with WMU colleagues Dae Shik Kim, Ph.D. (the principal investigator) and Koorosh Naghshineh, Ph.D., is the recent recipient of a $421,125 grant award from the National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute. The three-year grant, entitled


Meet Duane Geruschat, Ph.D. and the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis at Second Sight Medical Products

Duane Geruschat, Ph.D. specializes in rehabilitation research with persons who are blind and visually impaired. His primary interest is in low vision orientation and mobility. He is a certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS) and a certified low vision therapist (CLVT). Dr. Geruschat began his career working at a school for children with multiple disabilities and


Guest Blogger Jeremiah Taylor: A Tribute to Wojtek Jacobi, My Orientation and Mobility Instructor

Guest blogger Jeremiah Taylor (pictured at left) is the founder and CEO of ProActive Sales, Inc., a full-service sales management company. In 1999, Jeremiah became suddenly and totally blind as a result of complications during routine back surgery. You can read more about Jeremiah's (and his wife Jo-Ann's) long, steady, and inspirational journey – from sudden blindness through rehabilitation to full employment – at the VisionAware website. In addition to his talents as a dynamic sales professional and motivational speaker,


Our Readers Want to Know: How Can I Travel Safely Outdoors if I'm Blind or have Low Vision?

Editor's note: One of the many benefits associated with an online information center and website, such as VisionAware, is the ability to track readers' search terms [i.e., information readers are seeking as they search the Internet]. The following questions about outdoor travel with low vision or blindness consistently rank within VisionAware's top twenty information searches: What is orientation and mobility? How can I travel outside if I can't see? Is it safe to walk outside with just a white cane? An Answer from Dona Sauerburger, COMS <img src="/image.asp?ImageID=3521" style="margin:0 10px 10px 0;"


What Is Optic Flow? Why Is It Important for People with Low Vision?

New research from Indiana University is investigating how "optic flow," or setting objects and scenes in motion, can help people who have low vision to interpret and comprehend the blurred images they typically encounter in everyday life. According to the researchers, the concept of optic flow "has important implications for understanding the daily functioning of [persons] with low vision." The research, entitled With an Eye to Low Vision: Optic Flow Enables


Gil Johnson, His Guide Dog Harley, and The Seeing Eye: Learning to Be an Even Better Team

Gil Johnson is a talented woodworker and the author of Gil's Guide to Woodworking, Gil's Guide to Home Repairs and Parenting or Grandparenting with Vision Loss on the VisionAware website. Earlier this year, Gil kept a diary during his time at


Where I've Been: My Blindness Work in Central Europe

Last month, I took a break from my duties at VisionAware.org to visit Central Europe, teach in the post-graduate Low Vision Therapy program at the Akademia Pedagogiki Specjalnej im. Marii Grzegorzewskiej (the Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education) in Warsaw, and attend a Board of Directors meeting for the Kielce-based VEGA Foundation, directed by my longtime friend and colleague Agnieszka (Agnes) Janicka-Maj.


A Matter of Balance: National Program Helps Overcome Fear of Falling

Prevention of Falls National Fall Prevention Day is coming. Prevention of falls is of critical concern to people with vision loss. Also, many older adults fear falls because of the risk of serious injury. Unfortunately, the fear can be equally debilitating when a person begins to restrict their activities, leading to social isolation, physical weakness, and decreased independence. A Matter of Balance is an award-winning program which seeks to help people over age 60 learn to control fear of falling through exercise, practical tips, and problem solving in a supportive group environment. Developed by the Roybal Center


A New Independent Living Series from Hadley School for the Blind

As our readers know, I have great admiration for the ongoing – and important – educational commitment of The Hadley School for the Blind. The mission of Hadley is to promote independent living through lifelong distance education programs for people who are blind or visually impaired, their families, and blindness service providers. A New "Mini-Course" Independent Living Series from Hadley Hadley's new Independent Living series takes a mini-course approach, allowing students to focus on a specific aspect of independent living, based on individual needs and interests. The


Echolocation: A Case Study by Guest Blogger Marta Fonmudeh, Vision Australia

Guest blogger Marta Fonmudeh, M.Ed, is an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist and Senior Practitioner with Vision Australia. As Senior Practitioner, Marta oversees the professional development and clinical supervision of all O&M staff within Vision Australia. Marta is also a VisionAware Peer Advisor. Last week on the VisionAware blog, we examined the process of echolocation, or Using Your Ears


Echolocation: Using Your Ears to Help You "See"

You can view Rowan's video at YouTube. Rowan, an 18-month-old German Spitz dog, was born without eyes, a rare condition known as anophthalmia. His owner Samantha Orchard, a dog breeder in the United Kingdom, was "stunned" when she realized that Rowan was using echolocation to navigate his environment – by barking and then listening to the echoes created by his bark to determine his location in relation to his surroundings. You can read more about Rowan at the


A New Study Examines Vision Impairment, Balance Problems, and Falls

A new study, published "online first" on June 6, 2013 in JAMA Ophthalmology (formerly Archives of Ophthalmology), concludes that visually impaired individuals have a significantly greater risk of balance problems. The authors also offer suggestions to develop more effective fall prevention strategies for individuals with visual impairment or reduced visual acuity. JAMA Ophthalmology is an international peer-reviewed journal published monthly by the American Medical Association (AMA), and is part of the


A Dog Guide Diary by Gil Johnson and Harley at The Seeing Eye, Inc. (Part 4)

Gil Johnson is a talented woodworker and the author of Gil's Guide to Home Repairs on the VisionAware website. You can learn more about Gil's early life and professional accomplishments at Meet Gil Johnson. This month, Gil is at The Seeing Eye, Inc. in Morristown, New Jersey, training with his new guide dog (pictured left). In


A Dog Guide Diary by Gil Johnson and Harley at The Seeing Eye, Inc. (Part 3)

Gil Johnson is a talented woodworker and the author of Gil's Guide to Home Repairs and Parenting or Grandparenting with Vision Loss on the VisionAware website. You can learn more about Gil's early life and professional accomplishments at Meet Gil Johnson. This month, Gil is at The Seeing Eye, Inc. in Morristown, New Jersey, training with his new


There's Nothing More that Can be Done, You Say? Not True, We Say!

Filmmaker and advocate Joe Lovett is the producer/director of Going Blind: Coming out of the Dark about Vision Loss, a documentary film created to increase public awareness of blindness, vision loss, and the vision rehabilitation system. Going Blind is also Joe's personal story of his ongoing struggle with glaucoma and his sometimes-difficult journey through the "secret world," as he calls it, of vision


A Dog Guide Diary by Gil Johnson and Harley at The Seeing Eye, Inc. (Part 2)

Gil Johnson is a talented woodworker and the author of Gil's Guide to Home Repairs and Parenting or Grandparenting with Vision Loss on the VisionAware website. You can learn more about Gil's life and professional accomplishments in VisionAware's in-depth interview with Gil and at


A Dog Guide Diary by Gil Johnson and Harley at The Seeing Eye, Inc. (Part 1)

Gil Johnson is a talented woodworker and the author of Gil's Guide to Home Repairs and Parenting or Grandparenting with Vision Loss on the VisionAware website. You can learn more about Gil's life and professional accomplishments in VisionAware's in-depth interview with Gil and at


Virtual Gaming Environment Helps Blind Persons Improve Navigation Skills and Cognitive Abilities

A new study in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), explores the potential of a virtual gaming environment to help blind individuals improve their navigation skills and develop a cognitive spatial map of unfamiliar buildings and public locations. The Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) is the first (and still only) PubMed-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format. Using an international network of videographers, JoVE films


My Commitment to Professional Growth by Guest Blogger Laurel Leigh, COMS

Laurel Leigh is a certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Orientation and Mobility (O&M) is a profession specific to blindness and low vision that teaches safe, efficient, and effective travel skills to people of all ages. Laurel's article, entitled "Personal Reflections on AER Membership: A Commitment to Personal Growth," appears in the Winter 2013 edition


Meet Gil Johnson: Blind Woodworker and One of California's "50 Notable People"

Gil Johnson is an avid (and talented) woodworker and the author of Gil's Guide to Home Repairs and Parenting or Grandparenting with Vision Loss on the VisionAware website. Gil also hosts the Repairing Your Home message board, where you can ask him any question about home repair techniques and tips. Gil's professional life began as a Rehabilitation Counselor and


My Amazing Amazon Adventure by VisionAware Peer Advisor Michelle Miller, LCSW

Guest blogger Michelle Miller, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist and professional grant writer who also serves as Director of Client Services for Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind in Washington, D.C. Michelle has advocated on behalf of clients with disabilities as an expert witness for legal matters and serves as a consultant to "vision awareness" events and documentaries. She is a board member with Guide Dogs for the Blind and the New Hope Development Corporation, a non-profit organization for underserved children and families she


The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis ("Bionic Eye") Receives Humanitarian Use FDA Approval

On February 14, 2013, Second Sight Medical Products, Inc. received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, also called the "artificial retina" or "bionic eye." The mission of Sylmar, California-based Second Sight is to "develop, manufacture, and market implantable visual prosthetics to enable blind individuals to achieve greater independence." The Argus II has been approved to treat adults with severe to profound


A New Low Vision Resource from the National Eye Institute

The National Eye Institute (NEI) has released a 20-page, full-color, large print booklet with companion videos, in support of Low Vision Awareness Month, February 2013. The booklet and videos were developed by NEI's National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP). The mission of NEI, a part of the National Institutes of Health, is to "conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to blinding eye diseases, visual disorders, mechanisms of visual function, preservation of sight, and the special health


Remembering Le Dan Bach Viet: 1961-2011

I first published this tribute in January 2011, on the former VisionAware blog. The blog was on hiatus in early 2012, the first anniversary of Bach Viet's death; thus, I'm publishing it now (updated and revised), so that our new readers can learn about this inspired – and inspiring – blindness professional. A Sorrowful Message from Vietnam Two weeks ago, I received an email with a sorrowful message that had been forwarded from Dr. Minh Kauffman, Director of the Center for Educational Exchange with Vietnam: With great sadness, I must tell you that Le Dan Bach Viet


Scene from a Barbershop: Deaf-Blindness Considered

I was preparing to leave my favorite venerable Greenwich Village barbershop this past week (after my monthly "bob-maintenance" appointment), when a murmur rippled through the premises: "You have to see this guy! Don't leave yet – watch what he does." I looked up, and sure enough – a youngish blind man paused at the front door, getting his bearings and orienting himself, so it seemed. He carried a long white cane and I could see that he also wore two hearing aids. He was deaf-blind.


How Visible Are Steps and Stairs for People with Low Vision?

As many readers know, I am a vision rehabilitation therapist (VRT) and a low vision therapist (LVT) with a lifelong professional interest in assessing and modifying indoor and outdoor environments for people who are blind or have low vision. One of my particular interests is steps and stairs: How easy – or difficult – are they to see, decipher [i.e., step up or step down], and navigate safely? Thus, I have been


Fear of Falling, Eye Disease, and Limitations in Daily Activities: They're All Related

Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, the official journal of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), has published yet another thought-provoking study about the real-life ramifications of adult-onset vision loss. The Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology Activity Limitation Due To a Fear of Falling in Older Adults with Eye Disease was published in the December 3, 2012 online edition of


Losing Patience with Being a Patient by Stephanie Stephens Van

Guest blogger Stephanie Stephens Van has lectured nationally on adapted crafts and leisure activities; adjustment to blindness and low vision; functional vision skills; and activities of daily living. Stephanie is a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, a Low Vision Therapist, and an adjunct instructor at the Salus University College of Education and Rehabilitation.


Adventures In Sighted/Blind Air Travel

In a few days, I'll be departing for Poland to work with the VEGA Foundation and teach/lecture at The Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education in Warsaw. I've been traveling there since 1995, and have made many close friends throughout the years. Whenever I visit Poland, I always bring along a rigid (meaning non-folding and non-collapsible) carbon fiber cane from the National Federation of the Blind for my good friend


Can a Guide Dog "Know" Its Owner Is Blind?

Last week, while perusing my usual (i.e., prodigious) range of blindness- and vision-related news, blogs, and links, I discovered a fascinating post on the Psychology Today blog, entitled Professor, Does My Dog Know I'm Blind: Can we know what animals know about what we know? Dr. Herzog and the Human-Animal Dynamic It was authored by Hal Herzog, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University, whose academic research explores the psychology


Documentary Film "Going Blind" To Have September Capitol Hill Screening for US Legislators

Meet filmmaker Joe Lovett, friend of VisionAware and producer/director of Going Blind: Coming out of the Dark about Vision Loss, a stunning and moving documentary film created to increase public awareness of blindness, vision loss, and the vision rehabilitation system. Going Blind is also Joe's personal story of his ongoing struggle with glaucoma and his sometimes-difficult journey through the "secret world," as he


A "Top Eight" List of My Favorite Blog Posts by Joe Strechay: Part 2

Guest blogger Joe Strechay is the CareerConnect Program Manager at American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Here's Joe's description of his AFB working life: "I spend most of my time writing about employment, career education, job seeking, and


A "Top Eight" List of My Favorite Blog Posts by Joe Strechay

Guest blogger Joe Strechay is the CareerConnect Program Manager at American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Here's Joe's description of his AFB working life: "I spend most of my time writing about employment, career education, job seeking, and


Finding and Hiring a Driver If You're Blind or Visually Impaired by Stephanie Stephens Van

Guest blogger Stephanie Stephens Van has lectured nationally on adapted crafts and leisure activities; adjustment to blindness and low vision; functional vision skills; and activities of daily living. Stephanie is a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, a Low Vision Therapist, and an adjunct instructor at the Salus University College of Education and


New Research About Drivers and Blind and Visually Impaired Pedestrians

The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) is the premier international, interdisciplinary journal of record on blindness and visual impairment. JVIB publishes scholarship and information and serves as a forum for exchanging ideas, airing controversies, and discussing critical professional issues. (Note: As a long-time JVIB subscriber, my personal library contains almost every print issue dating from 1981. That's 30 years of superb reference material! And yes, I am a research


Updates on the Progress of Clinical Trials for a Retinal Implant for Retinitis Pigmentosa

How It Began On November 3, 2010, a report entitled Subretinal electronic chips allow blind patients to read letters and combine them to words was published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Proceedings B is the Royal Society's biological research journal, dedicated to the rapid publication of high-quality research papers. The paper summarized a 15-year research project to develop and test a functional retinal implant for patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The project was headed by Eberhart


A New Study about Age-Related Eye Disease and Mobility Limitations in Older Adults

Because I've always admired the work of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), I was excited to read about a new low vision and mobility study in the August 23, 2011 online edition of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, the official journal of ARVO. ARVO is an international organization that encourages and assists research, training, publication, and dissemination of knowledge in vision and ophthalmology,


A Wheelchair That Can "See" for Blind and Visually Impaired Users

A prototype electric wheelchair that can sense the environment and transmit information to a person who is blind or visually impaired is being developed and tested at Luleå University of Technology in Luleå, Sweden. The "sighted" wheelchair development team is headed by Kalevi Hyyppä, a professor at Luleå University, and includes prospective Ph.D. student Daniel Innala Ahlmark (pictured left, who is visually impaired and tested


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