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Guide Dog or White Cane? Mobility Tools for Individuals with Vision Loss

Editor's note: February is low vision awareness month, and we are highlighting the importance of being safe when walking around, even in a known area. VisionAware peer advisor, DeAnna Noriega, gives sound advice about what you should think about when making a decision about a dog or cane.

Orientation and Mobility instructor with older man walking with cane

Questions to Consider

If you have low vision, your lack of depth perception may make it hard to judge changes in the elevation of the ground where you are walking. Other questions to consider: Do you have trouble adjusting to differences in lighting when you go outside or come into a building? Are blind spots in your vision beginning to hamper your safe travel? Maybe it is time to look into training to use the long white cane.

Need for Mobility Basics

Even if you plan to use a guide dog to assist you during travel, you need to know mobility basics first. Contrary to common belief, a guide dog doesn’t know where you want to go until you direct him. He understands basic commands such as right, left, find door, and can learn to recognize places you visit frequently, but you must be able to judge traffic by sound, be able to remember how many blocks you need to walk, and when you must turn a corner.

If you answered yes to the questions I posed, you might consider learning new techniques to verify what you think you see. Is that darker section a drop off or a shadow? A properly used cane can tell you. There are very light weight folding or telescoping canes that many people find useful for when their vision isn’t proving sufficient on a particular day.

Consider Your Lifestyle

Consider your lifestyle and which tool would best serve your mobility safety needs. Cane users are usually people who like to confirm where they are and independently problem solve. When using a cane, locating landmarks is how you can navigate. A guide dog is trained to avoid obstacles and will do his best to guide you around them like a human guide does.

Guide dog Zoe sitting down on the sidewalk with boots on to protect her feet

If you enjoy the company of a dog and don’t see caring for the dog as a burden, a guide dog might be the right choice for you. You will have to take the dog outside multiple times a day, pick up waste, groom them, feed them, and carry things to make them comfortable. In exchange, you will have a friend by your side who is willing to use his vision to help you prevent falls, avoid traffic, locate doors and curbs, and dodge overhanging branches.

If you like to explore your environment in detail and have a sense of adventure, then a cane might be the tool for you. If you would rather have a mobility aid that doesn’t shed, need feeding, walking to deal with bodily functions, or isn’t adverse to spending time in a corner or closet when not needed, then a cane might be the best choice for you.

Choose the Option that is Best for For You

The most important thing is getting where you want to go and regaining control of your life. Choose the tool that gives you the best option for your personality and gives you the confidence to go where you want to go. Whatever you decide, don’t put yourself at risk by avoiding lessons from an orientation and mobility specialist on how to compensate for decreased vision.

More Information About Low Vision and Mobility

Using a white cane as tool for fall prevention

Leader Dog offers orientation and mobility training

What does having low vision mean?

Low vision and scanning efficiently

Getting Around

Amy Bovaird Interviewed About Her Book, "Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility"

Amy Authors Second Book on Mobility

Amy signing book at book signing

Editor's note: Beckie Horter, peer advisor, conducts this interview of Amy Bovaird about her second book.

Cane Confessions is the second book in peer advisor, Amy Bovaird's, mobility series. The first is Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith. It follows the journey of her orientation and mobility training. In this latest book, Cane Confessions, Amy recounts 27 uplifting and humorous anecdotes before and after mobility training. The reader gets to experience the mishaps and challenges of a person losing their vision while living a full life in the process. Many of the adventures take place overseas as Amy spent years traveling the world as an international language teacher.

Despite the fact Amy was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in her twenties, she continues to face life head-on armed with her faith and whatever other tools she finds helpful, including humor.

Interview with Amy

Beckie: Can you give the readers a brief synopsis of the book?

Amy: Cane Confessions provides insight into the ways we adapt and how important attitude is in moving forward, both physically and mentally. It encourages readers to use the tools God has placed before them.

Beckie: Who did you picture in your mind as the ideal reader for your book?

Amy: My primary audience is people experiencing vision loss. My goal is to encourage them and to relieve some of the fear associated with blindness. My secondary audience would be anyone wishing to learn more about vision loss. I hope to build bridges between the sighted and blind communities in order to communicate openly and increase understanding.

B: The subtitle of your book is The Lighter Side to Mobility. How do you explain to people who may not understand that there can be a "lighter side" to vision loss?

A: I don't think life always has to be so serious. Humor is one of the tools given to me, and it helps bridge communication. I'm hoping other people will shy away from the visually impaired less if they can understand us more. Also to encourage the visually impaired that everyone is not out there judging us, as I once believed.

B: How is your book different from other books on blindness?

A: Most of the books out there are how-to books. My book uses experience for insight. It shows what I did and what I learned in the process. I'm honest about my struggles in Cane Confessions. One reader recently told me she loved the honesty of the book. It seemed very relatable to her. I let people know it's okay if they don't have it all together all the time.

B: So your desired takeaway for readers would be...?

A: The three points I try to make are: God will go with you wherever you are; attitude changes everything; and arming yourself with knowledge makes a big difference. Also, that we are more resilient than we know. And even when our problems don't go away, we have control over our attitudes.

B: Speaking of attitude, I love this quote from the book: "If we choose to, we can use the tools we already have to step into the light of honesty." Can you elaborate?

A: Honesty about our issues is hard for everyone, not just visually impaired people. We hide things in order to avoid vulnerability and remain safe inside our comfort zones. But we need to start communicating about our needs.

Image of book cover for Cane Confessions; woman walking outside with a white cane on a sunny day

B: What will the last book in your mobility series focus on?

A: It will be about specific lessons God has taught me through my mobility challenges. The title is Second Sight, and it's geared toward a Christian audience.

B: How can readers get a copy of either of your books?

A: By going to my website: Right now, I'm offering a 10 percent discount and an autographed copy of either book by entering the code: wintersale. The special runs through February 28, 2017. Also available on,, or Formats include regular and large print paperback, e-book, audio, and braille by special request to the author.

For Booklovers with Vision Loss

Reading to Enhance Mental Health and Well-Being

The Bookshelf: Reading Books on Blindness and Learning About the Experiences of Others

Specialty Reading Products and Services

Five Reading Apps for Booklovers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Reading, Writing, and Vision Loss

Getting Around
Retinitis Pigmentosa

Creating a Poetic Outlook from Your Inner Viewpoint

Edited by Maribel Steel

When we need an outlet to express our inner thoughts, especially when facing a life challenge like living with low vision, why not let your thoughts flow onto a page in the form of poetry? “It isn’t about rhyming, meter, or number of syllables,” says DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, “Really, anyone can write poetry.” Usually, when poets create poetry, there is a two-fold passion at play; they want to capture their feelings by observing their rich inner thoughts and hope their reflections truly touch the hearts and minds of a reader. Writing poetry, however, is completely up to you—as the poet. So, if you’ve been holding back your inner poet, let your expressive muse loose, and you might be pleasantly surprised to take your first steps without rhyme or reason with these tips from DeAnna.

Pink statue of Bella Gloria

Prelude to Writing Poetry

Writing poetry is one way to capture an idea that gets something out of your head and off your mind. It can give you a chance to think through problems or help you deal with the things that really bug you. Even if you never show your poems to anyone else, it’s your personal prelude to making sense of your life with all its rich complexities.

Start with a Postcard Poem

If you want to get started, you can begin with crafting a "postcard poem." Later on, you can explore other styles, but for the newbie-poet, try the postcard approach.

  • Line 1 (L1): The first line is the person you are directing your post card too. For example, it can be anyone: a close friend, a pet, or a person from history.
  • Line 2 (L2): The second line is your introduction: "This is just to say; I want you to know; I was thinking especially of you today."
  • Line 3 (L3): The third line is the confession. This is where you put down the main message your poem conveys.
  • Line 4 (L4): On the fourth line comes the request, apology, or excuse. For example, "Please forgive me; I hope you don’t mind; I thought you should know."
  • Line 5 (L5): The final fifth line is the conclusion.

DeAnna’s Postcard Poem to Her Husband

Pebbles on the ground in a heart shape

L1: My solid rock and safe place,
L2: I don’t think I have ever told you.
L3: How your love is my haven,
L4: When I shatter my wings fighting dragons,
L5: Thank you for picking up my pieces.

The postcard style is only a guide as a beginning framework to creating poetry. You don’t have to stick to the exact line count. Just use the elements the five lines represent and let your heart sore with your inner observations.

Poems to a Special Friend

When you write your own form of poetry, they can be humorous or serious, romantic or insightful. A poem inspired by those we care about make an excellent birthday wish, a thank you note or a personal reflection when you can’t even afford a card!

One Word Inspired Poetry

Another easy way to create a poem is to take a word and write down all of the things it means. For example, if you were to think of the word "peace," what other words define it to you? Jot them down and try stringing them together.

A friend tried this exercise and came up with: "Pine forest. Ocean. Hot chocolate. Safe."

The poem borne from these words reads:

The scent of pines
The sound of the ocean
The taste of hot chocolate
Feeling loved and safe.

For special occasions like Valentine’s Day why not surprise cupid and make a list from the word “Love” to celebrate your true feelings.

Your Profile in Five Words

Another way to trigger thought for a poem that can also be used as a group exercise is to write down five words that describe you. In turn, each person in the group is asked to contribute a color, a musical instrument, an animal, a place, and a kind of weather; words in their view that describe you.

Each participant takes their list of personal attributes, adding two of the words from each category to create a poem-profile.

In DeAnna’s personal profile, she defines herself in five words as: "Shy, advocate, determined, mischievous, and creative." With her choice of words taken from a group list when she did this activity, she selected two key words from each category.

  • Color – lavender and gold
  • Musical instrument – chimes and voice
  • Animal – eagle and otter
  • Place – Pikes Peak and beach
  • Weather – sunny and storm

Prose to Poetry

Once you have a collection of words, you can put them all together. Begin with the words "I am"... and include your list of words to tell the world who you are. Can you guess who I am?

I am a shy lavender chime,
a creative advocate voice,
a mischievous otter
on a rocky beach of political reality,
determined to be an eagle flying over Pikes Peak,
in the gold of the sun—after the storm has passed and the battles are won.

No Excuses!

No excuses now! Write a poem! Be creative, let your muse flow from the senses, and please tell us in the comment section below a little of who you are in your poetic nature.

Poems for Valentine's Day

A Poem on Retinitis Pigmentosa to Shine on Valentine's Day

How Poetry Helps Me Move on As a Blind Person

Reading, Writing, and Vision Loss

Social Life and Recreation

A Poem on Retinitis Pigmentosa to Shine On Valentine's Day

When Dave Steele learned that he was losing his sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), he took to expressing his fears, thoughts, and experiences through writing poems, songs, and verses. Only two years on, Dave has produced many creative works in raising awareness of the challenges people face in a similar situation. His book, Stand by Me RP is a touching collection of poems reflecting on his journey.

We couldn’t think of anything finer for Valentine’s Day than to highlight one of his love poems to his wife and thank Dave for giving VisionAware permission to feature a poem so close to his heart. "I have always believed that music and poetry can make an impact, touch the heart, and heal the soul in a way like nothing else.” —Dave Steele

Happy Valentine's Day from the VisionAware peers!

Couple kissing behind a paper pink heart


by Dave Steele

In a world that's getting darker
she is the brightest light
she gives me her last ounce of strength
when I'm too tired to fight

When head is full of worry
and heart begins to tear
she listens to my problems
her bosom burdens bare

If future days of blindness
begin to get too much
she helps me to refocus
with just the slighted touch

For all the vision I have lost
she puts the beauty back
she makes sure I can feel it
for what my eyesight lacks

When I feel isolated
she helps me know she's there
when all the worlds against me
she shows me that she cares

When day in future finally comes
when last of vision leaves
she's crystal clear in memory
no need for me to grieve I've memorised each wrinkle
those eyes and laughter lines
her beauty mine forever to keep in front of mind

From moment since I first laid eyes
till last day of my life
When visions gone
our love shines on
so proud that she's my wife.

© Dave Steele 2017

About Dave Steele

Dave Steele holding his book, Stand with Me RP

Since the book, Stand By Me RP was released in 2016, it has been named as a #1 release in the United States and Australia. To coincide with RP awareness month this February, Volume 2 is soon to be released. Dave Steele’s poems are an account of his rapid decline in vision and speak of the challenges to regain his confidence and independence through mobility training and working with his first guide dog.

Stand By Me RP book

Stand By Me RP song

Poetry by Dave Steele Facebook

Is poetry or writing a love note to your Valentine something you enjoy doing too? Please share in the comments below what makes a perfect day when spending it with the one you love.

Arts and Leisure
Low Vision
Personal Reflections
Social Life and Recreation

Six Tips for Your Out-of-the-Box Museum Visit

Editor's note: Just in time for planning for Valentine's Day, we bring you this post by Lynda Lambert. Lynda suggests that you might consider a similar trip to a museum or art gallery as a fun Valentine's outing. Read and enjoy!

Visiting the Andy Warhol Museum

Recently, I invited my daughter and great-granddaughter to help me celebrate my birthday with a visit to the Andy Warhol Museum which is located about 40 miles from our home. Since my great-granddaughter was celebrating her birthday that month, it was perfect timing for us. This could be a great idea for a Valentine’s Day excursion with a friend or family member too.

I wanted to take photographs in the museum, so I asked at the entrance desk for permission. My only restriction was to not use a flash on the camera. That is normal as a flash causes long-term damage to art work. I wondered what the receptionist might be thinking when he saw me walking with a long white mobility cane and asked to take photos during my visit. I still chuckle to myself about this conflicting image. Our excursion was so enjoyable I wanted to share some tips with you so your next visit to a museum can be as much fun as ours was.

Six Tips for an Out-of-the-Box Museum Visit

Artist holding a piece of artwork in a gallery

Tip One: Visit the Museum Website for Accommodations

The website will have a link for directions to the museum, educational programs, special exhibits with dates, contact information, and a link for accommodations information. If you need more details, call the museum.

One interesting thing you can find on the schedule is when they have a docent tour or an artist presentation. Both of these are informative and educational. The artist presentation is one way to find out about the art process directly from the artist who made it. They will answer any questions you have and even put the art work in your hands if possible.

Tip Two: Wear Comfortable Shoes

Two women looking at art in a glass display

I recommend that you wear comfortable walking shoes. My great-granddaughter found this out in a painful way during our visit. She walked into the museum in high heels. By the time we looked at the first two floors of art, she was getting blisters. Fortunately, the museum store had some flip-flops for sale so she could change her shoes and continue to have a good day.

Tip Three: Review the Floor Plan for Display Information

The museum we selected has seven floors of art works and the floors are very large. Decide before you begin how you will see the various art shows. We wanted to see all seven floors.

We also looked to see where the bathrooms are located and where the stairs and elevators are situated. It’s a good idea to use the elevator. This removes the chance that I might have trouble navigating the many steps and it gives us a little break from one place to the next. There are usually some chairs to sit on near the elevators as well. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Tip Four: Select Exhibits that Feature Large Wall Works and Floor Displays

I like to seek out the galleries that have good light and dark contrasts for I am light sensitive. The best exhibits for me are large, bold, high contrast paintings, or large sculptures with a good amount of light and shadow on them. The Warhol Museum is an old factory, so the floors are concrete, which provides a very good contrast from the white walls.

Many galleries have intense lighting, white walls, and slick light wooden floors. This is a nightmare for a person with very low vision, and it can be dangerous for us because we become like a deer in the spotlight in such situations.

If you are extremely sensitive to light as I am, take some sunglasses with you and put them on.

An art display of three high contrast bowls

Tip Five: Take Breaks and Visit the Café and Museum Store

A museum can be overwhelming. You can walk for hours once you enter the building.

Be aware of the variety of displays and be selective. You just cannot see it all in one visit.

Decide in advance where you will go. Pace your visit to include periods of relaxation. Your feet will be thankful for some resting time during your visit.

We looked at three floors of art, then we went to the café for lunch. Museums have delicious sandwiches and a variety of salads and drinks. After we left the café, we stopped in to browse the items in the museum store. Of course, we came home with a few bags of interesting items, reproductions of art work, and some books.

Bonus Tips for Out-of-the-Box Art Viewing

Bonus Tip 1: Find Art in Unexpected Places

Have you noticed that many cities have art on display outdoors? You can find it unexpectedly as you stroll through parks and around urban areas. These sculptures are really great for people with vision loss to enjoy. We can walk up to the art work and explore it with our hands, walk around it, and really have a great experience.

Here is an example of some outdoor art I found in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It is a sculpture of a lion painted in many different colors.

Statue of a colorful lion with red socks

Bonus Tip 2: Outdoor Arts and Crafts Festivals

When is the last time you visited an Arts and Crafts festival? I have found many of the art works in my personal collection at such shows. You can meet the artist and learn about what she makes first hand. Prices are very good because you are buying directly from the artist. And, best of all, you can touch and hold just about anything that is on display at the artist’s booths. Some artists will even let you make art in their booth or demonstrate how they make their art. We all love a walk in the park, don’t we!

Do you think you will consider taking an Out-of-the-Box Art experience for Valentine’s Day or a special occasion this year? I would love to hear about it!

Learn More About Visiting a Museum with Vision Loss

Museum and Art Tours

Enjoying Cultural Activities When You Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Art Education for the Blind

Adapting Artworks for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Using Raised Printing

Art Beyond Sight

Tips Before You Visit the Andy Warhol Museum

Arts and Leisure
Low Vision
Personal Reflections
Social Life and Recreation

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