Traveling Outdoors with Vision Impairment

I'm able to see some things, but what I see is not always reliable. How can I learn to use non-visual information?

If you've had vision for most of your life, you'll probably tend to trust and rely upon visual information. If you lose some of that vision, you may often still try to rely on it and ignore helpful non-visual information, such as touch and sounds. You may believe your eyes, even when your vision is unreliable or misleading, instead of using non-visual information which is more accurate and helpful.

When your eyes tell you one thing, but a sound, a touch, or your own position or movement tells you another, which do you believe?

Here are some examples:

1. When walking with someone using the human guide technique, if your eyes are telling you the ground looks smooth and unbroken as far you can see:

Would you notice or observe:

  • That your guide has taken a step down from the curb?

If you do notice, which will you believe?

  • The faulty information that your eyes are providing about the ground being flat?
  • or

  • The information provided by the downward movement of your guide that indicates a curb?

2. When walking toward a corner that you know has a stop sign, if your eyes are telling you that the sidewalk looks as if it makes a sharp turn to the right, which implies that you?ve reached the corner:

Would you notice or observe:

  • That the traffic on the street beside you does not stop?

If you do notice, which will you believe?

  • The faulty information that your eyes are providing about reaching the corner?
  • or

  • The information provided by the sounds of traffic that is still moving?

As you gain experience during O&M instruction, you will begin to notice and use more and more non-visual information, which can help you learn to verify (or disregard!) the incomplete or inaccurate information you may be receiving visually.

Some strategies for doing this are:

Strategy #1:

Your orientation and mobility instructor points out, or asks you to notice, non-visual information as you walk together:

  • The sound of traffic on a busy highway in the distance can help you know the direction you're facing.
  • The slope of the sidewalk as it crosses a driveway may change abruptly, indicating that you?re at the edge of the street.

Strategy #2:

Under the guidance of an orientation and mobility specialist, you wear a blindfold or close your eyes:

  • This makes it easier to notice sounds and slopes and textures underfoot, as well as the sun's warmth, which can help you determine which direction you're facing.
  • You will, however, need additional practice to continue to notice and use non-visual information after you take off your blindfold and/or open your eyes.

Strategy #3:

Under the guidance of an orientation and mobility specialist, you cover the lower portion of your eyeglass lenses so that you're unable to see what is on the ground in front of you:

  • With this covering, you are still able to see what is happening around you, but you cannot see the cane and your feet. This strategy can help you learn to focus on the information that the cane is providing.

For more information about O&M training in non-visual skills and techniques, see Examples of Strategies for Teaching Non-Visual Skills.



services icon Looking for Help?

Join Our Mission

Help us expand our resources for people with vision loss.