Protecting Your Lower Body from Hazards

The Lower Body Protective Technique

If you learn to use the following Lower Body Protective Technique correctly, your arm will act as a "bumper" to protect the lower part of your body from kitchen counters, table edges, nightstands, and the backs of chairs.

It's important to remember that this technique will only partially protect your stomach or groin area, and it will not warn you about approaching drop-offs, such as steps, stairs, and ramps. For maximum protection, you should use a combination of upper and lower body protective techniques and/or a long white cane, guide dog, or human guide.

The technique:

  1. Position your stronger arm downward, as if you were pointing at the floor.
  2. Position your hand with your palm in front of and facing the opposite thigh, approximately 10-12 inches from your body.
  3. You can estimate this distance by visualizing a shoebox or ruler placed lengthwise between your thigh and your palm.
  4. Curl your fingers, spread them slightly apart, and keep your wrist straight with your palm facing your body so that the back of your hand will make contact with any object you encounter.
  5. Try to keep your fingers relaxed while walking.
  6. Keep maintaining your hand and arm in this position, so that your lower body is partially protected.
  7. Initially, you may be able to hold this position for only a minute or two, but with repeated practice you will be able to maintain this position for longer periods of time.
  8. If your arm becomes tired, you can switch and use your other arm, repeating the previous steps to maintain the correct position.

Peer Advisor Mary Hiland: Preventing Falls and Accidents When You have Vision Loss

Mary Hiland

Peer Advisor
Mary Hiland

Would you believe I've been punched in the nose by a refrigerator, a closet door ajar, and even a wall? It’s all been caused by my hurrying frantically to get just one more task done, just one more email answered, just one more load in the washer before my ride comes.

Slow Down and Pay Attention

I hate sitting around, even for a couple of minutes, waiting for a ride, but I hate going out into the world with a black eye even more.

Most of my minor injuries have been caused by rushing and therefore scraping my hand on a corner, barking my shins on an open dishwasher door, tripping over a dog toy, or bumping my hip against a chair. But the majority of accidents happen when I'm not focused on the task at hand, that is, to get from point A to point B safely and with dignity. In other words, I need to pay more attention to what I'm doing.

How Corners of Tables Jump Up and Hit Me

Whenever I bend over to pick something up off the floor, a shoe, a dropped tissue, a fork, or to tie my shoe, straighten a throw rug, or retrieve a dog toy, the strangest thing happens. The back of a chair, a corner of a table, or even a door knob will jump up and clobber me in the face or the top of my head.

I've developed a habit of shielding my face with the inside of my elbow each time I bend over just in case this should happen again. You never know. But the first time I forget, bam! There it happens again. No matter how sure I am that I am far away from such jumping objects, every once in a while, they trick me and off to church I go with a bump on my forehead. Talk about the bumps in life. All I can do is try to slow down, be aware, and pay attention.

Read more from Mary at Preventing Falls and Accidents As an Individual with Vision Loss on the Visually Impaired: Now What? blog. Also read Searching for Dropped Objects and Indoor Movement and Orientation: Use Your Senses

Related Topics

See also the Upper Body Protective Technique and the Trailing Technique

Personal Stories

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    As a person with retinitis pigmentosa, "Mobility matters. It allows me to join the rest of society, follow my interests and passion, and reconnect with my love for traveling. I don't have to stay at home fearing the dark anymore. I can live independently."

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