Gee no! I am not recently enrolled in any driving lesson. Maybe in the near future when self-driving cars become available in the country, I would. But for now, I will stick with my long white stick. Malice aside please. Like most blind people, I use long white stick. The reason is that it is the only option I have to compensate my fading vision. In some progressive countries, guide dog is another option to consider. Beside, I am no fur lover. So in this case, I bound to use the said tool. When I finished a 30-minute long white stick indoor training, I got to thinking, Is that all I need to learn to retrieve my independence getting around? Is it as easy as driving an automatic car where one steps on the accelerator to move and brake to stop respectively?What about perceiving signs and signals when sense of sight is no longer available? The moment I left the building where I had the training, I am enveloped with so many questions that I had very little idea to answer on my own. Eager to find the answer, I turned to my computer and searched using several keywords such as “blind, independence and travel” and voila! My search returned topics including Orientation and Mobility.
What is Orientation and Mobility?
According to VisionAware:
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:
- “Orientation” refers to the ability to know where you are and where you want to go, whether you’re moving from one room to another or walking downtown for a shopping trip.
- “Mobility” refers to the ability to move safely, efficiently, and effectively from one place to another, such as being able to walk without tripping or falling, cross streets, and use public transportation.
Orientation and Mobility Specialists
An Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist provides instruction that can help you develop or relearn the skills and concepts you need to travel safely and independently within your home and in the community. O&M Specialists provide services across the life span, teaching infants and children in pre-school and school programs, as well as adults in a variety of community-based and rehabilitation settings.
After learning about the Orientation and Mobility (OM) I promptly searched for an OM professional in the country… I found none. This gave me a realisation that I have to learn and practice using the long white stick on my own. I shook off the fear that makes me weary, after all, it is no secret that most drivers around here do not even have a formal driving lesson, instead, they put on much determination together with the willingness to learn. Maybe driving a car and walking without seeing are totally different thing but it is the last thing that I will care about now.
As what I learned from some blind individuals all over the world, someone who lose his/her vision can learn to travel safely and independently. the following websites present advice and information about orientation and mobility skills for adult necessary for finding one’s way on foot, with a cane or a sighted guide.
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
This booklet is written by a cane traveler and covers aspects of cane travel, such as Getting the Cane Ready, Actually Walking Around, Public Transportation, and Times and Places without the Usual Landmarks.
A primer full of advice and encouragement for adults who must learn how to get around independently after vision loss. Includes information about landmarks, public transportation, and using environmental sounds. (Requires Adobe
Practical suggestions for modifications in the home and the environment to minimize tripping hazards.
This article explains upper and lower protective techniques, trailing, and orienting oneself indoors and outdoors.
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
The basics of orientation and mobility; includes a video.
Using a sighted guide; includes tips and an online video.
Frequently asked questions about walking with long canes.