O&M evening program offers tips for cane mobility at night

O&M specialists work with people who are blind or have low vision, offering route training and how to move safely and confidently through different environments during the daytime and in the evening.

Some people naturally feel more apprehensive about their cane mobility at night, so we organised an night orientation and mobility program. We’ve had some great feedback on this course. It was held on a Tuesday night over six weeks. We plan to organise another one next year.

O&M Instructor, Hasmukh who has fifteen years of O&M experience organised the course with another O&M Instructor Anne-Sophie.

We thought the best person to interview Hasmukh was VisAbility work experience student Tegan.

Client Tegan is 19 and has a Guide Dog called Loui.

She sat down to speak to Hasmukh, to find out more about our evening orientation and mobility program.

Tegan: Why did you decide to organise a night orientation and mobility course?

Hasmukh: Some people with low vision and blindness are often hesitant to go out at night because of the challenges they may experience. It means they are missing out on evening events and activities. Skills learned will give people greater choice and control on whether they want to go out in the evening because they’ll feel more confident with their white cane.

Man with white cane stands on pavement alongside O&M instructor who's explaining more about the cane
It can be challenging using your cane at night

There are many eye conditions where people suffer night blindness – such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, usher syndrome and retinitis pigmentosa. Night blindness is also known as nyctalopia (link opens in new window). It results in people having poor vision at night or in dimly lit environments. Night blindness doesn’t mean you have total blindness at night time, but you have greater difficulty seeing things when it’s dark.

Glare from car headlights or street lamps can also affect people’s vision depending on their condition.

Tegan: What skills did the participants learn?

Hasmukh: We encourage clients to listen to sounds around them and recognise their environment and pick up on non-visual skills.

One area of importance is developing kinesthetic sense – also known as muscle memory. This gives people a greater understanding of body movements and can help with:

  • Making accurate estimations of distance in familiar environments. For example, locating a bathroom door while walking along the hallway, locating a local bus stop or shop door.
  • Making accurate turns either while standing or walking.
Group of participants stand on a pavment with their white canes listening to O&M Instructor
Strategies exist to help individuals use their white cane at night

Other concepts learned throughout the course included:

  • Developing greater awareness of different tactile surfaces by better use of the cane.
  • Exploring straight line walking and understanding what causes veering, and offering strategies to walk in a straight line.
  • Building listening skills and using traffic flow to help with orientation.
  • Strategies to assist you when identifying corners and crossing points.
  • Learning strategies around uncontrolled road crossings.
  • Advice and tips about differences with orientation in both indoor and outdoor environments.

Tegan: Was the course well received?

Yes, absolutely. I witnessed confidence grow among participants. One man was nervous at the beginning but by the end of the course he’d flourished and was walking with his cane more confidently.

It was an enjoyable social event and an opportunity for people to share individual cane tips. One person said it was ‘a great educational experience meeting other cane users, improving cane skills and learning new skills such as sound for orientation’.

How to get support

Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the night orientation course, low vision services and support we can provide. Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

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