The Mobility of Eye Defects
Many people with serious visual impairments can travel independently assisted by tactile paving and/or using a white cane with a red tip – the international symbol of blindness. A long cane is used to extend the user’s range of touch sensation, swung in a low sweeping motion across the intended path of travel to detect obstacles. However, some visually impaired persons do not carry these kinds of canes, opting instead for the shorter, lighter identification (ID) cane. Still others require a support cane. The choice depends on the individual’s vision, motivation, and other factors..
Each of these is painted white for maximum visibility, and to denote visual impairment on the part of the user. In addition to making rules about who can and cannot use a cane, some governments mandate the right-of-way be given to users of white canes or guide dogs.
A small number of people employ guide dogs. Although the dogs can be trained to navigate various obstacles, they are not capable of interpreting street signs. The human half of the guide dog team does the directing, based upon skills acquired through previous mobility training. The handler might be likened to an aircraft’s navigator, who must know how to get from one place to another, and the dog is the pilot, who gets them there safely.
Orientation and Mobility Specialist are professionals who are specifically trained to teach people with visual impairments how to travel safely, confidently, and independently in the home and the community.
Most blind and visually impaired people read print, either of a regular size or enlarged through the use of magnification devices. A variety of magnifying glasses, some of which are handheld, and some of which rest on desktops, can make reading easier for those with decreased visual acuity. The rest read Braille (or the infrequently used Moon type), or rely on talking books and readers or reading machines. They use computers with special hardware such as scanners and refreshable Braille displays as well as software written specifically for the blind, like optical character recognition applications and screen reading software.
Some people access these materials through agencies for the blind, such as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the United States, the National Library for the Blind or the RNIB in the United Kingdom.
Closed-circuit televisions, equipment that enlarges and contrasts textual items, are a more high-tech alternative to traditional magnification devices. So too are modern web browsers, which can increase the size of text on some web pages through browser controls or through user-controlled style sheets.