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Alert message

By Diane Barnes, COMS, Region 13 ESC, Austin, Texas

There are factors associated with night travel which are not present during the day (i.e. vehicles headlights, sounds, things/people generally are less visible). These factors could impact a person's confidence and safety (regardless of the presence of a visual impairment). Having a visual impairment could potentially increase a person's vulnerability when traveling at night. Therefore, it is considered best practice that issues related to night travel be addressed as part of all students' O&M evaluation.

Below are some basic criteria O&M Instructors consider when evaluating a student's night travel needs. The student's age, maturity, and cognitive functioning ability are the major factors used to determine how night travel issues will be addressed. This could range from discussion to "simulated" exposure, to varying levels of "real" environmental exposure.

Generally, a student's "independent" night time travel abilities will be similar to his day time travel abilities, with adjustments in the skills being used.

Below is a basic checklist that O&M Instructors use to determine how night travel issues will be addressed -- bold represents that these students will receive a minimum of "simulated" exposure to night travel:

  • student's age - 5 or 9th grade
  • eye condition - eye conditions with characteristic of reduced fields/acuities when lighting is decreased (ie. retinitis pigmentosa)
  • vision prognosis - vision diagnosed as progressive
  • immediate needs - has situations which involves low light / night travel (student is a trainer for the school's basketball team)
  • short term needs - student has upcoming travel circumstances which will involve low light / night time conditions (i.e. will start working on the night shift of McDonald's the next semester)
  • long term needs - - student has after graduation plans that will involve travel under low light I night travel conditions (i.e. will enroll in evening college based classes)
  • requested by student/parent

This questionnaire will help us to more efficiently and effectively meet students' night travel needs. Please provide as much information as possible and include it in the "referral for O&M evaluation" packet and/or "prior" to discussing (telephone, person to person) the student's needs with the O&M Instructor.


Currently available
Design considerations
ETA Patents

An Electronic Travel Aid (ETA) is a form of assistive technology having the purpose of enhancing mobility for the blind pedestrian. Perhaps the most widely known device is the LaserCane, which is a regular long cane with a built-in laser ranging system. The Mowat Sensor is an example of a pocket-sized device containing an ultrasonic air sonar system. When it detects an obstacle, the device vibrates, thereby signaling the user. The research problem of designing a better ETA is a tough one. Despite 50 years of effort, no one has been able to design an electronic device that can replace the long cane.

Blind individuals find traveling difficult and hazardous because they cannot easily determine "where" things are, a process otherwise known as "spatial sensing." Thus the problem of mobility can be reframed as a problem in spatial sensing. The techniques for spatial sensing are well known, radar, sonar, and optical triangulation methods being the most common, and the latter two have been incorporated into a wide variety of past ETA designs.

However, there are many problems with currently available devices. First, the rangefinder technology is unreliable in its detection of step-downs or step-ups, such as curbs. Secondly, blind users find the sounds of various pitches or tactile vibrations being used to code the spatial information to be esoteric and difficult to understand. Thirdly, most blind users do not find the slight improvement in mobility performance to be worth the extra cost (which can be many thousands of dollars), and the additional worry of maintaining a complex, expensive battery operated system that must be carried around and kept track of.

I have been trying to design a more effective ETA for many years. Some have said that my Ultrasonic Spatial Sensing Aid, is the best attempt so far at recreating the experience of echolocation, as found in bats or dolphins. Yet it is far from perfected. In my design, ultrasound is radiated out and the returning ultrasonic echos are translated back down into the audible domain and presented binaurally to the blind user. The time based cues responsible for spatial hearing are encoded upon the sound, thereby creating the illusion of an externalized auditory image located out in space at the detected object's position. While my approach has promise, one of the significant drawbacks is that the user must wear earphones, which can interfere with the listening of normal environmental sounds.

More recently, I have been trying to commercialize a low-cost "electronic cane" similar in concept to the Mowat sensor. One blind person here in Hawaii says my invention is the best ETA he has ever tried and says he would gladly trade his own for mine. My device could be affordable, perhaps retailing for $50. My estimate is based on devices of similar complexity being sold at Radio Shack. What I need right now is assistance or advice (technical, financial, manufacturing, marketing, licensing), to bring this project beyond the prototype stage. If anyone can lend me a hand, please drop me a line by clicking on the address below. Last updated 11 October 1996

Copyright © 1996 by Duen Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.


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By Cecelia Quintana, COMS

Orientation and Mobility is broadly defined as the ability to move safely and efficiently through any environment. At the adult level, this translates into the ability to independently cross streets, to use public transit systems, to go to work, to go shopping, etc. At the preschool level, students need to develop the concepts and skills which make the above mentioned goals attainable later in life.

Several areas of skill development should be included in a preschool O&M program. All individuals should incorporate these skills into the child's daily routine. This allows everyone to be actively involved in the child's growth and development. Parents, caregivers, teachers, related service personnel, as well as Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists will be working on the same, common goal. The ultimate goal of the program is to develop a child into a skilled, age-appropriate traveler who understands basic concepts and can begin to apply learned skills to perform more complex tasks.

Below is a list of skill areas considered to be best practice. These areas should be incorporated into an early childhood O&M program.

  • Improve use of visual skills
  • Improve use of auditory skills
  • Improve use of tactile skills
  • Begin learning spatial concepts
  • Begin learning environmental concepts
  • Improve use of gross motor skills
  • Improve use of fine motor skills
  • Beginning use of clues and landmarks
  • Sighted guide techniques
  • Beginning cane techniques
  • Limited travel in residential areas

Only a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist should teach the last four items on the above list. Anyone who works with a child with visual impairment is encouraged to incorporate the rest of the skill areas into the child's routine. The following pages are a few games that encourage development of visual, auditory or tactile skills and/or introduce spatial, body, or environmental concepts. Please feel free to use these games as they are, or as a springboard for inventing games of your own. More games will be added as they are invented.

We're On The Move! 
O&M Games for the Very Young Child

Presented by

Linda Lyle, M.A.
Cecelia Quintana, M.A., COMS

 AER International Conference
July 14-19, 2000
Denver, CO

Download an RTF version of the games (for printing) - oandm.rtf (257k)


Skill(s) Targeted: Visual scanning

What you will need:

  •  Large squares of brightly colored material (approx. 10 X 10)
  • Index cards 

To set up: Determine what positional concepts will be targeted. In the following example we will use, "On" versus "Under". On the index cards write "Find my twin ________". In the blank write things like: "on the desk," "under the chair," "on the shelf", etc. In the door of the room place one piece of material. In the room place the material wherever specified on the card.

How to play the game: In the door of the room, the student will find the material, and the teacher will read the card to them. They will then visually search the room for the matching material and retrieve it.

Modifications: For more advanced students, place 2 pieces of the matching material in the room, only one of which is in the proper place. For example, place a piece of material both on and under the chair and they are supposed to determine which one they should take, and which one they should leave.

  • Find my twin 
    Under a chair
  • Find my twin 
    On a chair
  • Find my twin 
    On a desk
  • Find my twin 
    Under a desk
  • Find my twin 
    On a shelf
  • Find my twin 
    Under a window

All of Me

Concept(s) Targeted: Body Awareness, concept development of orientation words


Body part identification

  • Even while your child is very young, you can begin to help him/her become more aware of his/her own body. Children develop this skill in a specific order: his/her nose, another person's nose, a doll or stuffed animal's nose.
  • When naming body parts, put your child's name in front of the word. Sherri's nose.
  • Touch various parts of your child's body with different textured fabrics or a feather and name them as you do. Let your child do the same to you.
  • Play finger and toe games like "This Little Piggy", "Do Your Ears Hang Low" "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes".
  • Use a mirror to see your hair, your nose, your eyes, etc.
  • Adaptations:
    • For older child: place a sticker on a body part and let child name it as she pulls the sticker off.
    • Use hand puppets to find body parts.
    • As child master's body parts on a doll, you can increase the complexity of the task while still reinforcing the identification of body parts. You can ask your child to feed the baby and then wash her face. You can play silly games where you try to feed the baby by putting the bottle in her ear and letting your child correct you.

Positional words

  • Just as a child learns her own body parts first, a child first learns about positions (up, under, etc.) in relationship to her own body. It is not possible to give a child too much practice in this area.
  • Very young child: Use positional words frequently. "Let's put your sleeper on." "Let's take it off."
    • Early games:
      • peek-a-boo
      • Where's the _____? Name a toy in sight and let child reach for it. "Oh, it's beside your leg." or "It's on your shoe."
      • Where is Thumbkin?"
      • In/Out games: Give child a small container with several objects in it that can be removed. Child will move from dumping to removing one by one. Use out/in often so child will understand the concept.
      • Nesting toys; pots and pans; plastic storage containers all help a child begin to understand positional words relative to something other than his/her own body.
      • As child grows, toys can be hidden under, over, behind, etc. and a game of hide and seek established. Early successes will probably require that the child's body be the location for hiding under, etc. As the task becomes easy for the child, the toy can then be hidden under an object very close to the child and then, with success, further away.
  • The toddler: Once a child begins to crawl and walk, they enjoy putting their own bodies in relationship to other objects. They like to climb on, in, through, around, behind, etc. It is important to continue commenting on the positional relationships that occur between the child and his/her environment. "You're climbing in the box." "The box is around you." "I can't see you. You must be behind the box."
    • Games:
      • Hide and Seek
      • "Where's the Thimble" (revisited)
      • Looking for objects that have been hidden in the beans, inside play dough, picking chocolate chips or small pieces of candy out of cookie dough.
      • Peek-a-boo with a sheet/blanket that covers the whole body
  • Once a child is truly a confident walker, they are ready to start following simple instructions that require them to move throughout familiar areas.
  • A simple way to get practice in for a child with some useable vision, is to place preferred toys within sight but just out of reach. This helps strengthen distance vision as well as gives a child an opportunity to begin to use positional words him/herself.
    • Games:
      • You can send your child to get a diaper (in a familiar location) or send him/her for shoes that are "under Daddy's chair". This builds independence and continues to provide relevant experience for practicing positional concepts.
      • Obstacle courses
      • Swing set
      • Trampoline
      • Follow the String
      • Use hand puppets to tell stories filled with positional concepts. (ex: The puppet can hide behind the box and jump out to startle everyone.)
      • Ring around the Rosie
      • Simon Says
      • Big Ball Fun

from Linda Lyle ©

Balloon Bells

Skill(s) Targeted: Auditory Localization

What you will need: 

  • 10 - 12 medium-sized balloons
  • 5 - 6 small jingle bells
  • 10 - 12 pipe cleaners or long twist ties
  • String

To set up: In order to play this game, your ceiling must have some aspect that will allow you to hang the balloons from it. If you have the standard dropped ceiling with the metal runners and the foam-like tiles, the set-up will be easy. Take the pipe cleaners or twist ties and insert them between a tile and the runner, leaving a small loop that a string can fit through. I like to space them about 3-5 feet apart, and 2 balloons to a small room. Insert a small jingle bell in half of the balloons, and inflate all the balloons. Tie a long piece of string to all balloons, run the string through the ceiling loops and pull the string so that the balloon is hanging just below the ceiling. Make sure that one balloon of each pair has a bell, and the other does not have a bell. If there will be other people using the rooms before or between sessions, tape the strings up high on the nearest wall.

How to play the game: The object of this game is to have the student pull both strings at the same time and be able to tell you which balloon has the bell in it.

Modifications: If it is too difficult for the student to tell which one has the bell, then have them pull the strings one at a time.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Find the Timer

Skill(s) Targeted: Auditory Localization

What you will need: 

  • One or two kitchen timers that make a ticking sound
  • A number of small toys (Optional)

 To set up: Place a number of small toys in various places around your building.

How to play the game: The object of this game is to have the student find the timer, and thus the accompanying toy. This works best if you have 2 timers, and several different rooms in which to work. Turn on the timer and place it on or next to the small toy. The student must listen for the ticking sound to find the timer and the toy. If you have 2 timers, you may hide the second timer while the child is distracted by looking for the first timer.

Modifications: If your building is too noisy for a timer to be heard, you may wish to try a metronome, a very small radio or some other sound source. You may also wish to try something such as a talking teddy, so that they have to call out to the teddy and it will echo back the child's voice (which it just recorded). Another option may be one of those gadgets that chirps or beeps when you clap your hands.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Alligator Bridge

Concept(s) Targeted: Auditory localization

What you will need:  

  • Aluminum foil (18-inch-wide best) or other sound-making surface 
  • Blindfold
  • Sound source (such as a rattle, bells, whistle, etc.)

To set up: Place several pieces of the aluminum foil on the ground to make a path, which includes several changes of direction.

How to play the game: One child is chosen to be blindfolded. To set the scene, tell the child who is wearing the blindfold that s/he is returning home after dark, and their only flashlight just broke. Now s/he needs to follow the bridge that goes through the bog (the path of aluminum foil is the bridge) without being able to see it. Although many alligators live in the bog, they will only bother someone if they put one or more feet completely off the bridge. It is completely dark outside, and their only clue for making their way across the bridge is a sound source that leads them in the right direction. The person with the sound source should position himself about 3-4 feet ahead of the child with the blindfold and in such a position that walking directly toward that person will keep the child on the bridge. The teacher and/or the students then sing or chant the following words, which allows the sound-maker enough time to get to the correct position.

"The water's cold, so don't fall in, 'cause that is where the alligators swim."

After one recitation of the words, the child with the sound source makes a sound and the child with the blindfold walks forward directly toward the sound until he can touch it. The process is repeated until the child reaches the end of the "bridge".


More challenging - You may wish to use 2 sound sources, one which always indicates the proper direction, and one which is always a "decoy", (perhaps it's an alligator who's hungry and trying to drum up some dinner!)


This game works better with bare feet, so students can feel the foil as well as hear it.

To involve more students, plant "alligators" at various positions on both sides of the bridge to nip at (tickle) offending toes that may hang over the edge of the bridge.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Squeaky Toy Tag

Skill(s) Targeted: Auditory Localization

What you will need:  

  • Large, adult-sized sock for each player
  • Squeaky toy for each player
  • Blindfold for each player

To set up: Find a large, open area with no furniture, and a level ground surface. If available, one or more large gym mats could be used for a playing surface.

How to play the game: Two students are blindfolded. Prior to putting on the blindfold the students each put on one of the large socks with a squeaky toy inside positioned directly underneath the foot, so that each time he takes a step, the toy makes a squeak. (You may wish to let your students practice walking around like this before beginning the game.) You will need to have a referee who will help set up the game, signal the start of the game, and watch out for safety during the play of the game. To begin this game the referee will silently position the players somewhere around the edge of the playing area, facing inward. The players may choose to move their squeaky toy for a moment, or the players may choose to crawl to the new location. The referee will say "Start, and the game then progresses as would a normal game of Tag, with one person who is "It" trying to tag the other person. A "Stop" command must be issued when either of the players comes close the edge of the play area. At the signal, the players will freeze, and the referee will reposition the players at the edge of the playing area once again.

Depending on the ability level of the players, you may wish to have a signal that has the players switch roles; so that the player who was "It" is no longer chasing, but being chased.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

The Penny/Nickel Can

Skill(s) Targeted: Auditory Discrimination/Localization

What you will need:  

  • A can and lid with a slit in the top
  • A street with light to moderate traffic from 2 directions.
  • A handful of pennies, and nickels
  • A folding chair for each player
  • 2 small containers such as margarine tubs

 To set up: Set up your chairs side-by-side on a sidewalk next to a street with light to moderate traffic. One player gets a small container with pennies and the other gets a small container with nickels.

How to play the game: The players listen (and watch, if appropriate) for traffic coming from a specific direction. For example, the player on the right will listen for cars coming from the right, and the player on the left will listen for cars coming from the left. (You may wish to start using the words "northbound traffic," "eastbound traffic", etc. so that your students begin to hear these directional terms.) Each time a car comes by, a coin is dropped into the can. For example, if the student on the right has the nickels and is listening for cars coming from the right, then he will drop a nickel in the can each time a car from that direction passes by. And, of course, the student on the left will do the same with a penny for each car that comes from the left. After a specified amount of time has passed, the players return inside and can then enjoy separating the coins into their respective groups, and then determine whether there were more cars from the left, or from the right (or northbound vs. southbound).

Modifications: To make this game a little more complex, you can set up at an intersection and target different concepts, such as: nickels on one street, pennies on the other; nickels for cars that stop, pennies for those that do not stop; nickels for cars that turn the corner, pennies for cars that go straight, etc. This game may also be done under blindfold, if the students are so inclined.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Let's Get Movin' I

Concept(s) Targeted: Tactile Stimulation

What you will need

  • large blanket or quilt on which you have sewn a variety of textures

How to play the game: Remove baby's shoes and socks. Place baby on blanket so that arms and legs are able to come into contact with a variety of textures as baby moves.

  1. Let baby explore on her own.
  2. Occasionally comment, describing the texture she is exploring.
  3. Follow her lead. 


  1. Let baby explore while dressed only in a diaper.
  2. Use blanket when working with baby on rolling.
  3. Rub baby's body with different parts of the quilt, describing the activity with concept and comparison words (soft, rough, light).
  4. On warm days, move blanket out under the trees so baby can enjoy outdoor play on her blanket.

Comments/Suggestions: Blanket can be made in squares or strips that are sewn together. As baby grows, additional pieces can be sewn on to increase the blanket's size.

If baby shows a strong preference/dislike for certain textures, this can be reflected in the amount of texture on the blanket or in its pattern. For instance, a narrow piece of burlap can be sewn between two larger, more favored textures. In order to reach the preferred textures, baby must encounter the less preferred. The drive to reach a favored texture can be used to encourage touching a less favored one.

from Linda Lyle ©

Let's Get Movin' II

Concept(s) Targeted: Tactile stimulation; independent moving and exploration

What you will need

  • A box, slightly larger in length than your child
    (Parents report that plastic boxes designed to hold Christmas decorations work very well, are inexpensive, and last longer than cardboard.)

To set up: Fill the box about half full of uncooked pinto beans

How to play the game: Introduce beans to child slowly (ex: place her feet in them, or let her explore with her hands.) When she is comfortable, place the child on her back in the beans. Let her explore the way her body feels and the sounds that are made when she moves in this bean pool.

Like water, a child should never be left alone when playing in a bean pool.


  1. As the baby grows, small toys can be hidden in the beans; a child can learn to measure, pour, place things in and take out of containers while seated in the bean pool.
  2. Substitute rice, bird seed, plastic balls, leaves for the beans.

from Linda Lyle ©

Let's Get Movin' III

Concept(s) Targeted: Exploration, tactile stimulation

What you will need

  • A heavy piece of cloth (ribbon will do) 2-3 yards long and 1 inch wide (exact dimensions are not necessary;
  • Sew a variety of textures onto this strip of cloth (feathers, velvet, pom-poms, ric-rac, bells, etc.) Sew them on well!
  • Connect the textures so that there is a continuous flow of textured items along the strip.

To set up: Place your baby in a position where he/she is well supported and is able to freely use her arms (a highchair with a tray works well).

 How to play the game: Stretch the strip across the tray so that your baby can touch the strip in front of her. With her hands on the strip, gently pull so that the strip moves slowly under her hands. Comment occasionally on the textures that get a response from her. Move the strip over, under, around her arms and hands.

Adaptations: Vary the movement (sometimes pull, then stop and wait; see what she does with the fabric. Does she look for a favorite part? Does she reach for something on it that she wants? Do her fingers scratch, poke, etc.?)

Other long, narrow items can be used in the same way (ex: hose from the vacuum cleaner, belt, a piece of chain)

For children with some useable vision, consider the things they are able to see and incorporate them into the strip. Consider high contrasting colors (blue/yellow; black/white; red/yellow). For instance, sew red pom-poms onto a strip of bright yellow felt.

from Linda Lyle ©

Other Ways to Get Movin'

Concept(s) Targeted: Tactile discrimination, exploration


  • Mobiles: What to use/Where to hang them
    • Very young infants lay with their heads turned to the side and one arm out. At this age, a mobile can be hung to the side and very low so that the child can use her vision to see the movement of the mobile. The very young child with some vision may notice the high contrast of black/white or black/white/red mobiles.
    • Over the course of 2-4 months, the mobile can be moved so that it is more directly over the baby's head. Again, placing it very low in the crib encourages vision use and will encourage early swiping at the mobile (early arm/hand use and mid-line play).
    • Adaptations:
      • Consider using reflective balls or beads (from a Christmas tree); high contrasting colors.
      • If you notice your baby has a preference for a certain color, use that color (along with others) as a way to attract her visual attention.
      • Look for a mobile that can be wound up to make music. The music can attract her attention as well. If the music component is above the mobile, it can usually be separated from the mobile when she outgrows the toy and a different kind of mobile can be used.
      • Wind chimes make good mobiles.
      • Real objects that your child will need to learn about make excellent mobile toys (ex: measuring spoons, an infant spoon and cup, a pacifier, a favorite rattle).
      • If your child notices light, you can wind a string of Christmas tree lights around the mobile to attract her attention.
  • Jungle gym toys
    • Many of these are commercially available and are not expensive. Before purchasing one, it is helpful to consider whether you will be able to adapt the toy in order to get the toys close enough to your child for successful play.
    • If not, it may be easier to make a frame. To make a jungle gym, you can use a piece of PVC pipe, to make a frame. Instructions can be found on page
    • Some parents have reported success using a heavy cardboard box. They have hung toys from the ceiling of the box and the baby lays on her back in the box for play.
    • Lilli Nielsen has designed a box called a Little Room that provides this type of play space as well.
    • Toys can be hung using pieces of elastic. As your baby becomes more skilled at reaching, she can hold a toy and the elastic permits her to pull the toy toward her for more exploration. When she lets go, it returns to its place and she can find it again (early object permanence).
    • Adaptations:
      • It is a good idea to vary your child's position when playing with these toys. In addition to her back, she can lie on her side, sit in her car seat or another seating system, and even play with them while on her stomach.
  • Keeping things close!
    • Pin interesting textures such as pieces of ribbon, bells to your child's shirt in the center front. Her little hands can begin exploring at mid-line as she plays with these toys.
    • Bright colored socks with a bell sown on them can be used to encourage looking at feet as well as pulling legs up to reach with hands.
    • Hang a crib-safe mirror in your baby's crib and place her close enough to it that she can see herself.
  • Learning to like movement
    • Not all babies enjoy movement in the beginning. For some, the experience stresses their sensory system. For many, because of their low vision or blindness, they do not recognize the signs that they are about to be moved and are caught off-guard. This makes the experience frightening for them. For the baby who cries each time she is moved, the following may be helpful:
      • Give her information before any movement happens. Touch her body with your hands in the places where you touch her to pick her up. (Most babies appreciate a firm touch.) Tell her what you are going to do. Give her a few seconds to process the information. You will be surprised how quickly she learns that this touch means "up" and responds to it by shifting her body to say she is ready for the move.
      • Babies generally feel safer when moving in their parents' arms. Gentle rocking and swaying can be used in the early days to help her adjust to the feel of her body moving in space.
    • Other movement sources:
      • Baby swing
      • Vibrating baby seat
      • Water bed STYLE="text-decoration: underline">(Never leave a child unattended on a waterbed).
      • Baby hammock
      • Swinging in a blanket held by two adults (6 months or older)
      • A ride in the family car

from Linda Lyle ©

Tactile Signs

Skill(s) Targeted: 

  • Environmental awareness, signs
  • Tactile Skills,
  • Fine Motor Skills

What you will need:  

  • 4-5 rooms where a small activity can be set up
  • 4-5 small containers
  • 4-5 activities which have several parts
  • 4-5 materials of different texture
  • Blindfold for each player
  • Rubber cement or other removable adhesive

To set up: Cut each of your pieces of material into 2 pieces. Affix one piece of material to the right side of the doorjamb, where a sign would be placed, or at about shoulder level for the little guys. (I have found that rubber cement is quick, easy to use, effective, and is easily removed from most surfaces including painted walls, paneling, and metal.) Place one part of an activity in that room. Affix the matching piece of material to the lid of one container. In that container, place the matching parts of the activity in that room.

For example: 

  • In the room place a shape sorter--in the container, place the shape pieces.
  • In the room, there is a metal file cabinet--in the container, magnetic letters/numbers.

How to play the game: The student travels to the door with whatever mode of travel is appropriate for him, then independently locates the piece of material. He then scans the lids of the containers to find the matching material. He is then taken or directed to the area where the activity is set up, and completes the task.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Follow the String

Concept(s) Targeted: Depth perception, positional concepts

What you will need

  • A long piece of string (5-10 yards); 
  • high contrast with the flooring if needed; 
  • a toy with wheels that can be pushed along the string; barriers (blocks, pillows, etc.)

To set up: Spread the string across the floor; place several barriers across the string.

How to play the game: Explain that the string is a road and we are going to drive our cars on the road. Follow the path of the string, going over or around the barriers. Use positional words related to the action taken around the barrier.


  • To increase difficulty:
    • Spread the string out in a way so that the child has to travel under, over, behind furniture in order to push the car along the string.
    • Together, create a path with building blocks and drive cars along the blocks. Barriers can be made with blocks as well.
    • Include a step or other changes in surface area when spreading string.
    • Use a raised surface like a balance beam.
    • Make a line in sand with your fingers and try to follow it.
    • Use the string to make wriggly lines.
  • For the child with depth perception problems:
    • Provide additional time to explore all changes in texture, surface area, etc.
    • Use solid barriers that cannot be moved (ex: the edge of a step, a couch leg) so that child can tactually experience and confirm the differences she is seeing.
    • Tape high contrast paper to the floor and let the child push a shopping cart along it. Let him/her crawl, pushing a ball along the paper.

from Linda Lyle ©

More Fun with String

Concept(s) Targeted: Object permanence, follow directions, memory

What you will need

  • A favorite toy or small treat, 
  • a long piece of string

To set up

  • Tie one end of the string to a favorite toy or small treat
  • Hide the toy out of sight
  • Weave the string around the furniture in a way that the child can follow it.

How to play the game: Give child the end of the string and have them follow it to find a surprise at the other end.


  • If child has language capacity, have them provide a running commentary of their actions, as if he/she were a news announcer on television. "Now I am going around the chair; I am climbing over the pillow, etc."
  • Have the child move in the direction the string is taking him/her and have them predict where they are going. "I think I am going to have to go to the chair next."

from Linda Lyle ©

Wall Pockets

Skill(s): Positional concepts

What you will need:  

  • Several pieces of scrap paper
  • Rubber cement
  • Several pictures and matching-sized blank paper, or
  • Several strips of Braille paper, some with Braille, some without Braille
  • Post-it notes

To set up: Use the rubber cement to affix sets of 2 pieces of scrap paper to the wall, one above the other. Only use the cement on 3 sides, leaving the top side open, so that you have a pocket. (You may wish to test your walls to see of the rubber cement will come off. In most cases, I believe it will.) In each pocket you will place a piece of paper with the top sticking out. For each set, one pocket will have a picture or Braille, and the other will have a blank piece of paper. Next to each set, leave yourself a Post-it note that says which pocket has the picture or Braille in it, either the top or the bottom.

How to play the game: The object of this game is for the student to find the picture on the first try, after the teacher tells them which pocket contains the picture or Braille, either the "top" pocket, or the "bottom" pocket. They get to take home the pictures or a small toy after the lesson.

Modifications: You may wish to change the positional concept to "left" and "right", or "high" and "low", or even "north" and "south" (with north being on the top, as it would be on a map). 

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Positional Racetrack Builders

Skill(s) Targeted:  

  • Positional concepts
  • Visual scanning

What you will need:  

  • Multiple pieces of a car or train track
  • A vehicle which can travel on that track
  • Index cards

 To set up: Determine which positional concepts will be targeted. In the following example we will use, "On" versus "Under". On the index cards write "We are resting ________". In the blank write things like: "on the desks," "under the chairs," "on the shelves", etc. Also include a number on the cards (a number between 1 and 5 works best). Place a card on the floor of the doorway of each room used for the game. Place the correct number of pieces of the racetrack in the rooms in the places specified by the card.

How to play the game: In the door of the room, the student will find the card, and the teacher will read it. The student will then use to clue given to find the pieces of racetrack hidden in the room.

Once all of the pieces have been collected, the student then gets to assemble them and play with the racetrack for a while.

Modifications: If the student prefers to build puzzles, the pieces of a puzzle may be hidden in the rooms. Or multiple pieces of a single game may be hidden in different rooms.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Eastern Star, Western Sun

Skill(s): Cardinal directions, Matching

What you will need: 

  • A number of small toys
  • Envelopes
  • A large, simple picture of a star
  • A large, simple picture of a sun
  • Several sets of smaller matching pictures of the star and sun
  • 2 small boxes

To set up: Affix the picture of the star to one of the boxes and place the box on the eastern end of a large table or on the eastern side of the room. Place the picture of the sun on the other box and place it on the western end of a large table or on the western side of the room. Place a toy and one of the small pictures in each envelope.

How to play the game: The object of this game is for the student to identify the picture and place both the picture and the toy in the box with the matching picture. (At the end of the game, you may wish to let the student choose one toy from each box to take home.) The teacher's job is to reinforce the use of the words "Eastern" and "Western". Eventually, the pictures will be replaced with and "E" for East and a "W" for West.

Modifications: For the student with no vision, use textures or shapes, rather than the pictures.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Boat Dock Shuttle

Skill(s) Targeted: Cardinal Directions

What you will need:  

  • A large bowl or small tub with water
  • A medium sized plastic lid that will float on water
  • A toy phone or real disconnected phone
  • A toy bus or car
  • A dozen or more small, light-weight toys
  • A small sign for each of the cardinal directions - "north", "south", "east", and "west"

 To set up: Set up your signs in the appropriate places, either around a large table, or in a moderate-sized uncluttered area. With each sign place an equal number of the toys. Fill the bowl or tub with water and place the lid so that it floats on the water. (This is the boat and the loading dock.) Place your phone and the bus or car (this is the shuttle) near the loading dock.

How to play the game: The student is the shuttle driver, and the teacher plays the role of the passengers. The teacher "calls" the student on the toy phone and asks to be picked up at one of the shuttle stations (north, south, east, or west). The student then takes his shuttle to the correct location, picks up one of the toys, and takes it to the boat dock, where he "loads the passenger" by placing the toy on the floating lid. This procedure is repeated until all of the passengers have been delivered to and loaded onto the boat.

Modifications - If the student is not yet ready for all of the directions, use only 2 or 3 stations. If this is still too difficult, place a different colored piece of cloth at each station. This way the teacher can ask, for example, to be picked up "at the north station with the pink parking lot" or the "west station with the striped parking lot".

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Directional Squares

Skill(s) Targeted: Cardinal directions

What you will need:  

  • 25 of any one of the following items: carpet squares, or chairs, or towels, or cafeteria trays or any other item that can clearly mark a small area.
  • 24 index cards, 3 copies of each of the following phrases:
    • Move 1 space north
    • Move 1 space south
    • Move 1 space east
    • Move 1 space west
    • Move 2 spaces north
    • Move 2 spaces south
    • Move 2 spaces east
    • Move 2 spaces west

To set up: Align the carpet squares (or whatever you are using) in a 5 X 5 grid pattern, (see the diagram below) with enough space between the squares to clearly separate them from one another, but close enough so that one can reach out and touch the surrounding squares.

Diagram:5x5 grid of squares  with equal space between squares

How to play: This is a gross motor adaptation of "Directional Checkers" fromSTYLE="text-decoration: underline">Simon Says Is Not the Only Game, page 31,(Leary & Schneden, American Foundation for the Blind, 1982). Each child begins in the exact center of the grid. Whoever has been selected to be the "caller" (the person who will be reading the cards) selects an index card from the top of the deck. The caller reads the card and the child moves the appropriate number of spaces in the correct direction. The first person that gets a card where the correct execution of the directions makes them move off of the grid is the winner.


More challenging - it is possible to separate the cards into 2 piles: the north-south pile and the east-west pile, and then have the caller draw 2 cards. This will result in secondary directions (such as northeast, southwest, etc.), thereby requiring the students to identify 2 directions and move in a diagonal direction.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Sniff 'n' Turn

Skill(s) Targeted: Olfactory

What you will need: 

  • 2 distinctly different scents
  • Change of direction indicators (self-adhesive colored dots do well)
  • Route directions (for the teacher)

 To set up: Set-up and preparation for this game takes much longer than the actual playing time. The teacher must decide on a route and write out the directions as detailed below.

How to play the game: This game involves executing a route based upon scents provided. You may choose to use easily available scents such as spices and extracts. The extracts work well if you soak a cotton ball in the extract, and then wrap it in foil; the spices may be left in their original containers, with the label masked. Each scent indicates a change of direction. For example, oregano could mean "execute a left turn", and cinnamon "execute a right turn". (You could choose to use 3 scents. Then one of the scents indicates that the student should continue in the same direction. However, then you may be risking "sniffer burn-out")

The instructor will need to plan a route that includes several changes of direction. At each change of direction, some kind of marker will need to be placed on the floor (we will call this a Station). For particularly long stretches, you may wish to include a station where you continue on straight. Fluorescent Color Coding Labels which may be purchased at most grocery and/or "super" stores, are self-adhesive, easy to remove, and come in a variety of colors so that it will be fairly easy to find a color to contrast almost any floor color. The teacher should have a route card that indicates each change of direction. It may read something like this: "Station 1 - Lobby - right turn - cinnamon" The student will need a the teacher or another partner who will let him know when he has reached a station (if residual vision is not appropriate for the task) and present him with the appropriate scents. At each station, the partner presents the student with whichever scent is needed until the route has been completed.

Comments: While playing this game, I have found that after about 10-12 sniffs, the nose gets tired and it becomes more difficult to tell which scent is which. Also, I tried 3 different brands of plastic bags, and each had a residual smell which overrode the smell of the item placed inside.

from Cecelia Quintana ©

Dean P. Inman, Ph.D.
Ken Loge, M.S.
Oregon Research Institute
1715 Franklin Boulevard
Eugene, Oregon 97405
541-484-2123 (telephone)
541-484-1108 (fax)
Email: ,

Children who have significant visual impairments are required to use other sensory modalities to compensate for their lack of sight. This is especially true when they walk. Two forms of sensory input are used to walk safely within familiar and unfamiliar environments: tactile information and acoustical information. Tactile information derives from a cane held close to the ground, from the hands which can discern shape, texture, location, temperature, and function of objects found in the environment, and through the feet which provide information about the floor over which one is walking, the distance from one place to another, and a means for learning the correct path to take to get from where one is and where one wants to be. Acoustical information provides information about the nature of sound generators in the environ-ment and their location. Skillful individuals can also use echoic information which can reveal where non sound-generating objects are located in the environment as well.

Children who are visually impaired and also have a significant hearing impairment, are further disadvantaged in that they have less acoustical information available to them. Bi-lateral amplification is provided to help mitigate the hearing loss. "Learning to hear" is a very important functional skill for children with dual sensory loss. Their ability to ambulate depends on it.

Orientation and mobility training is provided to teach children how to learn to walk through familiar and unfamiliar environments safely. Training is done in a variety of real-world situations, including hall ways, furnished rooms, and cross walks. Training is time consuming, sometimes risky, and limited to the number of environments available to the student and the O&M Training Specialist.

It is well known that training complex sensory-motor skills can be done effectively and safely in computer-simulated environments. Simulated training environments are (a) unlimited, in terms of the different types of training simulations that can be created for the learners, (b) safe, (c) cost-effective, and (d) they make is easy to provide learners with repeated guided and unguided practice. Simulated environments can also accent specific sensory information while diminishing perhaps confusing back-ground information, until the learner knows what to "listen for". Then the computer could slowly change the signal to noise ratio until the simulated situation matched the real world situation after which is it modeled.

The costs of the computer hardware needed to model a three-dimensional sound environment after a relevant real-world situation have dropped dramatically. For $300-$500 dollars, a sound card can be installed in most standard PC's (IBM or MAC). The recent surge of availability and the drop in prices is due to the success of the gaming industry which is beginning to exploit three dimensional platforms.

For the first two years of the project our plan is to work closely with the Oregon State Department of Education and the Oregon School for the Blind, to create and test the training materials using children who are totally or nearly totally blind. During year three and four of the project, we will begin working with deaf-blind children and modifying the material as needed to accommodate the concomitant hearing loss.

During implementation, data will be collected on individual child change, family satisfaction, and teacher assessment. Dissemination activities will be extensive.

By Diane Barnes, COMS, Region 13 ESC, Austin, Texas


*Documentation is a standard requirement in all districts. However, the process of the documentation differs from district to district. For example, all districts require progress reports turned in at the conclusion of each school's grade reporting period. Some districts have standardized forms, some allow staff to turn in information in a non-form format. Contact individual districts and inquire about each district's required documentation systems.

NOTE: if you use a sample form in this notebook, please whiteout the district's school's / ESC's name  unless, of course you're working in the particular district.

General documentation:

  • Progress reports - These are mandated by TEA, and required on all students receiving direct services. Address all areas on the IEP - you do not have to work on every objective each reporting period, but you do have to address it. Turned these in in on a 6 or 9 week basis, coinciding with the district's reporting periods.
  • Contact logs - communications / consultations with teachers, administration, and parents regarding student issues
  • IEP - Refer back to this regularly. It keeps you focused / in compliance
  • Lesson plans - dated log of lessons used and student's performances. Again, it keeps you focused in the continual evaluation of student's progress. Include training environments, date of training, teaching strategies, tools / materials used, and student behaviors.
  • Evaluation and annual reports
  • Mileage log

by Dona Sauerburger [

Reprinted, with permission from: Metropolitan Washington Orientation and Mobility Association Newsletter - May 1999 This newsletter is published by WOMA six times a year. It is sent at no charge to DC-MD AER members. Those outside of the DC-Maryland area can subscribe for $5.00/year ($7 for both DC-MD AER and WOMA newsletters); address checks to "DC-MD AER." All unsigned articles are written by the editor: Dona Sauerburger, COMS, Editor (301-858-0138 V/TTY) 1606 Huntcliff Way, Gambrills, MD 21054 e-mail:   

On May 16, at a conference in Kalamazoo hosted by Western Michigan University (WMU) and coordinated by Bill Wiener, an association was formed for Travel Instruction for people with disabilities other than blindness. This was the culmination of a landmark project funded by Project ACTION to develop standards for Travel Instructors for people with disabilities other than blindness, and a curriculum to train the instructors. This fall, WMU will start preparing Travel Instructors, using the curriculum. There were 85-90 people at the conference altogether. They included Travel Instructors who had been teaching people with disabilities other than blindness to travel independent for more than 20 years, as well as those who were just getting started, employed by or contracting with transit companies to train their paratransit riders to use the buses. There were also several O&M specialists, representatives from universities interested in training Travel Instructors, and consumers. 

[picture shows Bill Wiener speaking at podium looking over his glasses; caption says, "Dr. William Wiener, Chair of WMU's Department of Blind Rehabilitation, and Coordinator for Project ACTION's Independent Travel Project, coordinated the conference."]

Association Ends Isolation 

We O&M specialists know what it's like to feel unrecognized and alone -- it's one of the reasons we like WOMA! Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine how isolated some of the travel instructors felt when they developed their programs decades ago. With the exception of those in New York City (where the public school system has 40 Travel Instructors!), many Travel Instructors developed their programs without knowing that others were doing the same thing. Each of them learned the hard way what to teach, and how to teach it. Some of them met other Travel Instructors for the first time at this conference or in the Steering Committee that organized it.

Common Elements of Travel Instruction 

Travel Instructors who have trained people with disabilities long enough learn that there are elements that are necessary for travel instruction besides teaching routes and street-crossing and bus-riding skills. The programs of these experienced Travel Instructors have these elements in common, even though many of them were developed in isolation. These elements include "stranger approaches" (colleagues or plain-clothes police pose as "strangers" who entice students to be sure they respond appropriately and safely), and teaching problem-solving skills and how to cope with being lost or having their route blocked. 

[One picture shows Patti looking to the side and another shows Steven, hand reaching out, looking toward us; caption says, "Patricia Voorhees, Travel Training Specialist with public schools in Pennsylvania and Steven Garcia, Travel Instructor from New York City public schools, discuss problem-solving skills."] 

At the conference, Travel Instructors Patti Voorhees and Steven Garcia led a session on teaching problem-solving skills. One story that was shared at their session illustrates the importance of this professional training instead of simply teaching people how to get to their destination. It took place in suburban Maryland about ten years ago. A man who is cognitively disabled was trained by a Travel Instructor to get to and from work by bus. He learned it very well and traveled independently for several years without incident. However one day he took the wrong bus. He had no skills to handle these contingencies, had never been taught how to problem-solve or recover when lost, or even how to phone for help. He lived on the streets of Washington, DC for several days until he was finally found. He was then shown how to call for help, and how to handle unexpected events.

 [One picture shows Millie looking to the side, another shows Ed putting an overhead on the machine; caption says, "Millie Santiago-Liebmann, one of several parents of people with disabilities at the conference, and New York City Travel Instructor Edward Sherman led a session "Issues for Parents and Advocates."]

[At the top of the next page, one picture shows Jack Gorelick leaning dynamically toward the microphone at a podium and speaking seriously; second picture shows Jack smiling and holding a plaque with Pggy who is smiling broadly; third picture shows Becky at the podium speaking; caption says, "Jack Gorelick (left), considered by many to be the Grandfather of Travel Instruction, receives the Distinguished Career Award from Margaret Groce, coordinator of the New York City public schools travel instruction program. Becky Allen (right), Executive Director of the ARC of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, shared stories that illustrated the need for standards and preparation curriculum for Travel Instructors."]

Saturday evening's banquet was truly inspiring. Rebecca Allen, who had experienced travel instruction as a program supervisor and also as an advocate, talked about the need for the profession of travel instruction, relating her personal experiences. Then the Distinguished Career Award was presented to Jack Gorelick, who is the first person we know of to establish a travel instruction program for people with disabilities other than blindness. He began more than 30 years ago. I was struck by the parallel between his work, at a time when he said everyone was convinced that people as severely retarded as his clients could never travel independently, and the work of Russ Williams twenty years earlier. Russ has told me that the administrators at Hines Hospital were very courageous to overcome the liability issues and concerns of other staff who didn't believe that blind people could travel safely by themselves, and who thought that the blinded veterans should not be allowed to travel outside independently. Two decades later, Jack overcame similar ignorance.

[Eight pictures show men and women speaking; caption says, "Throughout the conference, professional issues were discussed and shared with the participants, such as (from left): program standards and quality indicators (Peggy Groce and Elga Joffee); certification programs (Eileen Siffermann); body of knowledge; ethics (Jack Gorelick, not shown, and Bruce Blasch); staff development (Rosanne Bopp); and university personnel preparation programs (Helen Lee) as well as association issues such as by-laws (Bonnie Minick) and newsletters and publications (Chris Wright-Penov).]

A Professional Association is Born 

The morning after the banquet, Rick Welsh gave an articulate, inspiring overview of the need for a professional organization. The participants then unanimously voted to establish the organization. One of the Travel Instructors, who had taught people with disabilities other than blindness to travel independently for 15 years before realizing that anyone else was doing the same thing, she was moved to tears when the vote took place. Others were also deeply moved; one dedicated Travel Instructor with 10 years' experience explained later that she hoped that the formation of an association would help legitimize her beloved profession. 

[Picture shows Rick Welsh speaking, caption says, "Dr. Richard Welsh asks the key question; participants enthusiastically respond, and an association is formed."] 

Sessions were then held to begin the process of establishing the organization with by-laws, a newsletter, a code of ethics and a mechanism for awarding certificates of proficiency. It is hoped that this organization will be able to establish a certification program so that there will be some assurance of quality for people hiring and being taught by travel instructors. Forms were distributed for charter members to join the association, and membership forms were taken for colleagues at home. The by-laws will be mailed to all charter members, and after they are approved, officers and board members will be elected. To find out more about the association, contact Dr. William Wiener at Western Michigan University (616-387-3453; E-mail: ).

[Picture shows people sitting at tables, with one woman speaking earnestly. Caption says, "During the Town Hall Meeting at lunch (above), participants discussed issues of concern."]

[One picture shows Ernest sitting in front of a poster, smiling broadly; the poster says "Travel Training Program" and pictures of people near or on buses. Another picture shows Norma smiling and holding up a poster with many pictures too small to see. Caption between pictures says, "Travel Instructors Ernest Sheeler with Transit Plus in Ohio, and Norma Munoz with Pittsburgh Public Schools were among those Travel Instructors who proudly displayed posters of their programs."]

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The relevant research tells us that variations in visually impaired children's abilities and characteristics are related in part to variations in their environmental circumstances (Warren, 1994). We know a rich physical environment versus a restricted environment and encouragement to engage the environment rather than being protected from it positively affects development.

This checklist attempts to look at factors that can be addressed in the visually impaired child's environment that will lead to more independence. Looking at both the physical and social environment, the checklist is divided into three areas:

  • Physical Environment,
  • People/Expectations & Opportunities, and
  • Materials.

Check all areas that seem to be a concern so that the teachers and team working with the child can develop strategies to increase independence and mobility.


When looking at adapting and changing the environment, think about changes that will allow a child to be more independent rather than thinking about just making things easier for them. For example, if there are no natural obstacles in the way, the child will never learn to go around an obstacle. But on the other hand, if there are so many things in the way that a child cannot move independently, then he will most likely be restricted in his movement and interaction with his environment. When adapting or changing the physical environment think about:

  1. changes that increase the child's independence - do what makes sense versus creating an artificial environment
  2. changes that will benefit all the children
  3. making adaptations natural versus artificial
  4. before making adaptations, can the child negotiate the physical environment with familiarization versus changing the environment
  5. fading adaptations and making sure that the child can negotiate the real world.

A. Safety


  • Add visual adaptations such as painting color contrasting strips, wall or baseboard painted with contrasting strip, handrails painted contrasting color
  • Add tactual cues such as non-slip mats, strips or different type of flooring can be used at the stairs or drop-off
  • Good cane skills should detect drop-offs, adaptive cane techniques can be used (touch & drag, continuous contact)
  • Use of landmarks to identify with stairs or drop-offs (i.e., the stairs are by the double doors)

Head-high obstacles

(shelves, fire extinguishers, drinking fountains, phone booths, sinks on pedestals, free standing stairs, open windows)

  • Place box, stool, other item underneath overhang such as placing a stool under a water fountain, a table under a shelf
  • Use of "high bumper" to be used in specific areas

Low-lying obstacles

(stool, wagon, motor equipment, toys, mats, toy box, etc.)

  • Try to decrease obstacles by putting objects away or by arranging environment
  • Use rugs or different floor surfaces to define space around obstacles
  • Make sure child is familiar with area so there is more confidence in moving
  • Use of "low bumper" to be used in specific areas

Vertical obstacles

(doors part-way open, poles)

  • Partially open doors are dangerous for a student who is visually impaired especially when a student is trailing walls without using a cane. Contrasting colored tape can be used on the edge of the door so that when it is open, it gives a good visual cue.
  • Use of "bumpers" when approaching known obstacle


(moving swings, angled posts)

  • Defined space under swings the width and length of "safe space"
  • Fence around area
  • Sensory cues at equipment
  • Buddy-system

Glass doors, glass furniture

  • Use window decals to provide more visual cues for glass doors
  • Use protective covers on edges of glass furniture
  • Put glass furniture on contrasting colored rug for easier identification

Child groupings in class

  • If children who are non-ambulatory are grouped with ambulatory children, "safe" spaces can be developed within the classroom so that child who is visually impaired is not restricted in movement and explorations.




  • Information on the impact of the child's visual condition on lighting needs is important. More is not necessarily better; child may be light sensitive or respond more in dim lighting. Dimmer switches can be helpful to control lighting.
  • Where should the lighting be positioned? Usually it is better for light to come from behind the child so child should be positioned for best natural light
  • Some children need higher intensity lighting for detail vision. Task lighting can sometimes be helpful.
  • Check for glare: culprits include television and computer monitors, blackboards, laminated pictures. Looking at positioning of light and changing the angle of how the light hits the materials usually can control glare.


  • Contrasting colors are easier to see. Contrast can be used in providing a contrasting colored background, which emphasizes the material visually.

Size and Distance

  • You can increase the magnification of an object by bringing it closer or by increasing the size. Allow the child to bring materials as close as they need to and allow them to be close to you or the materials such as in circle time.

Positioning of Materials

  • Make sure that materials are positioned in the visual range of the child. If the child needs to hold materials close to see, raise the materials on a slant board, wedge, or higher surface so that the child does not have to hold his head down to see it. If the child is in equipment such as a sidelyer, make sure materials are positioned in his visual field.


  • The speed of which an object passes through the visual field affects the visually impaired child's ability to see it. A fast moving ball may move too fast for the child to fixate and follow but a balloon of the same size moving slowly may be easier for the child to follow.


Areas of classroom distinct

  • Different tactile and visual flooring in each area (tile in kitchen area, carpet in living area, different colored flooring in work area, etc.)
  • Different types of shelving or cabinets (open shelving in work space, shelves with brightly colored doors in kitchen area, drawers in living area)

Personal locations are marked

  • Chairs and lockers can be marked in Braille or tactile/visual cues

Auditory clues are used for goal-directed movement

  • Natural auditory landmark can be used that are stationary sound sources (clock ticking over door)
  • Natural auditory cues associated with activity (water running in sink for clean-up)
  • Enhancement of natural auditory clues (silverware tapping)
  • Musical sound clue (tape playing at music area)
  • Repeated voice clues at the goal (use with one of the methods above)

Don't use:

  • A moving sound source
  • Sound sources that change from day to day
  • Verbal directions from other than the goal, i.e., don't stand behind or beside the child and tell him which way to go.

Landmarks used to increase independence

  • Sometimes you may need to add a landmark so that the student can be more independent. The door to a specific location can be marked with a textured sign, a different type of doormat can be placed in front of the door, an object can be used such as a set of drumsticks taped to the door of the music room.


Travel areas are free of clutter

  • If a child can trail a wall or furniture, have the routes that he can do independently and functionally, free of clutter (i.e., no trash cans or chairs against wall, no toy baskets, etc.)
  • Have a designated "parking lot" for wheelchairs, etc. that is clearly marked.

Areas of classroom match classroom routine

  • To increase the chance that a child can move independently from one area to another within the routine of the class, arrange the classroom so that areas follow the sequence of the day. Position tables so that there are straight paths of travel. Carpet or different flooring can designate straight paths.

Moving furniture in classroom is minimal or done with students' participation

  • When furniture is moved in the classroom, it may take the child who is blind longer to explore the changes; have the children participate in moving the furniture if possible.


Child has opportunity to travel to different areas around home or school

  • It is best to teach routes during the time that the student needs to travel there so that he will know where he is going. Object symbols or a specific task can be used to help the student understand where he is going. For example, going to the cafeteria to pick up milk, taking a ball back to PE.
  • Once the route has been selected, consistent carryover by educational staff and family members is important.
  • Frequent repetition of the route during the routine is helpful.
  • Consistent labels are used for locations in the school, such as the "cafeteria hallway", "courtyard".
  • Routes to a goal may not always be the most direct but can be selected for ease in identifying landmarks.
  • Landmarks may be constructed that fit naturally in the environment (i.e., placing room signs or tactile international signs at a height that a child can reach or see easily or putting a brightly colored mat in front of the door.

Student has a way to carry belongings

  • A backpack is helpful so that a student can have his hands free to use a cane, adaptive device, etc. A basket on a walker can be used.


Child optimally participates in routines and activities

  • Problem-solve ways that a student can participate at some level in all activities (getting toys, objects; setting up materials, putting materials away)
  • Because a child with limited vision cannot see these natural routines, they may need to be "moved" through the activities so that they understand the expectations. Use "hand-over-hand" or "hand-under-hand" assistance to show the child the activity. Decrease assistance as soon as possible so that the child can be active.
  • Child is given time to perform whatever part of an activity himself.
  • When a child is moving independently, allow him to "bump" into things so that he can learn where they are, place you hand between the child and object so that he does not "run" into an object and protect him from getting hurt.

Child understands who the persons in his environment are

  • For symbolic students, introduce yourself and always speak before you touch a child. When leaving, don't "disappear". Be sure to say good-bye or that you are going to another room. If you leave a child, tell him where she is or leave them in contact with something in the environment.
  • Say the child's name when giving directions or making comments so that the child with visual impairments will know whom you are talking to.
  • For non-symbolic students, a unique procedure can be used by the different persons before interaction, i.e., taking the child's hand to guide him through "give me five", showing the child something that is unique to you (braids, beard, jewelry, etc.) or use coactive sign for your name.

Child is systematically familiarized to new areas and spaces

  • As children move into unfamiliar environments, they may not be as secure to actively search out what is in the new environment. It is important to allow the child time to become familiar and to help them systematically explore what is in the environment.

Child is given time to do things independently

  • It will most likely take a child with visual impairments longer to do an activity or to learn an activity thorough movement rather than vision. Be sure that the child is given adequate time to do activities independently.

Child is given non-visual cues when transitions take place

  • Children receive many visual cues that there will be a transition to another activity. Try to provide non-visual cues to the child who is visually impaired that it is time for another activity.

Child has opportunity to interact with other children in class, school, community

  • Activities can be structured to facilitate interaction and cooperation among students (students can take turns distributing material to other students, classmate can be shown how to be a sighted guide, student can push someone in wagon or wheelchair).
  • Seating arrangements can facilitate more than one person in an area at a time.
  • Specific routes can include requesting materials from another teacher or student.
  • To help other children to feel comfortable, inservices for teachers and other classes may be helpful.

People in the environment feel comfortable in interacting with child

  • Try to avoid the "who is this" game, instruct staff to say "hi, this is ____" instead of using questions as a way to interact.
  • For students with augmentative communication or sign language, staff that has opportunities to interact with the student should receive information on how to communicate.

People in the environment give the child who is blind information and language about what they are doing at the moment

  • It is not meaningful to provide a non-stop verbal description of everything that is happening all of the time. Provide labels and action words talking about what they have their hands on or what they are doing at the moment. The amount of information depends on the age of the child. Don't be afraid of using language involving sight.


Materials are in a consistent and accessible location

  • Materials should be in consistent places and in an accessible location. For a non-mobile child, materials should be presented to allow the most independent interactions that match his motor capabilities. For example, placing a toy on his lap instead of putting it in his hand allows a child to actively reach for the toy. For students in wheelchairs, having shelves at their height is important.
  • Students should participate in setting up the task (beginning), doing the task (middle) and putting the task away (end). This allows them the ability to get a big picture of the activity and anticipate the next step. When you know what the next step is in the activity, you can initiate that step.
  • Consistent locations will help a child learn spatial concepts.
  • For some children, it is important to have materials in a confined space such as a work tray or container.

Materials are selected or adapted to match sensory needs of child


Select or adapt materials addressing visual components:

  • lighting
  • contrast/color
  • size
  • movement
  • decreasing visual clutter

Select or adapt materials addressing auditory components:

  • high pitch - low pitch
  • loud - soft
  • irregular/intermittent - constant
  • fast - slow
  • how sound is activate

Select or adapt materials addressing tactile/proprioceptive components:

  • weight
  • texture
  • resistance
  • vibration
  • movement

Materials used to indicate the beginning and ending of tasks and events

  • Use object cues to indicate what activity is next and a "finish" box to put the object into to indicate the end of the activity

Materials include real objects whenever possible

  • Real objects are used throughout the day in functional activities such as stacking cans on the shelf, making nature books using leaves, acorns and items from outside, using kitchen utensils for fine motor development, etc.

Selection and positioning of materials for optimal interaction

  • If there are centers, make sure there are spaces and chairs for more than one person
  • Restrict the number of materials so that students must share or pass the materials around the table
  • Give two students different "jobs" on one activity such as one folds and the other puts the paper in the envelop
  • Have one child assist another (pulling in wagon, help pushing wagon or wheelchair)
  • Use of materials in turn-taking games
  • Have students take notes or materials to another teacher or student

Carla Brown, Program Specialist
Exceptional Student Education Program Development & Services
Florida Department of Education
325 West Gaines Street, Suite 601
Tallahassee, FL 32312
(850) 488-1106

Download document in Word | Download to PDF)
The ability to move with confidence is critical to maximizing independence, regardless of age or existence of other disabilities. Orientation and mobility (O&M) helps children and adults develop and master the concepts and skills necessary to be able to safely and efficiently move within their world with confidence. Please feel free to download, print, reproduce and distribute this 1-page document. It can be shared at IEP meetings, when consulting with parents, or when working with team members.

PDF and Word documents have both English and Spanish versions. You are encouraged to print the English version on one side, and the Spanish version on the other. Thank you for sharing this document.-- KC Dignan
A Spanish version (Versión Español) is available below.

Movement is important to everyone. Orientation asks the questions:

  • "Where am I?
  • "Where am I going?and
  • "How do I get there?"

Mobility involves getting there safely and efficiently. Orientation and mobility (O&M) begins with understanding where your body ends and the environment begins. It also includes knowing about relationships between different objects in the environment. O&M is a related service and may be provided for all students with visual impairments from birth through age 21 years, regardless of additional disabilities.

Orientation and mobility is a lifelong learning process. It is important because:

Movement teaches the brain.

O&M teaches movement with a purpose. Purposeful movement may not occur naturally for children with a visual impairment. An early O&M evaluation is critical.

Safety creates confidence and a sense of well-being.

O&M skills enable children to safely explore and interact with the world, including the home, school, and community. When infants and children, including those with low vision or multiple disabilities, understand their environments, they feel safe. Early O&M evaluation is critical.

Experience brings context to life.

O&M instruction provides real experiences essential to all children. The skills learned reduce isolation by giving students a "common groundfor interacting with family, friends, and future employers. O&M instruction brings the general curriculum to life. Early and periodic O&M evaluations are critical.

O&M evaluations include activities such as assessing a student while:

  • she moves around a different campus to evaluate her abilities in unfamiliar environments.
  • he uses his limited night vision in the neighborhood or community.
  • she uses her wheelchair to travel to the cafeteria, restroom, or other spot on the campus or community.

O&M instruction includes activities such as teaching:

  • the parents of an infant how to deal with their fear that their baby will hurt himself as he moves around the room.
  • a young child how to move towards her mother's voice.
  • a young child with limited movement that those movements creates changes in his life.
  • a student how to find her way in the community by using a telescope or monocular to read street signs.
  • an adolescent how to use a cane and the bus system to independently meet his friends.
  • a girl in a wheelchair how to find the bathroom independently.
  • a student to travel independently to a future job in the community.

Developed by Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired & the Professional Preparation Advisory Group, edited by KC Dignan

Beneficios de la Orientación y Movilidad

El movimiento es importante para todos. La orientación tiene que ver con las preguntas:

  • "¿En dónde estoy?"
  • "¿Hacia dónde voy?" y
  • "¿Cómo llego allí?"

La movilidad involucra llegar a ese lugar con seguridad y eficiencia. La orientación y movilidad (O&M) empieza con entender en dónde termina su cuerpo y empieza el medio ambiente. También incluye conocer acerca de las relaciones entre diferentes objetos en el medio ambiente. La orientación y movilidad (O&M) es un servicio relacionado que pueden recibir todos los estudiantes con problemas visuales desde el nacimiento hasta los 21 años de edad, sin importar las discapacidades adicionales.

La orientación y movilidad es un proceso de aprendizaje que dura toda la vida. Es importante porque:

El movimiento enseña al cerebro.

La orientación y movilidad (O&M) enseña movimiento con un propósito. El movimiento con propósito puede que no acurra de manera natural para niños que tienen un problema visual. Es muy importante la evaluación temprana de la orientación y movilidad (O&M).

La seguridad crea confianza y un sentido de bienestar.

Las habilidades de orientación y movilidad (O&M) permiten a los niños explorar e interactuar con el mundo de manera segura, incluyendo el hogar, la escuela y la comunidad. Cuando los bebés y los niños, incluyendo aquellos con problemas de visión baja o múltiples discapacidades, entienden el medio ambiente en que viven, se sienten seguros. Es muy importante la evaluación temprana de la orientación y movilidad (O&M).

La experiencia brinda contexto a la vida.

La enseñanza de la orientación y movilidad (O&M) ofrece experiencias reales esenciales para todos los niños. Las habilidades aprendidas reducen el aislamiento dando a los estudiantes un "territorio común" para interactuar con la familia, amigos y empleadores futuros. La enseñanza de la orientación y movilidad (O&M) trae el currículum general a la vida. Son muy importantes las evaluaciones tempranas y periódicas de orientación y movilidad (O&M).

Las evaluaciones de orientación y movilidad (O&M) incluyen actividades tales como evaluar a un estudiante mientras:
  • Caminar en una escuela desconcida para evaluar sus habilidades en ambientes poco conocidos.
  • Usa su visión nocturna limitada en el vecindario o en la comunidad.
  • Usa su silla de ruedas para ir a la cafetería, el baño, o a otro lugar en la escuela o en la comunidad.

La enseñanza de la orientación y movilidad (O&M)incluye actividades tales como enseñar:

  • a los padres de un bebé cómo enfrentar sus temores de que su bebé resultará lesionado mientras se mueve en el salón.
  • a un niño pequeño cómo moverse hacia la voz de su mamá.
  • a un niño pequeño con movimiento limitado que como esos movimientos crean cambios en su vida.
  • a una estudiante cómo encontrar su camino en la comunidad usando un telescopio o monocular para leer las señales de las calles.
  • a un adolescente cómo usar por sí mismo un bastón y el sistema de transporte.
  • a una muchacha en silla de ruedas cómo encontrar el baño por sí misma.

Desarrollado por Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired & the Professional Preparation Advisory Group, editado por KC Dignan

Compiled by Judi Piscitello
NYS School for the Blind Resource Center, 5/04


Accessibility Products, Inc.
(5 Prong Ice Grip Cane Attachment)
4855 S. Emerson Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46203
(800) 428-9234

Advantage Canes
Revolution Enterprises, Inc.
12170 Dearborn Place
Poway, CA 92064 (800) 382-5132


Allegro Medical Cane Holder


American Foundation for the Blind
(Mobility Devices for Young Children)


Ambutech / Melet Plastics
34 DeBaets Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R2J 3S9
(800) 561-3340 / Fax (800) 267-5059


American Discount Medical
(walkers, wheelchairs, strollers, scooters)
459 Main St., Suite 101 - 417
Trussville, AL 35173
(800) 877-9100 / Fax (503) 296-5979


Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc.
P.O. Box 9022
Hicksville, NY 11802-9022
(800) 537-2118/ Fax (516) 937-3906


Assistive Devices Listing
Montgomery County Network of Care


188 East Street
Fitchburg, MA 01420
(866) 300-2263 / FAX (978) 345-6549


Blind Children's Center
(Standing on My Own Two Feet - designing & constructing mobility devices)
4120 Marathon Street
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(800) 222-3566


Bossert Specialties, Inc.
Canes and Cane Cases
3620 E. Thomas Road, Suite D-124
Phoenix, AZ 85018


Bundu Basher Tips
c/o South African National Council for the Blind, P.O. Box 11149
Hatfield, Pretoria 0028
(012) 452-3811


CNIB Canes

CNIB National Office
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON M4G 3E8


Carolyn's Enhanced Living Products
(Maxport Color CCTV glasses)
P.O. Box 14577
Bradenton, FL 34280-4577
(800) 648-2266


ConvaQuip Industries, Inc.
P.O. Box 3417 Abilene, TX 79604
(800) 637-8436

Worldwide Vision in the Netherlands
Curve Canes and Telescoping Canes


Dynamic Living, Inc.
P.O. Box 370249
West Hartford, CT 06137-0249
(888) 940-0605
(scooters, rollators and walkers)


Essential Medical Supply, Inc.


(rollators and rolling walkers)


(cane holders, etc.)
(800) 331-6123


Bruce Medical Supply
411 Waverly Oaks Road Suite 154
Waltham, MA 02452
(800) 225-8446


Fashionable Canes, Walking Sticks, etc.


House of Canes and Walking Sticks
767 Old Union Mountain Rd.
P.O. Box 574
Wilderville, OR 97543-0574
(888) 458-5920


Howell Mobility Products
717 Louis Ave.
Royal Oak, MI 48067-4603
Phone/fax: (248) 548-1788


Independent Living Aids, Inc.
(Canes, walkers, obstacle detector, etc.)
27 East Mall
Plainview, NY 11803
(800) 537-2118


Indiana State University
(O&M Bibliography)



Invacare Corporation
1 Invacare Way
Elyria, OH 44036
(800) 333-6900


IIowa Department for the Blind
524 Fourth Street
Des Moines, IA 50309-2306
Phone: (515) 281-1357 (Direct line to Aids and Devices.)
Fax: (515) 281-1263


' K' Sonar Cane


LearnMore Shop
(Compasses, Kiddy & support canes, cane lights, etc.):


LS&S Group, Inc.
P.O. Box 673
Northbrook, IL 60065
(800) 468-4789 / FAX (847) 498-1482


Macam Devices (Equipoise Cane)
P.O. Box 4381
San Leandro, CA 94579
(510) 582-1878


Maddak, Inc./Bel-Art Products
6 Industrial Road
Pequannock, NJ 07440-1993
(973) 628-7600


Mariano Pacini (See Howell Mobility)


Maxi Aids
P.O. Box 3209
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(800) 522-6294


The Medical Supply Company

(canes, rollators, walkers and other mobility devices)


Medi Equip
(Rollators, walkers, scooters and transport chairs)


National Federation of the Blind
Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314


(LaserCane, Polaron, Pathfinder, Whisker)
Station Square Building 2
Paoli, PA 19301
(610) 640-2345 Fax: (610) 647-2216


Precision Grinding & Mfg. Co., Inc.
8019 Flood Road
Baltimore, MD 21222
(301) 285-1135


Preferred Healthcare
(rock and rollators and other mobility products)

RainShine Cane Company
P.O. Box 5615
Madison, WI 53705-0615
(608) 249-8231


Reflective Tape Division
3M Company
3M Center
St. Paul, MN 55101


Revolution Enterprises, Inc.
(see Advantage Canes)


Safe-T-Lite (and other mobility canes)

Grant Foster
(800) 211-0722
Fax (250) 283-2917
PO Box 98 618 Dogwood Dr.
Gold River, BC Canada V0P 1G0


Sendero Group - GPS, Miniguide, etc.
(530) 757-6800 / Fax (530) 757-6830


SpecialEd Solutions, Inc. (pre-canes)

True Vision, Inc.
Najm Cane Tip
P.O. Box 7243
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302-7243
(313) 645-2249




WFR/Aquaplast Corporation
(Adapt-It Pellets for Custom Adapted Cane Grips)
(201) 891-1042


White Cane Instruments for the Blind
Route 3, Box 89A
Jenkins, MO 65605 USA
(417) 574-6368