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Note: Dona Sauerburger, 2004 winner of the Blaha Award, shares her thoughts on the field, directions for the future, and best practices.

Thank you so much, Bill, and thank you to the O&M Division Awards Committee for this award. I feel tremendously honored to be one of only 20 Blaha Award recipients in the 50-year history of our profession. Being among the likes of people on this podium like Bill, Beezy and Gala is scary -- and feels awesome, in the true meaning of the word awe.

Passion and compassion

I'm so fortunate to have stumbled onto a profession that could keep my passion for all these years, and which has so much compassion. I was the recipient of that compassion several times when I went through some trying times, such as dealing with the DC sniper, and a house fire. Last night I spoke with an O&M specialist who told me that when she was going through her training at Texas Tech, she was hit by an incredibly difficult crisis in her family that required all her emotional and physical energy and resources. She said that Nora Griffin-Shirley and the Texas Tech folks gave her the support she needed to get through that before resuming her studies. This is unusual, but not surprising -- our profession is filled with compassionate people.

And the profession has many enthusiastic people who are as passionate about their job as I am. One of these people is a friend with whom I talked two nights ago. She said she gets the inspiration she needs from talking with the leaders and experts in the field, including Russ Williams and Warren Bledsoe when she visited the O&M archives. However she feels that she hasn't accomplished much because she hasn't published, hasn't developed herself as an expert, and hasn't given presentations.

But it is practitioners like her, serving people to the best of their ability with passion, which gives O&M the excitement, vitality, energy that makes this profession great, and which inspire me and make me glad I'm part of this profession.

I remember the first time I ever gave a presentation. It was not until I had taught O&M for 19 years. I gave the person introducing me my resume, which included all the courses I'd ever taken -- she thought I had PRESENTED all those courses, and I had to interrupt the introduction to correct her and say this was my first presentation!

Tragic inspiration

It took a tragedy to inspire me to present. It happened one bitterly cold Monday night in January 1988, when many of us were on our way home from the American Foundation for the Blind's rapid transit conference in DC. The Past President of our AER chapter and his wife, a braille instructor at the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind -- both of them blind -- were on their way home from dinner. They got off the bus and crossed where there was no traffic control. Just as they reached the third and last lane of their crossing, both of them and the dog guide were struck by a car and killed.

Many of us were devastated with the news, both because of personal friendships and because they were killed traveling independently, which is something we teach people to do. One O&M specialist, Linda Sussman, felt badly enough to want to leave the profession, which she did several years later. Another Blaha Award recipient, Rick Welsh, organized a grieving session for us to try to deal with it, which helped a lot.

Meanwhile, I dealt with it by obsessing on how such a tragedy could have happened. We were taught and our textbooks all say that it's safe to cross when quiet, and I wanted to know if that was true where the couple had made their last crossing.

Apparently 50 years ago, it WAS always possible to hear the cars from far enough away, so when it was quiet and you heard nothing coming, it was always clear to cross. Stanley Suterko, one of our first O&M specialists, told me that the newly blinded soldiers often would worry about crossing streets where there was no traffic control since they couldn't see the cars, and the instructors routinely convinced them that it was always safe to cross whenever it's quiet by timing their crossing, and then timing how long it was from the time they heard a car until the car arrived. Stanley said they never once found any situation where it wasn't clear to cross when quiet.

As a result, when our profession advanced to the point where the body of knowledge was codified with textbooks and articles, this truth -- that it's always safe to cross when quiet -- was documented and taught to generations of O&M specialists and our consumers. I remember once about 25 years ago convincing a blind woman that this was true, because I believed it myself.

Questioning the "truth"

But the deaths made me question this truth. And because I had so much "windshield time" while driving between clients and because I could think of nothing else, I developed a procedure to try to analyze the situation to see whether it really was true. I went back to the intersection where they had been killed, and discovered that when it was quiet there, it wasn't possible to hear some of the cars until they were only 3 seconds away.

I was alarmed at the implications of what this meant to our consumers: at least at some places, when it was quiet, it isn't necessarily clear to cross. Linda Sussman analyzed various intersections with her clients, and discovered that the two-lane residential street which some of them needed to cross was another place where it was not possible to hear the cars far enough away to know if it's clear to cross.

We were both shocked and incredulous that such a thing could be. I wanted to bring this problem to the attention of our colleagues, so I videotaped Linda and her consumer and used it to put together a presentation in New York at the O&M Division Day of AER's regional conference.

It was my first presentation ever, and I practiced giving the talk to my steering wheel enough times that I could present it professionally without choking up when talking about my friends who had been killed. The presentation went well, the audience was attentive, and I went through the entire presentation very professionally until the question-answer session, when I responded by saying what I would have told the blind couple if I had been asked. Thinking about them ended the professional demeanor -- I broke down and started crying, I had to go into the hall and sob.

Who will take up the mantle?

At that time I considered myself "just a practitioner," as my friend felt the other night, and I thought I needed to hand this information and these ideas over to our profession. I figured our leaders and experts would also be alarmed when I brought the problem to their attention. They would refine or develop the procedures for analyzing situations or, better yet, come up with procedures of their own, and come back to us practitioners and tell us how we should teach our consumers in view of the fact that our "tried and true" strategies no longer worked.

However, that never happened. Sixteen years later, we have made little progress in teaching people how to recognize situations where they can't hear the approaching vehicles well enough to know it's clear to cross even when it's quiet, and textbooks and some universities continue to teach that it's safe to cross whenever it's quiet.

I believe that the problem is that we have two driving needs that are in conflict with each other --

  1. the need to consider new ideas and strategies, especially with the environment changing so drastically; and
  2. the need to establish and follow best practice, especially with our justified concern about liability.

Considering new ideas and strategies

First -- new ideas, and challenges to the established "truths." Considering changes isn't easy -- I've been told that significant changes and innovations usually take a generation to catch hold, and that they are almost always ridiculed and then rejected before finally being accepted as being self-evident. Many of the things that we take for granted today went through this process of ridicule and rejection, such as pasteurization, the need to keep wounds sterilized and germ-free, and even having medical personnel wash their hands between patients.

I understand this very well -- I myself have strongly resisted many ideas which were different from what we've always done -- ideas which now are fully accepted and which I fully embrace. One great example is when Lukas Franck came up to me about 15 years ago and said that the only way he could think to address the problem of actuated traffic signals was with Accessible Pedestrian Signals. I scoffed, chastising him severely for even suggesting such a thing. Today, I've turned completely around on this issue -- thank goodness he had the self-confidence and determination to ignore my advice and pursue this issue.

The story of the development of Phacoemulsification is a great example of an innovative idea having to go through many years to gain acceptance within a service profession -- in this case, it was the profession of ophthalmology. Universities taught ophthalmologists to extract cataracts by making an incision large enough to pull the lens out intact. This took a long time to heal and often led to infections. One innovative ophthalmologist, Dr. Charles Kelman, tried breaking up the lens and then pulling it out through a tiny hole the size of a large needle.

This procedure went through the same process of ridicule and severe rejection before it was considered best practice. My husband Fred was the first resident at Georgetown University to use the procedure before it had gained the blessing of the old guard. It was not accepted by the American Academy for Ophthalmology, and so those who used this procedure started their own organization with their own conferences to share ideas and refine and develop the technique. I'm proud to say that my husband Fred attended most of these meetings. He even made a videotape showing how he was able to transfer from using the standard procedure to using the new method without jeopardizing the safety of his patients. Twenty five years later, this procedure is now considered "best practice" and Dr. Kelman was presented one of the first awards for inventors by the American Academy of Ophthalmology at their last conference, shortly before his death.

Best practice -- the challenge to new ideas

I think the main reason that accepting change is so difficult is the need to follow "best practice." Very few people will do as my husband did and consider new ideas like phacoemulsification if the "established" profession doesn't embrace them -- even if they know that the ideas would enhance the safety and welfare of their consumers. It takes a brave O&M specialist to establish or follow new procedures to deal with new environmental situations when the textbooks and universities continue to teach us to use the standard, tried-and-true practices.

So how can we establish "best practice" when the environment and situations require a change? To begin with, who even alerts us to the problems that require new strategies to address? And once the need for change has been accepted by the profession:

  • how do we go about establishing what is best practice for dealing with these new situations?
  • how can we consider new ideas without opening ourselves up to liability for not following whatever has been accepted, established best practice? And finally
  • who decides what is best practice? Some have suggested it should be the universities and researchers, but they aren't out on the street in real life with visually impaired travelers applying the strategies. Some say it should be the practitioners, but they don't have time or resources to objectively study these issues.

I think it should be a combined effort:

  • The practitioners should provide guidance about what should be studied and reconsidered, and what should be taught to future O&M specialists, based on what we're experiencing out in the streets with our consumers.
  • The researchers and universities should seriously consider any challenge to what we've always believed to be true, and study it objectively and thoroughly.
  • And of course the consumers themselves take what we teach and go out into the world and discover what works, what doesn't, what they wish they had learned, what was a waste of time, and we need to be open and invite them to give their input.

It is the combined perspective of everyone in the profession -- the practitioners, the researchers, the university folks as well as the consumers -- who should make the ultimate decision as to what is best practice.

And I believe that it is the organization of O&M specialists, our cherished O&M Division, that is in the best position to establish procedures to routinely look for new ideas to consider, and to establish best practice.

The work could be assigned to existing committees to do 3 things:

  1. push for research on new ideas

    The universities / researchers need to hear from the practitioners about what are the questions, what are the burning issues, what needs to be researched. We (the O&M Division) can:

    • establish a procedure for eliciting topics that need to be addressed, and concepts or ideas that should be investigated;
    • establish a list that prioritizes these questions and issues;
    • share that list with programs that do research or fund research, including graduate programs whose students need research projects, advising them as to the needs for research in our field


  2. position papers

    We just approved our first 3 position papers. We need to continue our efforts to establish position papers that have the overwhelming approval of the O&M Division members. We can:

    • elicit topics that need to be addressed,
    • follow our procedures for position papers, which are outlined in our Policy Manual


  3. disseminate best practice:
    • Every few years, have a small conference organized by a committee that reviews the current "state of the art" and invites innovators to a special conference; take the proceedings of that conference; have it extensively peer-reviewed; then publish it.

In short, I hope that we all will be open to consider new ideas and to deal with new challenges, and that our O&M profession will take a leadership role in establishing best practice that

  • incorporates appropriate innovations that are researched and
  • addresses new problems presented by our changing environment and our consumers' needs.

I will close with some words of wisdom which I heard by coincidence precisely when I needed some inspiration. Exactly four weeks and 2 hours ago our house was struck by lightening and burned. I went through the remains of the room where we kept our video editing equipment. I hoped that the heat and the massive water had not destroyed the videotapes I'd assembled over the years but I had no equipment to try them on. There on the floor, which was soggy and black with ashes and fallen charred rafters, lay a white audiotape that looked dry and intact. I had no equipment to try the videotapes so I decided to try playing this audiotape in my car if it worked, then the videotapes that were on the shelf were probably safe too.

The audiotape turned out to be one of Bill Jacobson's tapes on hypnosis that I bought years ago when I attended a session like the one some of you attended yesterday morning. Bill, I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't listened to it since I bought it, but I played it in my car. One of the first instructions said don't listen to this while driving a car! But once I started I couldn't stop, it was very inspiring and helpful to me at a time when I had been wrestling with what I'd say when receiving this award, considering what little progress we've made 16 years after the death of two people and a dog guide alerted us to a problem and pondering how our profession can more efficiently and effectively address the need for changes in our best practice.

So I hope these words will inspire you to think about addressing innovations and new ideas in view of our fears about liability and our fear of changes in what we consider best practice.

He said release your negativity and leave your fear and worry behind, leaving a clear path before you so that your body, mind and spirit join together in dedication to create greater selfconfidence, inner strength, compassion and understanding. Always be open and receptive to the wonder and joy of life, free yourself to choose how you perceive things, and choose to look for the positive. Joyous new ideas are circulating freely within you, and all is well. Accept these suggestions ... this is the new reality.

--Dona Sauerburger, COMS
Orientation and Mobility Specialist

301-858-0138 (V/TTY)
1606 Huntcliff Way
Gambrills, Maryland 21054 USA

Sequence Of "Orientation" Process

  • The child learns to understand the spatial dimensions of her body.
  • The child learns about the immediate "world" surrounding her own body.
  • The child learns about her world in larger and larger dimensions including the environmental content of each setting.

Sequence Of "Mobility" Process

  • The child is first tied to reflexive, involuntary movements.
  • As the reflexes integrate, the child's motor acts are based on physical actions to seek a pleasurable response.
  • The child learns to act with intention toward a specific object.
  • Motor skills are refined to reflect both skill acquisition and refinement of "quality of movement".
  • With increased movement capabilities and specialized equipment (as needed), the child moves out into space with simple goal directed intention… later with increased exploration opportunities, the child is capable of improved mobility with more complex goal directed intention.

Tanni L. Anthony, 1988

- developed by Diane Bames, O&M, ESC 13

The following are some sample activities which VI Teachers can use to screen a student In determining the need for a formal evaluation by a certified O&M Instructor. The activities address the areas of vision efficiency, body language, verbal skills, knowledge of eye condition, environmental awareness, negotiation and organizational skills as they relate to orientation and mobility. Use a rating system of 1 through 5, with 5 being most frequently observed and 1 being least frequently observed. Anything 3 and above indicates the need for a referral.


In the cafeteria, stand at entrance and ask student to scan and point to locations of the serving line entrance, soda machine, cash register, and where trays are placed after use; describe the location of a specific object and ask student to Identify It; have student to walk to a specific table that you Identify by row and table.

___ student used minimum head movement

___ student needed additional verbal prompts and cues

___ student points in general direction, but not directly at objects

___ student appeared to shuffle feet when walking

___ student failed to maintain eye contact With VI Teacher

___ student failed to stand at appropriate body space from Vi Teacher

___ student fails to position body in attempt to visually locate object


Walk with student out to the parking lot, and have him/her locate your vehicle (provide description of vehicle if necessary); have student read license plate number; unlock car, and have student walk to the opposite side, open door, and retrieve instructed Item; have student lead the way back.

___ student tended to cautiously or shyly walk behind VI Teacher

___ student hesitated or shuffled feet to locate curb or down ramp

___ student required further instructions student struggled to read license plate

___ student appeared insecure when walking around car

___ student fumbled or groped for door handle

___ student was awkward in retrieving item(s) from car

___ student required assistance (verbal or sighted guide) to reverse or walk alternate route back to specific area of building


While walking to the playground, ask student to verbally identify which equipment s/he enjoys; have student point to (from a stationary position) and walk (solo) to at least three specified pieces of equipment in the order designated by the VI Teacher.

___ student slides feet when walking on uneven terrain

___ student inaccurately pointed to equipment

___ student appeared hesitant in manipulating equipment

___ student bumped into obstacles

___ student appeared hesitant at shadowy areas

___ student had difficulty talking and walking simultaneously (while walking to the playground)

All students in the below categories should be referred:

  • student's primary reading media is braille or tape
  • student was receiving O&M from parent request
  • cane user
  • 3- year comprehensive assessment
  • student has had a vision decrease within a 1 year span
  • student's vision fluctuates under different lighting conditions

Additional areas to consider in determining need for 0&M referral:

  • student needs extra time to travel between classes
  • student hesitates to walk the middle of hallways
  • student hesitates to use alternate routes
  • student's programming includes community activities
  • student walks with a cautious or timid gait .
  • student requires verbal feedback regarding walking terrain
  • student walks with an adult to classes, cafeteria, playground.
  • student is not able to verbalize directions to his/her house
  • student required assistance in orienting himself to school campus
  • student is unwilling to use cane
  • student demonstrates inappropriate sighted guide techniques
  • student looks away when reaching for object

Diane Barnes, O&M Consultant, ESC X111 (7/2001)

Step One: Child/Student must meet State Board of Education eligibility criteria as visually impaired

Step Two: The Functional Vision Evaluation (FVE) has indicated the need for an O&M evaluation.

Step Three: The request for an O&M evaluation has been documented (Referral) through the IFSP/ARD process.

Step Four: You are contacted by the Vl teacher.

Step Five: You conduct the evaluation.

Step Six: You write and submit the O&M report to ECI and the district's Special Education Dept. (Vl teacher, Sp. Ed. Director, Diagnostician).

*The process stops here (step six) if there are not recommended O&M services

Step Seven: IFSP or ARD committee accepts recommendations; if ARD, submit IEP goals and objectives. Be prepared to express how often you want to work with the child/student (eg. 1x weekly, 30 minute sessions)

Step Eight: You schedule child/student for O&M services; for the birth to 3 year olds, schedule through the parent (inform VI teacher and ECI); for school age, schedule through the VI teacher and/or classroom teacher (w/ parent's awareness/input); if working "after school hours", schedule through the parent (this should be documented in the ARD papers)

Step Nine: You work with child/student - to include consulting with parents, classroom and Vl teachers, ECI, and other therapists (eg. Speech, OT, PT)

Step Ten: You submit progress at 6 month and annual IFSP review meeting (less informal - give verbal and ECI note taker will document in their paperwork); if student, you submit formal progress reports (send to Sp. Ed. Director and parent) at the end of each district's grading period (6 or 9 weeks)

Step Eleven: You report (some districts require a written report, some accept verbal) on yearly progress at the annual ARD.  Use (bring) the IEP when addressing the student's progress.

Step Twelve: You submit the next year's IEP goals and objectives, or you discontinue O&M services. Although all districts do not require an annual written report, it is suggested that you submit one, (particularly) if you are discontinuing services.

Susan Holmes Shier

Birth To Six Months

Concurrent Motor Skills

  • In prone holds head up
  • Brings hands together
  • Rolls over
  • Grasps object intentionally
  • Sits with support
  • Reaches for object
  • Brings hand to mouth
  • Shakes and plays with rattle


Expose to indoor and outdoor sounds and sound toys; isolate each sound if possible, follow by touching/holding.

Begin basic vision stimulation; incorporate with reaching, tactual stimulation, and auditory cues; keep visually attractive sound-producing objects within reach at all times.

Provide daily tactual stimulation by massage and stroking; use variety of textures and substances; during play times give interesting textures to hold and mouth including fabric, household objects, toys, food in various forms; etc.

Environmental Concepts

Expose to household activities on a daily basis with child as close to activity as possible (e.g., front carrier); give object associated with the activity to child to hold-and. explore; provide simple description during activity.

Begin including infant in errands and community activities as soon as possible; position child close to the action and arrange for-maximum involvement, hopefully hands-on.

Body Image

Provide daily movement stimulation in the form of bouncing, swinging in prone, gentle spinning, rolling, and gentle rough-housing.

Include all body parts and areas in tactual stimulation with emphasis on hands and feet; proceed slowly if this appears to be aversive; consult with OT or PT.

Space/Time Relationships

Establish predictable daily routine, i.e., the same events in the same order each day. Arrange a "defined space" in child's crib and/or playpen: place a solid row of attractive toys, household objects, textures, and other materials around the infant. These should form a perimeter located just slightly beyond infant's reach. Any random movement should result in contact with an object, preferably a noisy one. Move this perimeter of objects further away from infant as he begins to scoot or roll. Also hang objects near chest from above. Place in defined space several times each day(not just at nap times) for 15-20 minutes each.

For the low vision child begin encouraging reaching to an object viewed; use sound of object as necessary; begin with most familiar objects.

For the blind child begin preparing for reaching to a sounding object; use objects that have great meaning for infant such as bottle, favorite rattle, etc; have infant handle and explore tactually just prior to expecting him to reach for it; initially sound it while in contact with his body, later sound it on tray of high chair in front of infant.

Gross Motor

Encourage developmentally appropriate motor skills; position in variety of ways throughout the day - prone, supine, side-lying, sitting supported, infant seat, front carrier; emphasize infant getting accustomed to prone while awake.

Six To Twelve Months

Concurrent Motor Skills

  • Transfers object
  • Grasps with thumb and forefinger
  • Finger feeds
  • Builds tower of cubes (2-3)
  • Places cube in cup
  • Sits without support
  • Crawls
  • Pulls to standing
  • Finger foods
  • Creeps
  • Stands alone


Continue exposure to variety of sounds; provide direct experience; repeat exposure often.

Continue incorporating vision stimulation with reaching and other fine motor tasks (eating); encourage use of distance vision outdoors; repeat experiences often.

Continue passive tactual stimulation and massage, but also encourage more active exploration of textures; increase variety of textures, shapes, temperatures, and consistencies; encourage play with semi-wet substances.

Expose to novel smells, tastes, and textures by routinely introducing new foods or new textures and/or forms of familiar food; repeat as often as necessary to achieve acceptance.

Environmental Concepts

Encourage exploration of furniture, appliances, household products, foods, household activities; give consistent names to all objects but emphasize action words, i.e., describe to infant how she is acting upon the object.

Continue including in errands and community activities; provide for more and more direct involvement as motor skills progress.

Supervise frequent direct experience with sand, soil, mud, gravel, grass, leaves; expose to trees, shrubs, sidewalks, streets, vehicles, etc. as much as possible; emphasize what the child is doing with the object or substance.

Body Image

Continue to provide daily movement stimulation, in addition to what he can provide for himself.

Begin passive differentiated movement of body parts accompanied by simple labeling of body parts and action; begin simple hand games and finger-plays that incorporate body parts; accompany with tactual stroking/massage; emphasize eyes, nose, mouth, arm, hand, leg, foot, stomach.

Space/Time Relationships

Begin changing daily routine occasionally, but allow enough time to thoroughly adjust before introducing yet another change.

Expand infant's defined space to correspond with her gross motor skills, i.e., to playpen, then later to small corner of room; position one large toy, object, or texture on each side of her space - each should be very different from the other -fasten them permanently - continue to use loose toys and objects around perimeter in addition to the permanent landmarks.

When able to sit up use defined space idea by providing tray attached to seating; tray should have edge to prevent toys/objects from "disappearing"; allow time with several objects on tray; also when giving toys, food, or bottle to child place on tray and help her reach for it instead of placing in her hand.

For low vision child begin incorporating reaching for toy/ object viewed with vision stimulation activities; give. intermittent tactual and auditory cues to reinforce looking; incorporate with feeding, i.e., have him reach for spoon, jar, bowl, box, etc.

For the blind infant continue reaching to sound but place object on tray in front of child while sounding; continue intermittent tactual input and always permit tactual exploration before; begin encouraging localization by head-turn as reaching becomes consistent' begin decreasing auditory input to intermittent; later provide initial sound only.

When reaching to sound is well established begin object permanence activities; again, use meaningful and highly desirable objects; permit brief tactual exploration or play before requiring pursuit; begin by placing screen(washcloth) over object as she is holding it; proceed to conventional method, but keep covered object in contact with infant; later proceed to containers over object(plastic tub, square cake pan, shoe box); use immediate physical prompting initially; also initially, have her help place object under cover.

Begin using "defined spaces" in feeding by using tray with edge; consistently position dish, cup, spoon and/or bottle even if infant is not independently using these items.

Gross Motor

Continue to encourage developmentally appropriate gross motor skills; do so within familiar defined spaces (e.g., playpen) and also in open space; from very beginning encourage to walk from a specific location (landmark) to another location within 2-3 feet; encourage cruising by arranging furniture close together for ease of transfer.

For the low vision child begin incorporating motor planning with vision stimulation by having him detour around obstacles and crawling under to retrieve a desired object.

Provide daily opportunity for free movement and exploration; keep furniture in predictable arrangement: use a constant low-volume sound source for each room or area (fan, ticking clock, radio, etc.); avoid constant or even frequent medium-to-high volume TV or radio; remove articles unsafe or breakable and replace with interesting materials and household objects.

To prevent or discourage self-stimulation arrange the infant environment so he will contact interesting materials, toys, and objects almost constantly; also provide 1-on-1 sessions daily that encourage interaction with a variety of objects; keep him busy.

Twelve To Twenty-24 Months

Concurrent Motor Skills

  • Walks steadily
  • Crawls up steps and down
  • Walks up stairs with assistance
  • Climbs into adult chair
  • Runs
  • Throws ball
  • Jumps in place
  • Places several cubes in cup
  • Scribbles spontaneously
  • Builds tower of 3-7 cubes
  • Completes circle, square, triangle formboard
  • Turns pages of book singly


Expose to variety of sounds; provide direct experience; help child produce the sound himself; give simple names for sounds he hears that have meaning for him; repeat experiences often.

Continue incorporating vision stimulation with reaching and other fine motor tasks, but begin more advanced skills; incorporate use of vision with locomotor tasks (Ball play, hide and seek, egg hunt, etc.); continue use of distance vision outdoors; give simple names for objects viewed; repeat experiences often.

Continue tactual exposure by continually increasing child’s involvement in many household and outdoor events; use textures to mark her personal possessions, furniture, storage substances; encourage exploration and manipulation of object parts; through physical modeling increase child’s repertoire of hand and finger movements (e.g., with playdough); demonstrate effort of movement (e.g., gentle, hard, lightly, firmly); begin matching grossly different textures.

Expose to new and familiar smells with and without food; begin giving simple names for distinct and meaningful smells (bacon, bubble bath, mother’s cologne, pet, medicine, etc.); later begin asking to identify these smells with aid of other naturally occurring clues; teach how to sniff.

Environmental Concepts

Continue exploration of furniture, appliances, and household products; give him name for each object and describe his action on it (e.g., “Bill closed door); increase direct involvement in various household activities as motor abilities increase (e.g., have him help with different phase of dinner each night - setting table, putting vegetables in pan, pouring drinks, or cracking eggs); if he cannot do it have him feel it being done.

Continue errands and community activities; increase direct involvement; begin having child select grocery item and give money to cashier; point out sights, sounds, smells and let her touch and explore if possible.

Expand outdoor experiences and sensations (see 6-12 mos) and provide frequent mediation; give labels for and demonstrate new actions with objects and substances; begin experiences with sidewalks, driveways, curbs, streets, corners, vehicles, vehicle-behavior, and weather; simple labeling of object and action associated with it; incorporate with use of distance vision.

Body Image

Provide daily movement stimulation; teach how to use motor equipment that will provide high level of activity on his own.

Continue hand games that incorporate body parts; try hide and seek game in which child searches for small object (raisin) attached to named body part; label facial features, hair, head, neck, fingers, stomach, elbow, knee, toes, bottom, back, etc; begin asking to point to these parts; later should be able to name when asked.

Space/Time Relationships

Continue predictable daily routine with frequent minor and occasional major changes.

Expand child's defined space by using small room or corner of a larger room; continue to use landmarks within these spaces; set up defined spaces all over the house (or classroom), for example, play corner in bedroom, corner in living room, cabinet beside refrigerator that holds his own pots and pans; be sure to set up favorite toys and objects that are stored in each of these areas.

Continue to use tray on high chair (see 6-12 mos); later use placemat on table to define his space.

Practice reaching to sound using only initial and intermit Cant sound; return to continual sound to encourage greater head turn (localization); begin presenting object in space (as opposed to on body or tray) and at increasing variety of angles; continue intermittent play and tactual exploration.

Gross Motor

Encourage appropriate gross motor skills; provide regular opportunities to try merging running skills in familiar open space (yard, tennis court, gym, large garage, large open living area.)

Begin encouraging goal-directed movement, i.e., encourage child to move to a goal in mind rather than wander; if wandering, spinning, etc. persist make sure child has plenty of opportunities for appropriate motor expression (rocking horse, Sit 'n Spin, swing, trampoline, bouncing toy, etc.); initiate goal-directed movement by guiding him to familiar landmark then having him walk to his goal very close by (3 ft.); gradually increase these distances; later introduce obstacles.

Teach simple routes, 3 to 5 feet in length; only teach routes to a goal (landmark) that represents a familiar and desirable activity(bath tub, trampoline, refrigerator, record player, snack table, etc.); initially assure that the child gets to participate in at least part of that activity upon completing the route; give enough physical assistance to maintain time and space perception.

Encourage beginning motor planning by assisting with the following: opening cabinets, shutting drawers, crawling under furniture and into tight places, and crawling over obstacles; later demonstrate using stool, box, etc. to reach desired object; always reward motor exploration by discovery of desired and/or meaningful object.

Formal Techniques

Teach child to search for dropped object immediately; coactively model fairly accurate reach accompanied by quick sweeping motion; model with each hand alone; later encourage child to sweep farther and persist longer.

Teach modified sighted guide by, having child hold on to adults index finger; encourage firm grasp; work on walking in rhythm and at a faster pace; discourage pulling back; with curb greatly exaggerate your body motion and step; teach child to wait until you step first; give verbal reminders as necessary, fade.

Encourage very selective trailing; if child cannot use standard trailing try 2-handed method or use sighted guide with non-trailing hand; expect trailing with verbal reminders; use more concrete language cues, e.g., "Hand on wall:

Teach a modified upper hand and forearm technique since laterality and midline concepts are not well-established; for example: both arms out in front, palms outward, hands on top of each other; use concrete and/or simple language cues such as, "Hands out "or ' upper arm".


Use constant environmental simulation to discourage mannerisms; arrange for child to come in contact with interesting toys and objects often; expand repertoire of interactions with objects; provide movement stimulation and regular opportunities for physical exhaustion; begin mild*physical prompting accompanied by 1 or 2-word verbal reminder.

Discourage "spacing out" by intervening immediately - get child involved with motor equipment or toys and materials.

Watch for "fiddling about"", i.e., sensory-motor preoccupation such as hitting surfaces, jiggling door knobs, repeated opening and closing doors, etc; a certain amount is normal initially, if a particular habit lasts for more than 3-4 months begin discouraging; physically model appropriate associated activity, e.g., opening and closing cabinets: show him how to open, crawl in, empty contents, replace, and close door; do this each time he begins the opening and closing; use non-punitive physical prompt with simple verbal reminder also, if necessary.

Twenty-four To Thirty-six Months

Concurrent Motor Skills

  • Jumps from chair
  • Makes train of cubes
  • Walks on line
  • Tower of 8-10 cubes
  • Alternates feet on stairs
  • Adapts to reversal of form board
  • Walks on tiptoe
  • Unscrews lids
  • Hops on one foot
  • Imitates drawing vertical, horizontal, and circular line


Continue to draw attention to environmental sounds; have simple and brief discussions of sound descriptions: high, low, loud, soft, near, far, in front, behind, beside; identify sound sources, but only those that child has had hands-on experience with: cat, dog, bird, cow, horse, car, truck, air conditioner, typewriter, TV, washer/dryer, etc; begin encouraging use of sound for traveling in home and classroom: initially expect to use appropriate sound as a goal, later teach to place sound in relation to self to move to silent goal.

Continue use of distance vision with locomotor games, etc; include negotiation of uneven surfaces, obstacles, steps; begin simple analysis and identification of objects followed by tactual confirmation; encourage child to use simple description.

Continue play with novel textures and substances; teach more advanced tactual matching; begin tactual discrimination of common textures using feet and hands - ask child to name.

Expose to more smells and their sources; take on regular field trips and teach beginning associations of smells with locations: grocery store, doctors, cafeteria, bakery, zoo, gas station, etc.

Environmental Concepts

Continue child's involvement in household activities but expand extent of each task and number of tasks; have him carry out at least one task from beginning to end as soon as he is capable (e.g., undressing - including putting clothes in hamper); expand number of tasks he can do with complete independence.

Expose to unfamiliar errands and community events as well as continue familiar ones; expand involvement in the latter; begin teaching independent travel in small, familiar store; more advanced participation in purchasing; more in depth discussion of sights, sounds, smells, landmarks, etc.

Continue exposure to residential concepts and landmarks; have name familiar landmarks; guide child through beginning street-crossing: listen to traffic, discuss when to cross, use sighted guide to cross at appropriate time, help child note textures, sounds, landmarks during crossing.

Body Image

Continue providing opportunity for daily movement stimulation and physical exhaustion through: dancing, running, climbing, jumping, use of obstacle courses, tricycles, trampolines, swings, pools, playground equipment, etc; continually introduce and teach novel equipment and games.

Continue games involving naming body parts; introduce more advanced naming: wrist, waist, hips, shoulders, ankles, etc; incorporate with comprehension of spatial prepositions (in, out, behind, in front, under, etc.) by having child place her body parts in relation to her body and environmental objects; have her imitate your body position or action by doing it herself.

Space/Time Relationships

Continue using defined spaces set up all over house and at school; may be able to achieve total orientation in a small room now, although may have to frequently encourage goal-directed movement and verbally and physically remind child of location of objects in relation to landmarks; arrange defined space in corner of yard adjacent to door; if appropriate set up another area that includes favorite tree, swing set, etc.

Continue to expect child to maintain consistent spatial relationships during independent eating times.

Use verbal and physical (if necessary) reminders to encourage child to replace toys/objects, clothes, etc; continue building on object permanence by asking child to retrieve named objects within known location in large room, then later from adjacent room; introduce systematic search patterns: near space and perimeter of a room; encourage him to pursue beeper ball, then jingle ball, then finally bouncing(regular) ball.

Continue sound localization/locomotor activities; incorporate into household and classroom routine.

Continue concept of vertical space by providing more complex climbing equipment, and teaching new skills; have child stack, build, and connect increasingly small objects.

Expand child's understanding of spatial prepositions: in, out, under, on top, above, below, behind, in front, between; begin naming object-to-object relationships after child has considerable experience manipulating the objects; initially ask him to place objects as you describe, later have him tell you about how the objects are positioned.

Begin stressing activities that emphasize the sides of the body and spatial terms that reflect laterality (side-to-side, side step, beside, sideways, etc.); encourage distinction between the 2 sides of the body(do not expect heft/Right labeling yet).

Teach one-quarter and one-half turn in relation to wall; use simple, concrete language cues, such as, "Side to wall" or Back to wall"; use prop to enable tactual confirmation of alignment; later stress head, body, and feet alignment; make lessons brief and within context of daily route; use appropriate reward for age level.

Teach pointing to continual distant sound source; initially use stationary source and vary angles(encourage head turn); later have child point to approaching sound source(mechanical toy, beeper ball, car, etc.) and track across midline; use physical modeling as necessary.

Gross Motor

Support and encourage advancing gross motor skills; devise adaptations as necessary to teach these skills; assure that child has opportunity to utilize on daily basis at home and school.

Continue expecting goal-directed movement; may need to use additional sound cue at goal occasionally, but encourage to use more landmarks, direction-taking, straight-line walking, and indirect auditory clues.

Continue more advanced motor planning activities.

Build child's repertoire of body movements by physical modeling of adults and peers: dance movements, swaying, spinning, twisting, duck-walking, crab-walk, walking backwards, tumbling; no action is too meaningless to teach; teach how to move major body parts in isolation (shoulders, arms, ribcage, hips, feet, knees, head, etc.); build into child the desire to imitate peers.

Continue stressing effort of movement; incorporate with dance; teach her to use appropriate effort of movement according to type of music (rock, classical, etc.)

Begin stressing straight-line travel using squaring-off ("Back to the wall"); initially use very short distances and physical assistance to maintain direction and gait; use meaningful and valued object at goal and initially pair with auditory clue; later use landmarks or large tactual aids at goal.

Formal Techniques

Introduce individualized modification of formal dropped objects technique; use favorite familiar objects; incorporate into game, allow play with the objects; demand immediate searching, encourage persistence, and teach soliciting assistance after thorough search.

Continue sighted guide techniques, have variety of adults guide child; teach him to demonstrate proper grip to adult; improve gait and pace; introduce ascending, then descending steps with child holding railing.

Encourage use of trailing by exposing to unfamiliar indoor settings in which trailing is appropriate; have child use conventional 1-handed trailing; initially may need auditory goal to distract him from extra tactual input; expect only very brief trailing to locate a specific object within familiar settings.

Introduce narrow passage technique; use simple language; initially offer simple verbal description of situation, then fade.

Introduce beginning sighted guide door technique; if possible have child on the side closest to door, open door so that child will easily contact it, have her help hold it then close the door; introduce concepts such as pull, push, toward, and away.

Continue modified upper hand and forearm; teach 1-handed, cross body position when laterality/ midline concepts are established; consult with OT or PT, if possible.

Begin teaching simple perimeter search of small room; include much simple discussion of each landmark encountered and the activities associated with each one; repeat no less than once/week initially, later review periodically; assure that child has frequent opportunities within the classroom routine to move to all landmarks in the room (e.g., to retrieve a necessary item for the teacher, to place something in the trash, to turn on the record player, to open the window, etc.)

Introduce short, functional routes within the classroom routine and at home: utilize simple direction-taking, selective trailing, landmarks, and auditory clues; child may continue to require verbal and physical reminders for some time; only require use of route travel in situations where child cannot maintain orientation or adequate speed and efficiency; discontinue if and when he is able to use direct, free-space movement toward the objective; do not require long or complex routes that involve a great deal of trailing.

Introduce a protective device when child is demonstrating good orientation and has the occasion to travel a long, clear route (hallway, walkway, sidewalk, etc.) on a daily basis; use doll stroller or toy lawn mower (2 handles); allow child to tactually explore obstacles encountered until she has become familiar with the route; emphasize accurate correction away from the obstacle and maintaining mental image of the goal (must use meaningful location/activity as the goal, not just drill); may need to use additional auditory goals initially; later see if she can name obstacles encountered without tactual confirmation.

This document is a Resource for the Expanded Core Curriculum. Please visit the RECC.

Everett Hill, Ed.D.
Peabody College for Teachers
Vanderbilt University

Orientation and mobility (O&M) is an important and integral part of the curriculum in the comprehensive delivery of services to children with visual impairments in the public school settings. The O&M teacher serves as a member of the multidisciplinary team in developing and implementing individualized education programs for children with visual impairments. This concept was reinforced with the enactment of Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

Orientation is the process of using sensory information to establish and maintain one's position in the environment; mobility is the process of moving safely, efficiently, and gracefully within one's environment. The ultimate goal of O&M instruction is for visually impaired persons to be able to travel in any environment as independently as possible. To reach this goal, O&M instruction must begin at the earliest possible age.


Orientation and mobility in public school settings should be broadly conceived and involve a coordinated team approach in order to meet the needs of a diverse population of children with visual impairments. The delivery of O&M services should not be limited to totally blind children. Infants and preschool children, children with multiple impairments, and children with low vision can also profit from O&M instruction. Likewise, O&M instruction should not be taught in isolation, nor should it be limited to the teaching of only formal O&M skills and techniques. Sensory skills, concept development, motor development, and environmental and community awareness are all integral components of the orientation and mobility process. Orientation and mobility instruction should be related to and an integral part of cognitive, perceptual, social, self-help, personality, and language development.


The O&M teacher is responsible for developing and conducting an orientation and mobility assessment for all children with visual impairments in order to determine the nature and extent of services needed. An initial assessment is conducted to determine each child's present level of functioning. The O&M teacher takes the lead role in assessing formal orientation and mobility skills and serves in a cooperative role with the teacher of students with visual impairments in assessing the areas of concept, motor, and sensory skills development. Other professionals such as the regular class teacher, physical education teacher, occupational therapist, or physical therapist should be consulted and involved in the assessment process when appropriate. Short- and long-term goals are developed (with input from the parents and other members of the multidisciplinary team), and reasonable time limits are specified for completing the goals.

Direct Instruction

The role of the O&M teacher is to teach formal orientation and mobility skills to those children with visual impairments for whom they are appropriate. Formal mobility skills include such areas as

  1. skills in movement with a sighted guide,
  2. protective techniques,
  3. indoor cane skills,
  4. outdoor cane skills,
  5. street crossings, and
  6. use of public transportation systems.

Formal orientation instruction is highly dependent upon maximum development and use of the senses. It entails such skill areas as the following: (a) ability to identify and make use of landmarks and clues; (b) knowledge and use of compass directions; (c) knowledge and use of indoor and city numbering systems; (d) ability to align the body to objects and with sounds for the purpose of establishing and/or maintaining a straight line of travel; (e) use of systematic search patterns to explore novel objects and environments (self-familiarization); (f) recovery skills; and (g) knowledge and use of where, when, and how to solicit aid.

The O&M teacher provides direct instruction in concept development, environmental and community awareness, and motor development. The O&M instructor should also serve as a team member and consultant to the teacher of students with visual impairments, the regular class teacher, other school personnel, and parents in the instruction and reinforcement of concept development, sensory skill development, and motor development. The development of good gross and fine motor abilities, spatial and environmental concepts, and maximum use of the senses are important prerequisites for formal orientation and mobility instruction.

Often because of time and liability concerns, it is common practice for the O&M teacher to be responsible for advanced orientation and mobility skills training, such as cane instruction and street crossings.

It is also the responsibility of the O&M teacher to provide students with visual impairments and their parents information about alternative systems (other than the cane) of independent travel such as dog guides and electronic travel aids (ETAs).

Inservice Education

The O&M teacher is responsible for designing and implementing ongoing inservice education activities in the areas of orientation and mobility for teachers, other professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators. Inservice activities should serve to educate other school personnel about the role of the O&M teacher and the goals of the O&M program. Orientation and mobility inservice activities should also focus on the roles of all appropriate school personnel in the development and reinforcement of concept development, sensory skills training, motor development, and elementary formal orientation and mobility skills. To be maximally effective, O&M training should be integrated as much as possible into school curricula and activities.

Family Education

Orientation and mobility instruction will have very little impact on children with visual impairments if parents and family members are not involved in the process. In addition to working cooperatively with family members in developing realistic goals, the O&M teacher must develop specific activities that parents and family members can implement in the home setting in order for continuity of instruction to occur. Orientation and mobility activities should be designed so that parents and other family members can carry them out in the context of their daily routine through daily living activities, recreational activities, and so forth.

The O&M teacher must keep parents informed of their child's progress and to instruct them in how to integrate and reinforce orientation and mobility skills in their day-by-day routines. Parents should be encouraged to be actively involved in their child's program and encouraged to observe O&M lessons whenever possible.

Public Education

Because a great deal of O&M instruction takes place in the community, it is the one aspect of the total curriculum that is most visible to the general public. Frequently, the O&M teacher has the opportunity to educate the general public regarding the capabilities of visually impaired persons. Establishing community relationships through O&M instruction may dispel the many misconceptions that the general public often has about blindness and people with visual impairments.

Some Perspectives for the Delivery of O&M Services

School districts should employ qualified O&M teachers; they should not use teachers of students with visual impairments or other school personnel in lieu of a qualified O&M teacher in the delivery of orientation and mobility services. Although the O&M profession has experienced rapid growth in children with visual impairments in public school settings, there is still a great need for these services throughout the country in all settings and geographical areas.

by Jay Stiteley []

  1. Planning the trip
    1. Determine if you can reach the destination by plane, train, or bus in equivalent amount of time and expense.  (It's okay to inquire about disability related discounts)
      1. If a plane trip is one hour or less, plan approximately three hours between lead time at the airport (90 minutes, if checking bags), then 20-30 minutes for baggage to be off loaded and receive it, hence, three hours.
      2. Non-stop flights are just that, direct flight means that there is a stop, no change of plane, connection means that a change of planes will happen.
      3. Three hours between destinations on a bus or train may be much less expensive, plus they dont require the Saturday night stay for the good round trip fare.
    2. Connecting flights bring a host of situations to consider
      1. Connections add a minimum of an hour to most trips.
      2. For each connection there is an increased probability of delay.
      3. As a traveler with a disability this can increase the potential for frustration and anxiety. 
      4. There are no fees for transfer assistance for persons with a disability, (small bills for tipping for the assistance.).
  2. Passenger rights and responsibilities
    1.  In 1986, Congress passed Air Carrier Access Act, to ensure people with disabilities were treated without discrimination.
    2.  Airlines may not require a person who is blind or visually impaired to sit in a particular row and seat, i.e., bulkhead row. If traveling with a dog guide, explain that the dog lays parallel to the bulkhead and will interfere with another passengers comfort while en route.
      1. Cannot be quizzed about the safety briefing
    3.  Airlines must provide:
      1. A private and inconspicuous safety briefing
      2. The opportunity to pre-board the aircraft, although public announcements are no longer made.
      3. If requested, assistance in traveling between arrival and departing gates, for a connecting flight, or to the passenger pick-up area is available at no fee.  Note: Although a message may be sent in advance, it's not a guarantee that someone is available to meet your flight when it arrives.
    4.  Passengers who are blind or visually impaired:
      1. May not sit in an exit row
      2. When making reservations, are not required to indicate that they are blind or visually impaired or using a dog guide.
      3. If in a group of ten or more traveling together for a group rate, must indicate they are blind and/or visually impaired, at the point of making the reservation, such that the airlines may be prepared to provide the possible level of assistance needed.
      4. May keep their cane at their seat, provided the cane can be positioned under three consecutively connected seats without extending out into the aisle. If it is too long, then it must be positioned below the windows, parallel to the fuselage (outer wall of the plane).
      5. Dog guides must be positioned under the seat in front of the passenger with the paws tucked in such that they are not in the aisle.
      6. Must have a valid (government issued) photo ID
    5. Mobility aids such as canes or dog guides are not counted as part of the persons carry on luggage.  The same is true for disability related equipment.
  3. Packing
    1. Less is better. If possible, try to limit to just carry-ons.
    2. Post Sept. 11. Things not to put in carry-on: knives of any length, any cutting instruments (including box cutters, straight razors and scissors), corkscrews, baseball bats, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles, hockey sticks.
    3. Have doctors note for any medical equipment (such as diabetes syringes) that you may need to bring on board.
    4. For more details, review the document  Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions on the website.
    5. Packing clothes
      1. Fold clothes as flat as possible
      2. Place heavier items, shoes, hair dryers, etc. toward the end of the suitcase where the wheels are located, so that they don't crush or wrinkle other items.
      3. Bulky and heavy items, such as dog food, can be mailed ahead, with a note to "hold for guest arrival".
    6. "Roll-Aboard" suitcase, characteristics
      1. 22-inches long is the largest allowed in the overhead on a full size jet or in the gate side check in.
      2. Higher quality roll-aboard bags will have ball bearing wheels, three inches in diameter, made of rubber, and positioned close to the outsides of the bag.
      3. Pull up handle arrangement may be on the outside or inside of the bag, and may lock into partially, or fully extended position.
      4. Note the bag's overall balance, if you are likely to carry a bag either clipped to the front or stacked on top.
      5. If planning to carry a second bag, like brief case, small overnight bag with medicines, etc., note the particulars of the clip arrangement.
    7. Identifiable marking of your bag, whether carry on or checked.
      1. Know the color of your bag, and be able to identify it tactually
      2. Consider easily identifiable visual marking to assist others in finding your bag.
  4. Arriving at the airport
    1. Options for getting to the airport
      1. A friend to drop you off
      2. Public transportation, trial run to better learn where they drop off
      3. Hotel shuttle
      4. Taxi, limo, van service
    2. Questions to ask before discharging your driver
      1. Where are you dropping me off? It could be next to the terminal, or one to two traffic lanes away from the terminal.
      2. Which way to the nearest Sky cap, curbside check-in?
      3. How long is the curbside check-in line?
      4. Which way is the door for inside check-in?
    3. Options before reaching security
      1. Securing a computer print out of your boarding pass, (24 hours before departure), allows you to go directly to security.
      2. You can use curbside check-in to secure your boarding pass, even if you are not checking a bag, and proceed directly to security.
    4. Key elements worth remembering for future trips
      1. Confirm the door letter or number that you are being dropped off for a specific airline. Use that as a point of reference to secure orientation to the inside counter. You might do some of this before leaving for the airport.
      2. Once inside the doors, empty pockets of change, cell phones, keys, etc. putting into a zip lock bag or compartment of the suitcase or briefcase makes it easier to go through security.
      3. Use this time to listen for counter-specific language, centralized crowd noise, escalators etc. for orientation.
      4. Is security on the same level as the gates, and is that different from ticketing levels?
      5. If on different levels, learn where escalators or elevators are located.
      6. With computer-generated boarding pass, it may be a different door from drop off to go directly to security
      7. Use sound of escalator as a clue, confirm direction.
      8. Once clear of escalator or elevator learn direction to security
  5. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
    1. Security process
      1. Must show boarding pass and valid photo ID as you enter the screening area (helpful to wear shirt or coat with pocket, keep ID handy, as you may need it at the gate).
      2. Usually crowd control ropes to negotiate
    2. Approaching the Magnetometer, Arch etc.
      1. Ask the staff at the table to tap for sound cue
      2. Must take laptop computers out of briefcase, place in bin.
      3. Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) Braille Notes, Pac Mates etc, do not need to be taken out of luggage
      4. Place shoes, coats, cell phones, collapsible cane, and other metal items, in a second bin
        1. Note: While removing your shoes is not mandatory, it will speed up the process, and keep you from having to go through a secondary screening after you step through the arch.  Even if you don't set off the alarm, your shoes will have to be checked.
      5. Long/straight cane must go on the conveyor belt and through the X-ray scanner
      6. The Long cane will be returned to you once you have successfully cleared the arch.
    3. Approaching the arch
      1. Use a friendly tone of greeting, Hello, how are you today?  response gives you sound clue.
      2. Ask for direction to arch, lightly touching the leading edge to gain orientation.
      3. Extend your hand with ticket, thereby asking TSA person to guide you through the center of the arch.  Bumping or lightly brushing against the interior will set off the alarm.
      4. Once cleared by TSA person, trail the conveyer belt to where luggage should be waiting. Cane should be returned along this path.
    4. If you set off the alarm
      1. You will be asked to step aside to a separate screening area.
      2. Ask for sighted guide, dont move until you have secured the persons arm in the proper technique
      3. Secondary screening must be done by same sex staff as passenger.
      4. Both an electronic wand and palm on pat down will be done.
      5. Passenger can request a private screening, since the palm on pat down includes thorough examination of chest and inside of legs.
      6. Screener should be explaining all that they are doing, before it is done.
    5. Dog guides (service animals)
      1. With repetition and praise a dog guide will show their master the escalators
      2. Will show and work through crowd control devices
      3. At security, put dog at sit, extend long leash, step through arch after explaining the process you are going to do. This insures that you have the Screeners attention.
      4. If you step through the arch, while your dog remains at sit-rest, you should seek verbal confirmation that you have cleared, then call the dog to come through.   This procedure makes it clear that the dogs equipment set off the alarm, not you.
      5. The Screener will examine the dog, and equipment.  This will include briefly touching the dog.  You can instruct personnel not to excite the dog by talking to it, etc.
      6. (This is firm TSA protocol) You CANNOT be asked to release control of your dog, you CANNOT be asked to remove any of the dog's equipment, and your dog CANNOT be subjected to a cavity search by Screener.
      7. If you do not feel that procedures are being properly followed, ask to speak with a supervisor.  Further, don't do more than asked, as this only causes confusion, i.e., don't take off the harness with the idea of being helpful.
  6. On to the Gates
    1. Airport layouts
      1. Gates on both sides of the hallway
      2. Gates all on one side
      3. Long hallway, may have gates, on both sides, then a large circle at end of hallway
    2. Tactual clues along the way
      1. Hallways may be tiled, with carpeted gate areas
      2. Metal strips that cross hallways perpendicular to the direction of hallway traffic, great for squaring up.
      3. Surface changes
    3. Sound clues
      1. Many gates now have large screen TVs tuned to the Airport Channel, great for counting gates. 
      2. Speakers overhead, centered in hallway, if light perception, some lights down center of hallway.
      3. Restaurants have cash register sounds, smells, increased conversation level
      4. Restaurants are often positioned by bathrooms, listen for flushing sounds
      5. Listen for rolling suitcases, radio traffic. Confirm with passersby which is mens or womens
      6. Confirm gate number by asking What gate number is this?
      7. Follow rolling suitcase sound to maintain level of orientation
  7. At the gate and boarding
    1. Check in
      1. Check in at the counter and request pre-board, if you choose.  Remember that they may not make a formal announcement about pre-boarding, so be aware of gate activity, and keep track of the time.
      2. Pre-board insures that carry-on will have space
      3. Ask to be shown seating close to the jet way door. This reduces the chance of being forgotten if pre-board was requested.  After all, you're not the only passenger.
  8. Seating on the plane
    1. Plane layouts
      1. Confirm seating arrangements, 19 to 171 passengers are single aisle.
      2. If a turbo prop style plane, ask if loading from the front or back of the aircraft.
      3. DC 10, L1011, Boeing 767, 777 are "wide body" or, two aisle planes.
    2. Safety briefing
      1. Confirm the row location of the over-the-wing exits
      2. Confirm whether the airplane has a row 13 for counting purposes
      3. Confirm where the washrooms are from your seat.
      4. Most airlines have a Braille reference card to explain in more detail
      5. All 3-row seating areas have 4 overhead oxygen masks, dont forget to count your dog guide, babies, lap children, etc. as part of the four in a row.
  9. Exiting the aircraft and airport
    1. Exit with the crowd
      1. If you have developed a conversation with a seatmate, confirm they are going to baggage claim, which is where ground transportation usually is.  Tag along by maintaining conversation, thereby not asking for direct assistance.
      2. Or follow the sounds of other passengers, after confirming with the gate agent the directions to baggage claim/ground transportation.  You might ask specifically if it's on another level.
      3. Electric doors, escalators or ramps may be clues to baggage claim and ground transportation.
  10. Miscellaneous
    1. Tipping for assistance
      1. Have a fair number of single dollar bills for tipping, usually easier to deal with in a pocket, not wallet.
      2. Sky caps assisting with luggage, generally, a dollar a bag.
      3. Tipping escort personnel is not required, but can be helpful
    2. Airport food and drink
      1. Although hunger may be a driving force, getting food or coffee can require use of the third hand you don't have!
      2. If purchasing food for the flight, ask if they have a plastic bag with handles
    3. After several trips
      1. Ask the kind of questions that can help you better understand the ordering of things around you.
      2. Although it's not in use, keeping your cane in view can impact on receiving assistance.

Emerson Foulke
(presented at International Symposium on Orientation and Mobility, 
Trondheim, Norway, 1996)

Before I begin my discussion, I would like to explain what I mean by the term "mobility." We customarily talk about the two terms "orientation" and "mobility" as if they were separate and independent activities. If this dichotomy is taken seriously, mobility becomes the ability to move through space safely, without the requirement of knowing where you are, where you want to go, or how to get there. Being able to move through space with the assurance that your next step will not be your last step is undoubtedly comforting, but if this is all we have in mind when we consider mobility, then mobility is not a very interesting activity. We would do better to say that orientation is an essential component of meaningful mobility. I certainly do not mean to suggest that the ability to move safely through space is not an important component of mobility, but when we add orientation as an essential component, mobility becomes a useful ability. Accordingly, when I use the term "mobility," I mean to indicate an activity that is impossible without orientation.

One way to get at the information we must have in order to understand the task in which blind pedestrians engage when they travel independently, safely, and purposefully, is to pose a few questions whose answers, when we have them, will tell us what we need to know. Here are a few questions which, at my current level of understanding, seem to me to be important.

What constitutes an adequate description of the mobility task? What are the capabilities of the perceptual systems that are available for use by the pedestrian who is engaged in the mobility task? How much and what kinds of information about space that is relevant to the mobility task can be acquired by the pedestrian's functioning perceptual systems? What contribution to performance of the mobility task is made by the perceived spatial information that is put to use while the task is in progress? What contribution to the mobility task is made by the perceived spatial information that is stored in memory for later use? When we can answer these questions, we will have come a long way in our effort to understand the mobility of pedestrians, blind or sighted.

In my discussion, I will talk first about the relative capabilities of perceptual systems. Next, I will attempt a description of the mobility task and the space in which it is performed. Then I will discuss differences between blind and sighted pedestrians in regard to the information they acquire by perception, and the uses they make of that information.

The Capabilities of Perceptual Systems

To travel independently, pedestrians must have a continual supply of spatial information. The perceptual systems of humans are obviously not equivalent in regard to their ability to inform their users about space, and the skill with which the mobility task can be performed depends, in large part, on the nature of the spatial information provided by the functioning perceptual systems. Accordingly, in order to know how well and in what way pedestrians can perform the mobility task, it is necessary to compare the human perceptual systems in regard to the acquisition of spatial information. This comparison can be made by posing a number of questions whose answers will define the functioning of the perceptual system to which the questions are addressed.

Reach. What is the reach of a perceptual system? This question can be answered by determining how much of the surrounding space can be observed from one position and on one occasion by that perceptual system. The answer to this question determines the extent of both the immediate space within which safe movement is assured, and the remote space within which landmarks can be observed. It also determines how much perceptual anticipation is possible, and how much integration of the serial perception of spatial facts acquired on different occasions is required for construction of the memorial representation of space.

Focus. How selective is a perceptual system? What ability does it have to exclude some of the surrounding space from observation, and focus on the sector of space where needed information is likely to be found? The answer to this question has a bearing on the vulnerability of a perceptual system to the interference caused by noise, etc. For example, by focusing, the visual system can exclude much of the surrounding space and the interfering stimulation it might contribute from observation. On the other hand, the auditory system is stimulated by acoustic energy from all directions, and has little ability to exclude interfering stimulation.

Analysis. What kind of analysis can be performed by the perceptual system in question? By analyzing the stimulus energy to which it is sensitive, the visual system acquires information about the positions, shapes, and surface characteristics of objects in space. By analyzing the stimulus energy to which it is sensitive, the auditory system acquires information about the temporal organization and extension of events. Consider, for instance, the analysis that discloses the phonemes in a speech sound. Neither the visual system nor the auditory system is, by design, capable of the analysis carimpaired out by the other system. Like the visual system, the haptic system is, by design, suited for the observation of objects in space, but its field of observation is relatively small, and its acuity is relatively poor.

Pattern resolution. What is the ability of a perceptual system to resolve patterns? Where is the threshold below which the details of a pattern are too small to be discriminated? The better a perceptual system is at pattern resolution, the more information it can acquire from a stimulus pattern. The perceptual systems of humans differ widely in this regard. For instance, as already mentioned, although the visual system and the haptic system can determine the characteristics of objects, details that are obvious to the visual system are often below the threshold of the haptic system.

Perceptual anticipation. I will consider this concept in greater detail at a later point in my discussion, but I mention it here because the perceptual systems of humans vary widely with respect to the perceptual anticipation they afford. How much perceptual anticipation is possible? This question is answered in part by knowing the reach of a perceptual system, because the extent of the observable space determines the time that can be made available to get ready for upcoming situations. However, in answering this question, it is also necessary to consider the answers to the questions concerning focus, analysis, and pattern resolution, because the value of perceptual anticipation depends not only on the time it makes available but also on the quantity, relevance, specificity, and accuracy of the information provided in advance of the need for it.

Perceptual error. Answers to the questions just discussed should make clear the extent to which a perceptual system can inform or misinform pedestrians who are depending on that system for the information they need in order to perform the mobility task. For example, the conceptions of space acquired by blind pedestrians are often distorted because the proprioceptive system has less ability than the visual system to detect curvature, and because the auditory system and the proprioceptive system have less reach and less ability than the visual system to estimate the directions and distances of spatial features (Howard & Templeton, 1966).

My discussion of the relative contributions of which our perceptual systems are capable has been brief and superficial. However, I hope that it has been sufficient to suggest that the accuracy with which the mobility task is performed, and the way in which it is performed depends on the spatial information that can be provided by the pedestrian's functioning perceptual systems.

The Contents of Space

Spatial features. The things in space include more than just the trees, buildings, lamp posts, and other articles of spatial furniture we ordinarily think of as objects. I have in mind any part of space that is discriminable enough to be distinguished from other parts of space. Consequently, I am also including streets, sidewalks, curves in streets and sidewalks, slopes, surface textures, and so forth, abstract patterns formed by the arrangements of things in space, and events.

Events. In order to perform the mobility task, pedestrians must know not only about stationary spatial features, but also about spatial features that are in motion. Visual observers are usually able to identify moving objects and to estimate their distance, direction, and rate of movement. If moving objects produce sound as they move, auditory observers can also estimate their distance, direction, and rate of movement, and they are often able to identify a moving object by learning the association between it and the sound it makes. Both blind and sighted pedestrians need information about moving objects in order to predict the future positions of those objects, and to predict the times at which the extrapolated positions will be occupied, because decisions about whether to move, and if to move, in what direction and how fast, must often be based, in part, on predictions.

The information acquired by visual observation concerning distance, direction, and rate of movement is more detailed and accurate than the information acquired by auditory observation, and visual object identification is more precise and dependable than auditory object identification (Foulke & Berlá, 1978). To cite a familiar example, sighted pedestrians routinely cross streets on which cars are moving, at locations where crossing is not controlled by traffic lights. The estimates of direction and rate of movement of traffic approaching on the street about to be crossed, and that are made possible by visual observation, allow them to determine that they will have time to cross before approaching cars can reach them. In similar situations, blind pedestrians usually wait until they do not hear any traffic sounds at all on the street about to be crossed, before crossing (Chew, 1986; Guth, 1986). If they try to base crossing decisions on auditory observation of the distance, direction, and rate of movement of approaching traffic, they often find that by the time cars are close enough to permit reliable observation, there is no longer enough time to cross safely. Furthermore, if there are other sounds in the auditory field of observation that are irrelevant to the task at hand, such as sounds made by other cars in the vicinity, or the sound of the pneumatic drill at the nearby construction site, these interfering sounds may prevent interpretation of the sounds blind pedestrians must interpret in order to get the information they need.

Movement patterns. Pedestrians also acquire some of their knowledge of spatial structure by observing patterns of movement. For example, by observing the patterns expressed by moving cars, sighted pedestrians can determine the boundaries that separate safe zones from dangerous zones. By observing the flow of traffic, they can determine the zone between lanes of traffic where it is relatively safe to stand for a time during the crossing of a busy street. Movement patterns can also be observed auditorily, but they lack much of the definition that makes them useful when they are observed visually. For example, with training, blind pedestrians can, by listening to the sounds made by a line of moving cars, maintain a course that is fairly parallel to the path followed by the cars. When they employ this skill, they are usually walking on sidewalks some distance from the streets along which cars are moving, and they navigate in this way to avoid the numerous obstacles they would encounter if they timpaired to follow the curbs that separate sidewalks from streets. In this case, if they pursue a course that is not parallel to the line of moving traffic and they veer toward the street, they can usually rely on the presence of a curb to rescue them from the consequences of their imperfect knowledge of the boundaries between the safe zone and the dangerous zone. They would be ill-advised to employ the same skill to locate safe zones between lanes of traffic.

Immediate space. Immediate space encompasses all of the spatial features that can be observed from one position and on one occasion, and that are not separated from the observer by intervening unobservable space. The bump in the sidewalk that is just now under foot, the tree immediately to the right of the sidewalk that is discovered by the sound it reflects, the tricycle left in the middle of the sidewalk that is discovered by use of the cane, the step down into the street to the left of the sidewalk that is also discovered by the cane, can be in the immediate space of a blind pedestrian. The blind pedestrian who knows about these spatial features and the relationship among them also knows where it is safe to move. All of these spatial features can be in the immediate space of the sighted pedestrian. However, the sighted pedestrian's immediate space can also include the visually observed house set back some distance from the sidewalk, the visually observed trees in the yard between the house and the sidewalk, the surface of the sidewalk that is visually observable for a considerable distance ahead, and the visually observed activity on the street to the left of the sidewalk. Thus, the immediate space within which the sighted pedestrian can move with the assurance of safety is of much greater extent than the immediate space within which the blind pedestrian can move with the same assurance.

Remote space. Remote space is too extensive to be observed in detail from one position and on one occasion. For both blind and sighted pedestrians, it is a conception that is achieved by integrating information acquired on different occasions. As pedestrians move through space, many features in the space beyond immediate space enter immediate space, become observable, and remain observable until further movement again places them beyond the reach of the available perceptual systems. However, other spatial features in the space beyond immediate space, though separated from the observer by unobservable space, are observable, and remain observable as the pedestrian moves. These features are in the pedestrian's remote space. The office tower in the town center two miles to the north lies within the remote space of sighted pedestrians because, although much of the intervening space can not be observed, the tower can be. Of course, because it can not be observed by blind pedestrians, it is not in their remote space. Because sound is reflected from the surface of the house referred to in the previous paragraph, it can, with learning, become a feature in the blind pedestrian's remote space. However, because the perceptual systems available to the blind pedestrian do not have the reach of the visual system, and because the ability to identify objects is significantly reduced unless they are within hand's reach, the remote space of the blind pedestrian is both much smaller and much less populated with spatial features than the remote space of the sighted pedestrian.

The Mobility Task

I will now turn to a consideration of the task that is performed by pedestrians, and the space in which it is performed. In order to get where they want to go, pedestrians must navigate. They must know, or be able to discover where they are and where they will be when they have reached their spatial goals, and they must be able to determine routes that will get them there. For their movement to be purposeful, they must be able to maintain orientation. To maintain orientation, they must know what things are in space and where those things are (Armstrong, 1977; Foulke, 1982), and they must be able to predict the courses and future positions of things that are moving. Most pedestrians live in constructed environments. To get where they want to go, they move through spaces that humans have furnished with familiar contents, and on which humans have imposed predictable organization. In the constructed spaces through which pedestrians usually move, there are, to borrow a term from J. J. Gibson (1966, p. 285), affordances. That is to say, movement along some courses is easy, whereas movement along other courses is difficult or impossible. These affordances are simply paths. The paths in a space usually intersect. Intersections are connected by path segments. The entire collection of path segments and intersections in a space constitute its path structure, and a space's path structure is a pattern that can be learned and remembered.

When pedestrians move along path segments, they arrive at intersections where they must make decisions. To team what decisions to make in order to select a sequence of path segments that will connect a journey's starting point and its end point is to learn a route. The initial decision in such a sequence is a decision concerning the direction in which to start, and the final decision is a decision about when to stop. It is possible for a route to include only one path segment, in which case only the initial and final decisions must be made. However, most routes include intersections, and when pedestrians follow such routes, they must also make decisions about which way to proceed at intersections. A route affords movement from a starting point to an end point, and more than one route is usually possible.

The space in which pedestrians travel is much more extensive than the space they can observe on any one occasion, but they can remember what they cannot observe. To site a familiar example, pedestrians who have learned the path structure of a space have the information they need to determine more than one route from a starting point to a goal. If they find one route blocked, they have alternatives. It is important to distinguish between observed space and remembered space, because they contribute in different ways to the performance of the mobility task, and their relative contributions vary with visual status.

The Uses of Spatial Information

So far, I have considered the spatial information pedestrians must acquire in order to perform the task, and the perceptual equipment at their disposal for acquiring that information. My remaining task is to consider how, once acquired, spatial information is used to organize and regulate the behavior by means of which the mobility task is accomplished, and I would like to begin by distinguishing between two kinds of information--perceptual information and cognitive information.

Perceptual information. Perceptual information is contemporaneous information. It is information that is acquired directly from the space in which the task is performed, and used while the task is in progress. Pedestrians put such information to several uses. If they can gather enough perceptual information, if it is sufficiently accurate and specific, and if it can be acquired soon enough to allow for the organization and timing of the behavior it dictates, it can control the ongoing mobility task by assuring orientation and safe movement in space, without much help from memory. The perceptual information that can be acquired by visual observation meets these requirements.

Perceptual anticipation. Numerous experiments (Barth & Foulke, 1979; Crossman, 1960; Hershman & Hillix, 1965; Levin & Kaplan, 1969; McLean & Hoffman, 1973; Poulton, 1954) have demonstrated the dependence of skillful performance on the ability to anticipate behavioral requirements by observing the features of a situation in advance of the time at which some action will be required. The sighted pedestrian who receives advance notice that a curb is 10 or 15 feet away because it is in plain sight, has time in which to prepare for a sequence of movements which, when executed with proper timing, will ensure that the curb is negotiated skillfully. However, because the space that can be perceived without sight is so small, the blind pedestrian has little time to prepare for perceived spatial features. The curb discovered by the tip of the cane is only a step away. Thus, for the most part, the blind pedestrian lacks the perceptual anticipation that serves the sighted pedestrian. Fortunately, the blind pedestrian can replace the missing perceptual anticipation with what I have called cognitive anticipation. However, before considering cognitive anticipation, it will first be necessary to examine the memory on which cognitive anticipation depends.

Constructing the memorial representation. Informing the behavior of the moment is not the only use to which perceptual information can be put. It can also be remembered. Even when, as is often the case for blind pedestrians, perceptual information is insufficient to specify the behavior required for successful performance of the mobility task, it can be added to information already in memory, and as experience with a space accumulates, a memorial representation of that space can be gradually formed.

Cognitive information. Unlike perceptual information, cognitive information is not obtained directly from the space in which the task is performed. It is, instead, obtained from memory. The information supplied by memory is not limited to representations of perceptual information. It also includes information established by inference (e.g., relationships among remembered spatial features that were not observed on the same occasion), generalizations made possible by the reiterations that characterize constructed spaces, and communicated information; that is, information received by way of spoken or written language.

Piecemeal acquisition. For bad pedestrians, the memorial representation is constructed with piecemeal information acquired on many different occasions. It is probably less accurate than the memorial representation of the sighted pedestrian that is constructed with information gathered in larger chunks on fewer occasions. For instance, because visual observers can observe a relatively large space on one occasion, they can directly observe not only its features, but also the spatial relationship of those features. Blind observers must bring together spatial information gathered on different occasions and establish the spatial relationship of many features by inference. Of course, representations based on piecemeal information are evaluated and corrected by the feedback resulting from the behavior based on them. Nevertheless, it is likely that they are not as accurate and not as reliable as the memorial representations achieved by sighted pedestrians.

Quantitative differences. The memorial representations of blind pedestrians are also different from the memorial representations of sighted pedestrians in respect to the quantity of information they contain. Blind pedestrians can observe very little of the spaces bounded by the paths along which they walk. They learn very little by observation about the buildings, trees, fences, and so forth, commonly found in such spaces, and things not observed and remembered cannot serve as landmarks.


Spatial features may become landmarks. Landmarks allow pedestrians to locate themselves in the space through which they are moving, and by doing so to find out where they are. For spatial features to serve as landmarks, they must be stable, and pedestrians must remember not only those spatial features, but also their relationships to other stable spatial features. Beyond this, pedestrians must maintain the currency of their knowledge of the changing relationships between stable spatial features and themselves as they move through space. Landmarks can be anywhere within the reach of the perceptual system by means of which they are observed. They may be located in the spaces bounded by path segments, or on the path segments, themselves. The large house with the distinctive roof line, the old hollow tree, the unusually sharp curve in the sidewalk, and the bump in the sidewalk caused by the tree root underneath are all spatial features and can serve as landmarks for pedestrians who have learned to identify them and to relate them to other spatial features. Some of these spatial features, such as the bump in the sidewalk, will become landmarks for blind pedestrians. Other spatial features, such as the house with the distinctive roofline, will become landmarks for sighted pedestrians.

Detecting the spatial feature that serves as a landmark is, of course, a perceptual event. However, knowing that it is a landmark is achieved by consulting memory, and thus, the knowing is a cognitive event.

I.andmarks in remote space. The office tower mentioned earlier is in the remote space of visual observers and can become a landmark. Its distance from the observer can be estimated, and if it can be related to other spatial features, it can provide the information needed for orientation. Landmarks of this sort are especially useful because, unlike landmarks in immediate space, they do not quickly become unobservable as the observer moves. Incidentally, features of remote space can become landmarks and provide orientation for pedestrians who never go to the places at which those landmarks are located. The mountain range to the east of the city that looms in the distance can provide orientation for pedestrians who have never been, and never expect to be anywhere near it.

The spatial features in the remote spaces observed by blind pedestrians are, for the most part, objects that emit sounds. However, in order to be observed, audible features must be closer to the observer than visible features. Furthermore, if a sound is to serve as a landmark by supplying the information that allows auditory observers to estimate the position of its source, and perhaps to infer its cause, it must be emitted by a stationary source, and it must be available when auditory observers need to consult it. These conditions are not frequently satisfied. As a result, visually observed features of remote space are both more numerous and more useful as landmarks than auditorily observed features of remote space.

Landmarks in immediate space. Pedestrians do not need landmarks to maintain orientation in immediate space because immediate space is directly observable. However, when spatial features originally perceived in immediate space have been remembered, and when the relations among them have been learned, blind pedestrians can use landmarks in immediate space for orientation in remote space, and the landmarks on which blind pedestrians depend are, for the most part, in immediate space. As they move and the boundaries of immediate space change, landmarks quickly become unobservable and must be replaced by other landmarks in the current immediate space. Sighted pedestrians get from immediate space the information they need for safe movement but, to the extent they can use landmarks in remote space that do not quickly disappear as they move, they can dispense with landmarks in immediate space. They do not need to identify the bump in the sidewalk by the feel of the surface under foot to know where they are. Because the knowledge blind pedestrians have of remote space is meager and undependable, they must depend more heavily for orientation on landmarks in immediate space (Brambring, 1982). Because immediate space is much less extensive than remote space and because their movement quickly places landmarks in immediate space beyond the reach of the perceptual systems available to them, they must learn and remember many more landmarks than sighted pedestrians.

The blind pedestrian's remote space. Because there is less for them to observe in remote space, the conceptions of remote space achieved by blind pedestrians depend, to a considerable extent, on remembering spatial features in immediate space, and learning the relationships among them. Their immediate space consists, for the most part, of the space on and near the paths along which they walk. Because their memorial representations include very little information about the spaces bounded by path segments, when they incorporate in their memorial representations the features of immediate space, and when they have learned the relationships among these features, the conceptions of remote space that emerge resemble mazes, or networks of spatial corridors.

Spatial stereotypes. When pedestrians are operating in spaces that have, with experience, become familiar, their memorial representations provide them with information about those spaces, but sometimes they find themselves in spaces that are not familiar. Of course, if current space is not represented in their memorial representations, they cannot consult their memorial representations for information about it. However, their memorial representations can often provide information about similar spaces that may be applicable. Most people spend most of their time in constructed environments, and in constructed environments, certain patterns are likely to be repeated over and over again. For example, in cities, streets cross other streets, and they often intersect at right angles. Many of them have been given contours that promote drainage. From the center, they slope downward to either side. They are usually bounded by curbs, so that one must step up in order to pass from a street to the adjacent land. On both sides of the street, one frequently finds sidewalks, and in residential areas, these sidewalks are often separated from the streets by grassy verges on which objects such as trees, utility poles, and lampposts are occasionally to be found. Beyond the sidewalks and parallel to them are rows of buildings. The point to be made by this example is reinforced by the ease with which it could be extended.

Because constructed environments exhibit extensive reiteration, generalization is possible, and the memorial representation includes what may be regarded as spatial stereotypes. These stereotypes furnish the generalizations that allow blind pedestrians to make predictions about what they will encounter in spaces not previously experienced. Of course, behavior informed by such generalizations is more likely to result in behavioral errors than behavior informed by direct observation of the space in which the task is performed or by an accurate memorial representation of that space but, in the absence of better information, generalizations are useful.

Blind pedestrians who enter new spaces can have no memory of them to consult, and the observation they can accomplish on first encounter will not be sufficient to inform their behavior. Often, their only recourse is to rely on the generalizations furnished by their spatial stereotypes, and these generalizations, though not entirely trustworthy, will usually suffice until there has been enough direct experience to enable the construction of adequate memorial representations.

Cognitive anticipation. Like perceptual anticipation, cognitive anticipation provides time in which to organize behavior that will shortly be required (Foulke, 1982; Poulton, 1952). As pedestrians gain experience with immediate space, they can, if there is a reason to do so, remember it, and they are then able to obtain the benefits of cognitive anticipation. Sighted pedestrians do not have much reason to remember immediate space, but because the immediate space of blind pedestrians is so restricted, the perceptual anticipation it affords does not gain for them the time they need to prepare for imminent behavioral demands, and they must turn to their memorial representations and cognitive anticipation. In order for cognitive anticipation to replace perceptual anticipation, blind pedestrians must be able, by consulting their memorial representations, to determine their current positions accurately, and they use landmarks in immediate space for this purpose. Landmarks in immediate space give blind pedestrians fairly accurate information about their current positions, because the immediate space they can observe is so small that their current positions are usually the same, or nearly the same as the positions of the landmarks they are using. They are where their landmarks are. When blind pedestrians have had enough experience with a route to team that the curb is three steps beyond the point at which the surface under foot changes from brick to concrete, detecting that change provides the cognitive anticipation they need to prepare and time the sequence of movements that will be required when the curb is reached.

If adequate perceptual anticipation is possible, there is little need to consult memory in order to gain time in which to prepare responses, and the immediate space that can be observed visually is generally of sufficient extent to afford adequate perceptual anticipation. Sighted pedestrians do not need to detect the change in the surface under foot or the distinctive bump in the sidewalk in order to know that a curb is coming up, because they can see the curb soon enough to provide ample time in which to prepare their responses.

A Thought Experiment

While keeping in mind the concepts just discussed, imagine that you are the subject in a thought experiment with three conditions. In the first condition, you are blindfolded and brought to an unfamiliar space with a number of intersecting paths. You can, by the way the surface feels underfoot, distinguish between the path and the surrounding surface, but there are no irregularities in the path surface, no turns at choice points with angles other than 90 degrees, no curves with enough curvature to permit their detection by proprioception, no distinctive sounds that are reliably associated with stationary objects, no objects close enough to the path to be discovered by hearing reflected sounds. Because you are blindfolded, you cannot inform yourself about the contents of the spaces bounded by path segments and, at the outset, you know nothing about the route you are to learn. Your task is to learn the route by traversing path segments and by guessing which way to turn at choice points. You will be told when you have made wrong choices. This task is rather like the task performed by a white rat who must learn the sequence of correct turns in order to progress from the starting box of a maze to its goal box and food. As your experience with the route accumulates, you will gradually learn the sequence of correct turns and will finally be able to traverse the route without error. However, because your performance depends almost entirely on remembered route knowledge, it will be limited in a number of ways.

In order for you to know where you are at any point along the route, you must have in memory, in some form, a representation of the maze, and you must remember what turns you have made. If you have a lapse of memory, you will be lost. If, for some reason, you stray from the path, you will be lost, because your memorial representation cannot provide any information about the spaces bounded by path segments and no landmarks will be represented in it. If you find your path blocked and you have only the knowledge of the route you have learned to rely on, you will not be able to select an alternate route.

On the other hand, if you had enough experience of the right kind to learn not just a route but the entire path structure, or if your experience with the path segments over which you walked suggested to you that the route you learned expressed a predictable pattern, you would have been able to select an alternate route, and you could have done so without relying on landmarks. However, it is likely that you would need many more learning trials to acquire the ability to select alternate routes than a pedestrian whose memorial representation was furnished with landmarks. Of course, blind pedestrians rarely find themselves in situations in which there are no spatial features that can become landmarks and in which they must depend entirely on route knowledge, although a network of corridors in a large hotel can come fairly close to satisfying this condition. However, the distant landmarks used by sighted pedestrians to maintain orientation in remote space are, for the most part, not available to blind pedestrians and in some situations, landmarks in immediate space are scarce. When this is the case, they must depend more heavily for orientation on remembering their own behavior. They must often remember what they have done in order to know where they are.

In the second experimental condition, you are again blindfolded and your task is the same, but the terrain in which your route lies exhibits the variability one would ordinarily expect to encounter. The surface over which you walk has slopes and discontinuities. There are trees and other objects beside the path that can be detected by hearing reflected sounds. The sounds made by moving traffic identify the positions of streets. Such characteristics can be remembered and when you have had a number of learning trials, many of them will become landmarks. Served by these landmarks, you will no longer have to depend so heavily on your memory of past behavior to know where you are. When the route is partially learned, the bump in the walk may tell you that the required turn to the left is a few feet ahead. When learning is more complete, you will, by recognizing the bump as you walk over it, be able to confirm or, if your attention has been wandering and you have become uncertain about your orientation, establish your position on the route. As was the case in the first experimental condition, if you stray from the route you will be lost, because except for objects close to the route, you will not know anything about the contents of spaces bounded by path segments, and if the route is blocked, you will not be able to choose an alternate route. However, you will be able to use spatial information you acquire while you are traveling to maintain orientation, instead of having to depend wholly on your memory of what you have done.

And now for the final condition of service in this thought experiment. You are still a subject in a wayfinding experiment, but this time you have been prepared for service in the experiment by being allowed to become familiar with the space in which your performance is to be observed. You are then blindfolded, brought, without knowing where, to some location in that space, and told that your task is to reach the goal indicated by the experimenter. At this point, your blindfold is removed. As you look around you, you see a large building which has, because of your previous familiarization with the space in which your task is to be performed, been incorporated in your memorial representation of space and is a landmark. Because it is a landmark, you know where it is in relation to other landmarks, and in the act of seeing it, you have discovered your relationship to it. Consequently, you know where you are. Because of your previous experience in this space, you may have learned a route to the goal, and you may even have learned a path structure. However, it is not necessary for you to learn about routes and path structures in order to know where you are now. If a number of spatial characteristics have become landmarks, you have all of the information you will need to find your way through this space. You will still have to make decisions at intersections, but by supplementing the landmark information supplied by your memory with spatial information acquired while you are performing the task, you will have the information you need to make these decisions.

An Attempt To Validate

I hope this description and analysis of the mobility task and the information on which it depends seems reasonable. However, merely seeming reasonable is by no means sufficient. A way must be found to make an inventory of the facts about space that are established by the pedestrian's functioning perceptual systems, and of the perceived spatial facts that are stored in memory and subsequently used in conjunction with directly perceived spatial facts to inform the pedestrian's behavior.

A few years ago, Dr. John Brabyn, Co-director of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center at the Smith-Kettlewell Institute of Visual Sciences, and I decided to tackle this problem by using a method that is certainly simple and probably naive. We identified a small group of skilled blind pedestrians and asked each pedestrian to mention the facts about space he discovered, to identify the perceptual system responsible for their discovery, and to mention the facts about space that were supplied by memory, as he walked through that space. Each pedestrian carimpaired a wireless microphone, and his comments were recorded on a tape recorder carimpaired by either John or myself. Occasionally, John or I noticed that a pedestrian appeared to be responding to something about the space in which he was operating without mentioning what he had perceived or remembered. When this happened, we felt free to intervene and ask the pedestrian to explain his behavior. After we had accompanied all of the subjects on their walks, I listened to the recording of each subject's comments, and devised a preliminary plan for scoring the performance of subjects. If spatial facts were directly perceived, I wanted to know the perceptual system responsible for the perception. I also wanted to know whether a directly perceived spatial fact was the result of an investigation to confirm a remembered spatial fact. If a spatial fact was remembered, I wanted to know whether it was a specific remembered spatial fact or a spatial fact established by generalization or inference.

This is still a very rudimentary scoring system that will require considerable refinement before it can become useful. However, as it stands, it should give you some idea of the varieties of information about space on which the behavior of a pedestrian is based, and it should suggest that blind pedestrians must use different information than sighted pedestrians, and must therefore perform the task of moving through space safely and purposefully in a different way than sighted pedestrians do.

Each of the protocols we scored is quite lengthy, and I cannot include even a single protocol in this paper without making it much too long. However, I can show you enough of a protocol to give you an idea of what we were trying to do.

The Scoring of Protocols

An assertion is scored P (perception) if it reports a spatial fact that is the immediate result of perception. For instance, if a sighted subject knows that a curb is approximately 10 feet ahead because he sees the curb, the subject's assertion that there is a curb 10 feet ahead receives the score of P.

When P is scored, it is qualified in one or more ways, and its qualifiers are enclosed in parentheses. Qualifiers within parentheses are separated by periods. If the subject reports hearing something, an a (auditory) is added to the score. If the subject reports smelling something, an o (odor) is added. If the subject reports the manual exploration of something, an h (haptic) is added. If information is supplied by the muscle sense, as when a subject notices the particular way a door resists opening when the door handle is pulled, a k (Anesthetic) is added. If the subject reports feeling the sun, wind, rain, etc., or if the skin is touched by some object, a d (dermal) is added.

There are two kinds of proprioception to be distinguished. If the subject reports the feel of the surface under foot, an f (foot) is added. If the subject reports discovering something by touching it with his cane, a c (cane) is added. A perception may also be an observation made to verify an earlier perception, as when a blind pedestrian touches an object with his cane to verify the auditory impression of its location. In this case, c (cane) is followed by v, and the letter that labels the perception being verified. For example, if a subject hears the sound reflected from a pole, and touches the pole with his cane to verify the auditory perception, the score P(a)P( is assigned.

A direct perception might also be the result of an attempt to verify a remembered spatial fact, as when a blind pedestrian finds a lamp post with his cane in order to verify his memory of its location. An assertion is scored M (memory) if the spatial fact it reports is the remembered result of a perception, inference, generalization, or a communication. Thus, if a blind subject reports that a mailbox is immediately to the left of the curb cut on which he is standing, because he remembers the earlier haptic perception of the mailbox, his score includes M for the remembered mailbox. When M is scored, it is qualified in one or more ways, and its qualifiers are enclosed in parentheses and separated by periods. If a remembered fact is a feature of the current space that was perceived on an earlier occasion, the qualifier s (specific) is added.

Sometimes, although remembered information acquired on some prior occasion enters into the decision of the moment, it is not possible to relate the evoked memory to the perception of any specific feature of the current space. This would occur when, for instance, a blind pedestrian's knowledge that a certain intersection is not controlled by traffic lights enters into his decision about when to cross a street, but the pedestrian cannot point to any specific feature of the current situation that has evoked the memory. Remembered facts of this sort are probably evoked by associative links with other items of remembered information.

If a memory is evoked by a perception, the M component of the score is immediately preceded by the P component. If the memory is evoked by association the M component of the score is not preceded by a P component. If the evoked memory is of other situations that are like the present situation in some degree, so that prediction of features of the current space is possible, even though the current space has not been experienced before, the qualifier g (generalization) is added.

Occasionally, a subject's assertion indicates that his movement, at least for a short distance, has been guided by remembered headings and distances, learned during earlier practice on the current route, rather than by sensory feedback. When this is the case, the M component of the score assigned to the subject's assertion is qualified by s (specific), and by dr (dead reckoning).

Sometimes, a blind pedestrian touches an object with his cane, listens for an echo, or makes some other observation, not to acquire new information, but rather to verify an expectation concerning the location of some remembered feature of the space in which he is operating. If an observation of any kind has been made for the purpose of verifying an expectation, a ve (verify expectation) is added. If, for instance, a blind pedestrian touches a remembered pole with his cane to verify its presence and position, his assertion is scored M(s)P(

An assertion is scored I (inference) if the spatial fact it reports is a conclusion drawn from the available evidence. When I is scored, the perceptual and memorial components of the evidence on which it is based are enclosed in brackets. For instance, if a blind subject concludes that an intersection is controlled by traffic lights because he hears the sounds made by moving traffic on the parallel street and by halted traffic on the cross street, followed by the sounds made by moving traffic on the cross street and by halted traffic on the parallel street, his assertion regarding this situation might be scored I[P(a)P(a)M(g)].

By making the distinction between spatial facts that are remembered or inferred, and spatial facts disclosed by direct perception, it will be possible to evaluate the hypothesis that the space in which the blind pedestrian performs the mobility task is, to a considerable degree, a remembered space and a space inferred from evidence at hand, whereas the space in which the sighted pedestrian performs the mobility task is, to a considerable degree, a space that is known immediately by perception. To say that a spatial fact is an inference is to say that it has been established, not by observation, but by performing logical operations on the available evidence. Therefore, if blind pedestrians must make greater use of inference than sighted pedestrians in order to perform the mobility task, it follows that they must depend more heavily than sighted pedestrians on memory and reasoning in order to perform that task. accordingly, performance of the mobility task by blind pedestrians is more strongly influenced than performance of the same task by sighted pedestrians by pitfalls (such as distorted memorial representations, incomplete memorial representations, memory lapses, faulty logic, and the like), that beset memory.

In the partial protocol that follows, the subject and the experimenters are identified by the initial letters of their last names. The protocol also includes statements labeled as comments, that have been added to clarify statements made by the subject or to indicate the need for clarification, to draw the reader's attention to the significance of statements made by the subject, and to explain scoring decisions.

The route on which subjects were observed went south from the front door of the Smith- Kettlewell Institute in San Francisco, California, to the comer of Webster and Clay, west along the north side of Clay to Filmore, south along the east side of Filmore to Bush, east along the north side of Bush to Buchanan, and north along the west side of Buchanan to Clay. All subjects were familiar with the segment of the route from Smith-Kettlewell to the comer of Filmore and Bush, and all of the subjects had little or no familiarity with the segment of the route from the corner of Fdmore and Bush back to Smith-Kettlewell.


Subject: Mike Cole

Experimenters: John Brabyn and Emerson Foulke

C: We go out here and I'm going to look for this echoey garage, and I hit this wall here.
IM(s)P( 2P(c)

B: You veered to the left into the garage.
Comment.- C's memory of the garage is probably evoked, not by an environmental cue, but by an associative cue. He verifies his expectation by listening for the echo. Because he veers as he passes the entrance to the garage, he hits the garage wall with his cane.

C: And now we've got the wall, so I'll go up here and hit this crossing here.|
3P(a) 4M(s)P( 5M( dr)
Comment. C is referring to the garage wall that is parallel to the sidewalk, and on his left. He maintains his position on the sidewalk by monitoring the sound reflected from the garage wall. He remembers this situation and expects the garage wall to come to an end shortly. He verifies this expectation by listening, and by finding the end of the wall with his cane. Having found the end of the wall with his cane, he knows where he is in relation to the curb he will encounter shortly, and this knowledge makes cognitive anticipation possible. His course, as he turns out toward the street, is a remembered course, and he is not guided, at least for a few feet, by perceptual feedback.

B: How did you determine where to turn, where to cross?

C: Being familiar, I waited until I got to the end of that wall and then came out.

B: Did you detect the end of the wall with your cane tip, or did you hear it?

C: I was pretty much using the cane. However, I did hear it, too.

C: Now this street, I like to cross it via aggressiveness.

F: How did you decide when to cross?

C: There wasn't much happening, and I know that this is a know-about sort of thing, where if you get out there and are seen, you'll probably make it alive.
Comment.- Another indication of a risk-taking policy. C bases his crossing decision on auditory information, but he is willing to settle for less than certainty.

C: I also did make a kind of outward arc to try to hit this intersection, I mean the curb, toward the outside of it.

C: I like to do that. Sometimes there's curb cuts, but I hate to get tangled up in whatever might be on the inside part; poles and whatnot.
Comment: By dead reckoning, C determines a course which should bring him to the part of the curb he wants to hit. By making an outside arc, C increases the risk of missing the sidewalk on the other side, and walking in the parallel street, but he reduces the risk of getting tangled up in the poles and other objects he might encounter if he were off a little in the opposite direction.

F: What was the name of the street you just crossed?

C: I just crossed Webster Street. Now I am going to face west and head off down Clay Street.

C:And there's a pole. and so I've got to get over toward the inside part of the sidewalk.
Comment: C finds the pole with his cane. Finding the pole evokes the remembered generalization that poles of this type are usually near curbs. The inductive inference of which this generalization is the result took into account numerous occasions in the past on which poles of this type were close to the curb. It follows that the pole he has just found is near the curb. Because he is near the pole, he must also be near the curb, and he decides to move to the right, away from the street, in order to avoid, as he walks, the poles and other articles of street furniture that are usually located close to curbs. 7he generalization that C applies to the present situation is probably the product of inductive reasoning that took place sometime in the past. C probably stored the generalization in memory and recalled it on this occasion. In my scoring I am not distinguishing between remembered inferences and inferences that occur in the present. However, this might be a useful distinction.

C: Now the cane is telling me that we have some dirt and so on the left.

C: My arm brushed a pole.

C: I get some auditory information off the dripping / off these buildings.

C: Now Clay Street has these drops off to the right, so that you not only have a building there, but you have the sense that the sidewalk falls away, and sometimes that adds quite a bit of echo, and it also I well, not quite a bit of echo, but some / it’s weird. It’s an unusual sounding thing.
Comment: From what C has said, it is not clear to me just what situation he is describing, but in any case, he is monitoring the sound reflected from the buildings on his tight to maintain his position on the sidewalk.

C: Obviously we have hammering coming up on the right.
Comment: At this point, the sound of hammering on metal is loud enough to mask other useful sounds.

C: And there’s an obstacle on the right, which I detected simultaneously with the cane and heard it. It is pallets or something.
14P(a) 15P(C)

B: Yes, that’s construction.

C: And now the rain introduces a lot more noise.
Comment: 7he sound made by falling rain is an effective masking sound that may hide sounds C would like to hear.

C: Oops, I’m hung up by something.
Comment: C finds some construction paraphernalia with his cane.

C: Now we’re off again. This is not the easiest sidewalk to know whether you’re centered. It never has been in all the years I’ve come here.

C: Motorcycle.
18P(c) 19P(a)

B: Did you find it with your cane?

C: The cane first, I think I heard it.
Comment: C means here that he thinks he detected its presence by echolocation. The motorcycle was parked, and its engine was not running.

C: Now we’re passing the first break in the real estate to the right, where you could actually hear rain falling between the buildings, at least that’s what I’m calling it.

B: What cues are you using to stay roughly in the middle of the path?

C: There's a lot of information coming off this right side.

B: Echoes?

C: Yeah, from the cane, and from / you know this whole business of being able to hear it sort of, but not because it's doing anything, almost just its inertness seems to say something. And it's even faceted, you know. It's not a constant thing. There's ins and outs.
Comment: C is using the sound reflected from the indented building line to maintain his position on the sidewalk.

C: OK, we're arriving at Fillmore. I'm going to start paying attention to the traffic.

B: How did you know that you had arrived here?

C: This is a familiar walk for me, and also, you had a couple of things happening. The building was ending on the right, the slope was flattening out, which it does at intersections, especially in the city, and I'm always trying to begin to think about what the traffic pattern is before I ever even get to the street, so if somebody's making a right turn, I start sort of taking on a defensive pose.
Comment: C is familiar with this section of the route. He expects the intersection shortly and has started listening to the traffic. The disappearance of the building line and the leveling of the sidewalk verify his expectation. 7his verification also allows him to fix his position in a remembered space, making cognitive anticipation possible. he now has an approximate memorial representation of his present position in relation to the curb he will be reaching shortly. He also notes that the leveling of the walk at the intersection is typical of San Francisco, which suggests a generalization that could apply to the present situation, but on this occasion, he is clearly remembering and expecting the leveling of a specific sidewalk.

C: And here we go. Now we have water running in the gutter in the drains.

C: And I got some good parallel traffic.
Comment: 7he sound of water running in the gutter makes perceptual anticipation possible. Because he can interpret the sound of running water, he has perceived the location of the curb. C has turned and will be walking south. Therefore, the parallel traffic he hears is on Filmore, and because he hears it, he decides he can cross Clay.

C: Something's going here in front of me that I was not aware of, and there's one to my left, but I don't think he's going to back up and he was practically in our path here. I think he kind of was a little bit.

B: Did you detect that car from the sound that it made?

C: Yeah, I heard him start up, but the guy out in the middle of the intersection really did surprise me.

F: Did you cross at the wrong time?

C: I guess you could say I did, because I went behind a guy who was trying to get out into Fillmore. If I had been aware of him, I would have probably allowed him to make his move. Part of what can happen in this situation is that all this talking and being conscious of it is actually a distraction.

F: Right.
Comment.- Was C crossing Clay against the light, or were the cars in his path exercising there god-given right to turn tight on red?

Recommendations for Mobility Instructors

In the early days, mobility instruction emphasized specific movements of the body and specific manipulations of the cane. Not enough attention was paid to the spatial facts that could be acquired by direct perception or retrieved from memory, and how they might be used to guide the behavior of the pedestrian. I believe that more attention is now being paid to the role of information about space, but there is still room for improvement.

Many blind pedestrians could improve their performance by remembering to remember. Consider the bad pedestrian who is shown the way from the elevator to his hotel room. If he remembers the number and direction of the turns he made and the side of the corridor on which his room is located, he will be able to return to the elevator easily and without assistance. I have accompanied a blind pedestrian who, after one learning opportunity, followed, without assistance and without hesitation, a long and complicated route from the entrance to a shopping mall to a particular shop. He remembered accurately the pattern of path segments that connected the entrance and the shop. Having been alerted by observation of this performance, I paid attention to his performance on subsequent occasions, and found that he routinely remembered such information, and that this remembering had become so habitual, it occurred outside of awareness. Most blind pedestrians are not as good at remembering what they have done. They could be given practice in remembering, and this practice could be continued until they no longer forget to remember.

Mobility instructors often point out the utility of landmarks to their students, but I am not sure that they give them enough practice in the discovery and use of landmarks. Do they acquaint their students with the variety of spatial features that can be perceived, and the perceptual systems that can be used? Do they explain the role of landmarks in orientation? Are their students made sensitive to the information they must have to begin a journey, the information they must acquire to continue that journey, and the information they must acquire in order to know when they have reached the goal?

Mobility instructors often provide their students with an experience called a "drop off. " The student is driven to some point in a space with which he or she has had some experience, but the exact location of the drop off is not known. The student's task is to gather the information needed to determine the present location, and then decide on a route that will take him or her to a location indicated by the instructor. I regard this as good training in the use of inference to solve a spatial problem, but does it go far enough? Could a student be taken to a number of drop-offs and be given initial guidance in gathering the information needed to solve the problem, additional drop-offs in which no guidance was given unless requested, and a few final drop-offs in which no assistance was given?

Students are told to observe traffic patterns in order to gather information on which to base decisions about when to cross the street, but do they receive systematic practice in gathering information of this kind? Are they ever taken to an intersection, required to stand there for an extended time and report each time it is safe to cross and why? Does the instructor discuss with them the evidence on which they have based their decisions?

Students are told to pay attention to the sound of parallel traffic in order to walk along a sidewalk without getting too close to the street, but do instructors give them much opportunity to practice this skill? Are they taken to places in the city where sidewalks are very wide so that, if they walk in the middle of the sidewalk, the sound of parallel traffic provides the most dependable information for walking a straight course?

Do instructors have high expectations for their students? I believe that, in many cases, instructors should expect much more of their students than they do, should motivate their students to expect much more of themselves, and should make more demands of their students.

I could give other examples, but perhaps the point I want to make is now clear enough. In general, I believe that learning how to manipulate the cane accurately, though important, is not sufficient, and that mobility students need much more practice in acquiring the spatial facts they need to perform the task in which they are engaged. They need practice in acquiring spatial facts by direct perception, and in remembering the spatial facts they perceive. Beyond this, they need practice in using the information they acquire. In general, they need to understand the nature of the task in which they are engaged, and the perceptual and cognitive processes that make the task possible.


The visual system is, by design, well suited for the acquisition of information about the spatial extension of spatial features and about their arrangement in space. Other perceptual systems do provide some information about space but, in respect to quantity, accuracy, dependability, distribution, and timeliness, they are inferior to the visual system. Nevertheless, the information they can provide is sufficient for effective mobility. However, it is important to understand that since the spatial information needed by blind pedestrians is different than the spatial information used by sighted pedestrians, the task performed by blind pedestrians is a different and more complex task than the task performed by sighted pedestrians.

Further improvement in the mobility of blind pedestrians can certainly be brought about by better training of the sort provided by O&M instructors, but the dramatic improvement envisioned by those who believe that technology will, in time, provide the solution to the mobility problem, will not be possible until some way is found to provide more, and more accurate information about both immediate and remote space. To cite one simple example, blind pedestrians would be greatly benefited by having more information about the surface over which they will soon walk, and they need that surface information before the surface that provides it is under the tip of the cane or the foot of the pedestrian. Yet, the electronic aids built so far provide very little information about the surfaces over which pedestrians walk.

As a first step, if technology can rise to the challenge of enlarging the immediate space that can be observed by blind pedestrians, and of providing more detailed, accurate, and timely information about that enlarged space, significant progress will be realized. If, in addition, a way can be found to provide more accurate and detailed information about a greatly increased number of the spatial features in remote space, we will have come a long way toward realizing the objective proposed by Leonard (1968). Though his reach exceeded his grasp, Leonard set as his objective the achievement of mobility for blind pedestrians that compares favorably with the mobility of sighted pedestrians. For now, the best way to improve the mobility of blind pedestrians is to teach them to make more efficient use of their perceptual and cognitive abilities. They will travel better when they are better at using their canes and their brains.


Armstrong, J. D. (1977). Mobility aids and the limitation of technological solutions. New Beacon, 61(127), 113-115.

Barth, J. L., & Foulke, E. (1979). Preview: A neglected variable in orientation and mobility. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 73, 41-48.

Brambring, M. (1982). Language and geographic orientation for the blind. In R. J. Jarvella & W. Klein (Eds.), Speech, place, and action (pp. 203-218). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Chew, S. L. (1986). The use of traffic sounds by blind pedestrians. In Proceedings of The Louisville Space Conference, April 13-14, 1984 (E. Foulke, Chairman), pp. 97-105. A limited edition publication of the College of Arts & Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY.

Crossman, E. R. (1960). The information capacity of the human motor system in pursuit tracking. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 12, 1-16.

Foulke, E. (1982). Perception, cognition, and mobility of blind pedestrians. In M. Potegal (Ed.), Spatial orientation: Development and physiological foundations (pp. 55-76). New York: Academic Press.

Foulke, E., & Berlá, E. P. (1978). Visual impairment and the development of perceptual ability. In R. D. Walk & H. L. Pick, Jr. (Eds.), Perception and experience (pp. 213-240). New York: Plenum Press.

Gibson, J. J. (1966). The senses considered as perceptual systems. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Guth, D. A. (1984). How do blind pedestrians use traffic sounds for street-crossing alignment. In Proceedings of 7he Louisville Space Conference, April 13-14, 1984 (E. Foulke, Chairman), pp. 107-119. A limited edition publication of the College of Arts & Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY.

Hershman, R. L., & Hillix, W. A. (1965). Data processing in typing: Typing rate as a function of kind of material and amount exposed. Human Factors, 7, 483-492.

Howard, I. P., & Templeton, W. B. (1966). Human spatial orientation. New York: Wiley.

Leonard, J. A. (1968). Towards a unified approach to the mobility of blind people. American Research Bulletin, 18, 1-21.

Levin, H., & Kaplan, E. L. (1969). Listening, reading and grammatical structure. In D. L. Horton & J. J. Jenkins (Eds.), Perception of language: Part I. Proceedings of a Symposium of the Learning Resources and Development Center (pp. 1-23). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.

McLean, J. R., & Hoffman, E. R. (1973). The effects of restricted preview on driver steering control and performance. Human Factors, 15, 421-430.

Poulton, E. C. (1952). The basis of perceptual anticipation in tracking. British Journal of Psychology, 43, 295-302.

Poulton, E. C. (1954). Eye-hand span in simple serial tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 47, 403-410.

by Jay Stiteley []


Independent travel is greatly enhanced through the development of mental mapping skills.  A mental map is based on an individual's experiences and perceptions, and is developed through a process of reasoned expectations.  Once the individual has acquired sufficient travel experience, these expectations can become the foundation of a versatile, and highly useful mental map.

This workshop will focus on key components that we have identified as being important in the formation of a mental map.  Personal travel experience, sensory clues, recall and recognition memory, techniques for soliciting information, visual landmarks, and knowledge gained from reading and individual learning styles are the specific components we have identified for this workshop.

Developing a mental map also requires the skill of transferring information to a new environment or situation.  The objective of this workshop is to bring into focus functional concepts and teachable skills that contribute directly to independent travel for those who are blind or visually impaired, whether they choose to make use of a cane or dog guide.

Components of Mental Mapping Skills

  • Personal travel experience:
    • First hand knowledge is probably the best teacher. 
    • Securing good feedback about ones perceptions is valuable and critical.
  • Sensory clues:
    • Transforming noise into valuable information.
    • Circumstances can define a sound's usefulness:
    • A fountain, at a distance can give direction, and up close, can be a total mask
    • Changing texture and slope under foot
    • Smelling a bakery on the street
  • Recall and recognition memory:
    • Good memory skills are important for mental mapping
    • Recall memory: having passed this way before, you remember general or specific identifiable features from that physical experience
    • Recognition memory: verbal descriptions, patterns, and other resources may prove useful in constructing a mental map although the actual environment is new to you
  • Soliciting information:
    • The difference between seeking assistance and asking for help
    • Use gestures, and don't ask yes-no questions
    • How you ask, and what you ask are key to getting useful answers
    • Whats the name of this cross street?, and Can you direct me to a telephone?
  • Visual landmarks:
    • Sighted people commonly travel by landmarks, more often than by street names
    • Make sure that your mental map includes key visual landmarks
    • While newly visually impaired individuals need to continue cultivating their visual memory, those who never had vision can certainly add this information to their mental map
  • Knowledge acquired through reading:
    • A great resource that provides vivid, accurate descriptions of architecture, building layout and décor
    • For the person who has had vision, this can be information worth remembering, and adding to the mental map
    • For the person who has never had significant use of vision, this can be equally useful in developing the mental map.
  • Learning styles:
    • Visual, auditory, kinesthetic or tactual
    • Though a person may profess a preferred learning style, most use a combination of styles

Let Your Environment Be A Useful Resource

While the list of environmental clues that follows is not exhaustive, it attempts to bring to mind items that can be quite useful to the independent traveler who is blind or visually impaired.  As you review the list, you will notice that not all of the items listed are in fact specific or tangible objects.  Several items reference situational factors that are part of the everyday traveler's working environment.

While these items are likely to gain added value through experience and familiarity, they might also prove very useful in giving or receiving directions.  For example, a fountain, a revolving door, and a stereo shop with outdoor speakers, may well fit into either category.  Simply stated, building the mental map is a fluid, and not a static process.  The environment can provide many clues, which will aid you in your travels, and in assembling your own personal mental map.

As you review the list of Environmental Clues, give some thought to the following questions:

  • What level of usefulness might this item play in the daily routine of independent travel?
  • Might it have indoor and/or outdoor application?
  • Is it temporary or permanent, and how might that impact on its overall usefulness? 
  • Might it have both near and distant, applications, and is it possible that these two options could represent distinctly different degrees of usefulness? 
  • Does the item's usefulness impact differently on the person traveling with a long cane and with a dog guide?


  • Accessible pedestrian signals (APS)
  • Back-up beeper
  • Bells, wind chimes, etc.
  • Cash register
  • Conversation initiatives
  • Crowd control devices
  • Curb cuts
  • Doors and doorways
  • Elevators
  • Environment specific sounds
  • Escalators
  • Fountain
  • Furniture and furnishings
  • Information or registration counter
  • Location specific phrases
  • Machinery sounds
  • Noise level changes
  • Plants and planters
  • Security checkpoint
  • Smells
  • Sound reflection
  • Surface level changes
  • Surface texture changes
  • Traffic
  • Unique or special features

Word Picture 1

Jack is a dog guide handler with 8 years of travel experience with his current dog.  He has a job interview, in a community he has never visited before.  He has a number of friends who have encouraged him to think seriously about the position, and should the job be offered, of moving to their fair city.

Word Picture 1 Worksheet

Fill in the blanks with the most appropriate environmental clues, in completing the following "Travel Tale".

In deplaning, amid the stream of other passengers, (___) Jack proceeded through the airport.  By relying on many informational resources, (___) he reached the sidewalk outside of the baggage area and signaled for a taxi.  (___) While entering the taxi, Jack clearly stated a downtown address. Jack confirmed that his dog was secure on the floor behind the driver.

The driver was well aware of the location and therefore, they began to converse.  (___) Jack secured a few additional bits of information about the area related to the location of the hotel in the business district, landmark, restaurants and shops in the area. He also secured the names of the streets that surrounded the hotel.

Upon entering the hotel, and through general observation, (___) Jack continued to learn about his new environment. (___) Using the bellman to identify key locations in the hotel while showing Jack to his room. (___)

Word Picture 2

Linda is a capable and confident businesswoman who is totally blind and travels with the use of the long cane.  She is attractive and highly regarded as a professional trainer and motivational speaker.  In fact, she is now self-employed and about to make a call on a local corporation as a potential client.  While Linda travels frequently, today's appointment is barely a mile from her office near downtown.

The high-rise office building is new to her.  However, she spoke to several friends who knew the building well enough to give her the location and an overall impression of size, shape, dimension and a couple of very useful features.

Word Picture 2 Worksheet

Fill in the blanks with the most appropriate environmental clues, in completing the following "Travel Tale".

Linda makes her way to the local bus stop (_______) and ultimately arrives at the downtown high-rise office tower by public transportation.  Traveling confidently, with her long cane, she pauses, and strategically assesses her surroundings, (_______) and then moves on toward her destination.  Trusting to her skills (_______), judgment (_______), and personal experience (________), supplemented with information offered by her friends (_______), and her new client (_______), she navigates (________) successfully to the (_______) where she alerts her new client of her arrival.