There are a lot of supports available to assist people with sight loss to move around safely and independently. Some of these supports are designed to aid mobility while others can be used to let people know that you have a vision impairment. There are also some apps available that can help with accessible navigation.

Mobility training

Orientation and mobility training is available from NCBI and Irish Guide Dogs. This training can help you develop a range of skills that will assist you to move around more easily and safely. You will find more information about the different services available on the Irish Guide Dogs website and the Vision Ireland (formerly NCBI) website.

White canes

There are a number of different types of white canes that have different functions;

  • A symbol cane is used to indicate to others that you have low vision. They are not used for detecting obstacles or as a support aid.
  • A guide cane is shorter than a long cane. It is a mobility aid that can be used to detect kerbs or steps. It can be held diagonally in front of a person for protection or swept from side to side. It is necessary to get training to use a guide cane.
  • A long cane is a mobility aid used to detect obstacles in front of a person or changes in texture or ground level. It is tapped or brushed side to side. Training is important to be able to use the long cane successfully.
  • A red section on a white cane can indicates that the person using it has a hearing impairment and a vision impairment.
  • A white walking stick is used offers physical support and indicates to others that you have a vision impairment.

Guide dogs

Guide Dogs are an important mobility aid to people with sight loss but can also provide support and social benefits. Irish Guide Dogs offer a three-week residential training course which trains the person and their guide dog to work together and deal with specific situations such as crossing the road. Guide dog owners are also taught how to care for their dog. Training is available for people 16 years and older. All services are offered free of charge. For more information visit the Irish Guide Dogs website.

Smartphone apps

Smartphones can be a useful navigation aid. Voice assistants can generally provide some basic navigation and directions but this may not work well with screen readers. BlindSquare is a navigation app that provides information about places of interest and is designed to work with screen readers.

Assisting a person with sight loss

Many people affected by severe vision loss may not use a guide dog or cane but may require some assistance. Also many people who do use a guide dog or cane may have residual sight, may be quite independent or may be very familiar with their surroundings, and may not require assistance. Always ask someone if they would like some assistance, don’t presume that a person will need your help. You will find more information about assisting someone with sight loss here.