Blindfold Training:  How Does it Help My Mobility?

February 15, 2019 | Leave a Comment

by Rachael Eschbach, COMS

Tags: , ,

Sara Ellen wears a blindfold with her white cane.

 

“You know what’s weird,  I feel like I did better walking to your office blindfolded using the cane, than I did walking to your office using my vision…” ~Nicole

 

Many people who have some useable vision may have trouble learning to use a white cane. They are still trying to rely only on their vision to navigate, and are not paying attention to their other senses that may enhance their mobility.  These folks may have more difficulty navigating than someone with little or no vision at all. In these cases, I suggest a student wear a blindfold when training to use a white cane.

As an instructor, I never force my students to do blindfold training.  I present it as an option explaining  its benefits. Some of my students eagerly accept the challenge, some refuse it and some warm up to the idea and tentatively accept it after a few lessons. So, should you train with a blindfold?

For those of you who have some useable vision, here are the potential benefits that training with a blindfold can bring to your navigation skills.
 

Less Distraction

Being blindfolded blocks out the distractions of your residual, and perhaps unreliable, vision. It helps your brain focus on using and developing your other senses like touch, smell and hearing.
 

Echolocation

As you move through your environment, the sound your cane makes changes as it comes in contact with objects or surfaces like the ground, obstacles in your path, or walls and buildings. You will learn to use these different sounds as clues to help you know where you are as you travel.
 

Cane Technique

Focusing on your cane technique helps you develop muscle memory. With time and practice, the cane becomes automatic and feels more natural. If you are using your residual vision, often you will subconsciously be tempted to stare at your cane.  Then the cane can become more of a distraction than a valuable source of information.
 

Confidence

Often people with low or limited vision feel their confidence fluctuates as their vision fluctuates. I hear things like, “it’s a bad vision day, so I can’t come today.”  Living your life based on the daily or hourly changes in your vision can be limiting and may affect your confidence as a traveler. Learning to travel under blindfold gives you the self-assurance that no matter how your vision is when you wake up in the morning, you feel confident in your own skills and abilities. You know you can safely walk out of your house and get where you want to go.

Regardless of how my students emotionally gear up to take on this challenge, I have not yet had a student regret trying blindfold training. The comments I do hear from my students who explore this method of training are:

“This is challenging, but helps me block out distractions.”

 “I can’t believe I did the stairs blindfolded! I actually think I felt calmer after practicing than I did using my vision.”

“This training for me is about learning to let go, and to trust myself and my instructor.”

“I am ready to do this training because I won’t stay at home and be a shut in. I am yours — teach me!”

Training with a blindfold is not intended to cause someone to fear that they will lose their remaining vision. Rather it is a way to help enhance the other senses so you can become the best and safest traveler possible right now.

If you are unsure whether blindfold training is right for you, give us a call and let’s talk.

Rachael is the Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist at Second Sense.

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