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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Weathering Mobility Challenges Season to Season

April 1, 2019 | Leave a Comment

by Rachael Eschbach, COMS

Tags: ,

Gear for mobility in every seasons: boots, sun visor, white cane, backpack, sun glasses and yuks

Mobility in Every Season

Chicago! It’s so wonderful to have all four seasons. Of course, every season presents its own set of challenges when traveling with vision loss. Here are some of the mobility problems that crop up season-to-season.  And some tips for overcoming them.




Ice is something that worries everyone, vision loss or not. My favorite accessory for ice travel is YakTrax. They can be pulled onto the sole of any boot or shoe to give more traction, and only cost $20 to $30. Warning: if you walk on a tile or marble surface, the YakTrax cannot grip, and will actually make walking slippery. Be careful and be prepared to pull them off indoors. Carry a bag to stow them, as they will be wet and dirty!


There are several types of scenarios with snow. One is the nicely shoveled sidewalk where the snow actually creates a nice path. The walls on both sides help to keep you on your path! This scenario, however, is often interrupted by the areas of unshoveled sidewalks with snow covering your path. Here’s where a pencil tip on your cane is the best option. I find it cuts through the snow better and helps you feel the texture of the sidewalk below.

Use the sounds of your parallel traffic to help you keep your direction and help minimize veering. If you are in a quiet, residential area, you may find it better to walk in the street and trail your curb, but consider the following questions:

  • Are you on the left-hand side of the street and facing oncoming traffic?
    This is where pedestrians should walk according to the law.
  • Do you have to weave in and out of parallel parked cars?
    This may push you too far into the middle of the street and make it unsafe. If there is not a safe walking route, sometimes your safest option is to make an arrangement for a ride.

Cold Temperatures

Even if there’s no snow or ice, cold temperatures require a change of wardrobe. This change affects your travel information. For example, hats and hoods are worn to keep your head warm, but they may be blocking your environmental sounds. Those sounds may be particularly important to your safety as you approach corners and cross streets. Consider exposing your ears at intersections to make sure you are properly hearing your traffic cues.

Your hands may need to be covered as well.  This will affect the information you feel from your cane. I prefer gloves over mittens. Gloves provide more dexterity, which is important for cane techniques. While mittens are warmer, I would suggest thicker ski gloves over mittens if the temperatures require it.




Spring brings the relief of freezing temperatures, but can often bring rain. Umbrella or raincoat? My personal recommendation, and what I choose myself, is raincoat. The umbrella can often be caught by the wind, after all this is Chicago! Then, you have this difficult distraction of trying to manipulate your umbrella in one hand in your cane in the other. A raincoat can keep you dry, and your hands free.

You can wear a longer raincoat to help protect your pants, again assuming it may also be windy. Similar to the winter tip, I recommend you pull that hood back to expose your ears approaching corners and during street crossings. You cannot safely navigate without the auditory information at these points.


Also, although instructors teach clients to wait close to the curb to be ready to initiate the street crossing, if it’s pouring rain there is most likely water pooling up in the gutters. If you are standing within inches of that gutter, you are going to get a big spray from passing cars! This is the one time I would recommend standing back a bit. After using your cane to actually verify you have located the curb, retreat a few feet back to wait. It is imperative that you locate the curb first to make sure you know where you are before stepping back.

Of course, rain boots can help protect you and keep you dry as you go through puddles. My personal favorite is to use Scotchgard and spray my shoes or hiking boots. It does a great job of keeping them dry. It needs to be reapplied every few months, but it does work wonders. You can even use it on your jeans to help repel water!




I recommend wearing a backpack to keep your hands free to use your cane. A backpack can hold water, sunscreen and other items you may need in your travels.


I recommend sunglasses and a hat or visor to help cut down on glare and shield your face from the sun.

Caution! Summer often means sandals, but consider your routes and the type of sandals you choose to wear. Flip-flops can present tripping hazards and provide little to no protection for your feet and toes. Sandals that have straps and cover your toes are a much better option. This type of footwear can prevent possible toe injury and can still keep your feet cool.




Dealing with leaf covered sidewalks can feel difficult, much like snow covered sidewalks. Again, I recommend using a pencil tip to help provide more tactile feedback from the cement below the leaves. Depending on the user, rolling tips can sometimes be challenging. This type of tip may not give you as much tactile information as you would like.


If you want to try out some techniques in any of the four seasons, and need some direct instruction to build your skills and confidence, please call us at Second Sense to find out more about Orientation and Mobility training.  If you are unsure if more training would be helpful, check out these questions to ask yourself and see if they apply to you.




Rachael is the Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist at Second Sense

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