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Mobility Aids

There are a range of mobility aids and devices to help people living with impaired vision travel more safely and confidently. Available services include training in the use of White Canes, Guide Dogs, mobile phone GPS and electronic mobility devices known as “Miniguides”. These training programs are tailored for each client, according to his or her specific needs, whether they be to cross the road safely, to find his or her way to the local shops or to catch public transport to work.

By far the most common mobility device is the white cane. The cane is used to check for obstacles and cues on the person’s path of travel. Sometimes people supplement the use of a cane with another “secondary device” such as a Miniguide. Others use both a white cane and a guide dog, depending on the situation.

Canes

A long cane

There are three main types of Canes:

1. Long Cane

Used by people with reduced or no vision, this cane is designed to be one step ahead of its user – it detects obstacles, hazards, ground level changes and stairs.

2. Identification Cane
Used by people with low vision, this cane can check the height of stairs and any ground level changes.

3. Support Cane
Used by people with low vision who also need support, this cane can provide stability when walking and check the height of stairs.

In addition, all three canes are recognised symbols of vision impairment. This is particularly useful in situations such as road crossings, crowded areas and bus stops, because they alert drivers and other pedestrians to the person’s reduced sight.

Miniguides

The Miniguide is a hand-held device about the size of a matchbox, which helps people with vision impairment to move around safely and confidently in a variety of environments.

A Miniguide

The miniguide is an advanced handheld sensor package that works like a bat – it can scan both left and right when walking, sending out ultrasonic beams that bounce off objects nearby. When the Miniguide detects an object, it provides feedback (either vibration or an auditory beep, depending on the model). The closer a person is to an object, the more feedback the miniguide provides.

The Miniguide is easily programmable for different uses and environments, depending on the user’s needs. The beam width and length can be altered according to the activity and surrounding environment. It can also be used in conjunction with a wheelchair, a walking frame or a baby’s pram to detect potential obstacles and/or identify cues.

The miniguide is useful to:

  • Avoid street furniture and poles
  • Locate doorways and gaps
  • Locate buses and taxis
  • Locate traffic poles
  • Detect overhanging obstacles
  • Follow fences and walls to maintain direction
  • Check whether automatic doors are open

The Miniguide is often used in conjunction with another aid, such as a Guide Dog or a long cane. The Miniguide indicates what’s in front of a person, while the other aid checks the ground for drop-offs such as kerbs and edges of railway platforms.

All these mobility aids are available for anyone with vision impairment who is a resident of New South Wales or the ACT, and are provided free of charge.

Guide Dogs Orientation and Mobility Instructors train clients to use the Miniguide safely and proficiently, using a program that is tailored to their individual needs.

For more information about mobility aids, contact your nearest Guide Dogs office.