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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Series: Orientation October

Useful Apps for Navigation: Google Maps and Blind Square

Techniques for Travel

When a person travels using their white cane, they have lots of techniques for learning a new environment and exploring their surroundings at their disposal.

Asking questions of passersby such as clarifying which block a destination is on, asking what intersection one is standing at, or inquiring which building is next to one’s current location can yield very helpful information about one’s environment.

Relying on other senses aside from sight can be very enlightening when discovering new aspects of one’s environment. A quiet thrum can indicate where the vending machines are, and the beeping sounds of cash registers can indicate where the checkout line at a store is located. Sometimes, finding the best coffee shop on campus is as simple as walking down the block, entering the place where the smell of delicious coffee is coming from, and ordering a coffee.

Individuals can also work with travel or O&M instructors on learning their new environment. Many times, this service is provided through the school district or DORS, and the Bridges Helpdesk can work with you on getting this service covered if needed.

Most cane users employ a combination of all of these methods, and also add in some additional tools in the form of apps on their smartphones. GPS apps are not perfect, and it is important to use other tools in your toolbox to get around while also using the apps to supplement your travel experience. Below, we will detail two useful apps for navigating and gathering information about one’s environment. There are others, and we encourage users to try them out and have fun!

BlindSquare

BlindSquare was developed from Foursquare and it has many features that can enhance location and destination identification. Users can enjoy many customizable features which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Shaking your phone while the app is open will give you your current address and speak information such as the closest intersection and popular cafes and other points of interest that are around you.
  • As you walk along the route and listen to the app’s directions, the app will periodically announce what direction you are headed in and along what street to help you maintain orientation. You will also hear the voice navigation announce what you are passing in real-time.
  • The app allows users to filter information that they want to hear. For example, if you only want to hear about nearby post offices, you can filter out all other mentions of other locations and points of interest.
  • Users can drop markers so that the app can use voice guidance to guide them back to their starting point after navigating to their destination.
  • Some users find it helpful to keep the app open when they are riding in a car or on public transportation because it will speak out the streets and points of interest one is passing. This can be a great tool when learning the layout of a new neighborhood or trying to contextualize what a bus line includes.

Blind Square is only available for iOS users in the App Store. The Blind Square event app is available at no cost, but Blind Square Event is only a demo version unless used at certain, limited events. The full version of Blind Square costs $39.99. Learn more about Blind Square or see it in action on Blind Square’s Help page.

Google Maps

This app was not specifically designed for blind and low vision users. In fact, this app has several modes and can be used if one is driving to a location, using public transportation, walking, or even bicycling.

The walking mode can allow you to preview the route that you will need to take to get to a specific location. You can also choose to start the route and Google’s Voice Navigation will speak directions to you as you progress on your travels.

Many users find Google Maps helpful because it can give information about which buses or trains to catch to get to a specific destination when using the app in the public transportation mode. The app also provides multiple public transportation route suggestions if available so you can evaluate which one will work best for you.

You can also use the app for giving driving directions to a driver or ensuring that that driver is heading to the requested destination. This app also has the ability to help you discover places around you and has the capability for you to call those places if needed by the push of the button in the app.

Google Maps is available at no cost and can be used with iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome operating systems.

Contact Us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Teen Blog

Oct21 Newsletter Teen and Young Adult Programs

Highlights

Congratulations to our 2021 Student Awardees

This year IMAGE and VME honored two students for their exemplary service at our Solutions 2021 celebration event. Our teen and young adult programs would not be the same without the dedication and growth of our students. Check out this year’s awardees.

Student of the Year: Rebecca Parker
Rebecca has participated in IMAGE Teen and Young Adult programs since 2016. Over the last five years Rebecca has grown from a shy, cautious participant in our Connect Program to a confidently aware self-advocate selected as our first ever Peer Mentor in that program. Rebecca has served as a student advocate in many instances sharing her journey toward greater independence with fellow students of many programs. At IMAGE we have watched Rebecca shape her abilities and set job readiness goals that best suit her passion of helping others. Rebecca has made many contributions to IMAGE programming helping to pave the way for other student advocates and we could not be prouder of her growth and progress. Congratulations Rebecca!

Peer Mentor of the Year: Ciara Gentry posing all wrapped up in sticky notes and toilet paper during a fun Halloween activity to reduce stereotypes.

Peer Mentor of the Year: Ciara Gentry
Ciara has been with IMAGE teen and young adult programs for the last three years. Most recently she has begun contributing to our programs as a Peer Mentor. In this role Ciara works to assist her peers by exuberating skills of leadership and self-advocacy. Tonight, we would like to congratulate her in receiving the Peer Mentor of the Year award. Thank you Ciara for your contribution to our programs. We are so proud of the steps you are taking to grow your own independence and that of your peers! 

Peer Mentor Spotlight

Cartoon Sticky Note that says “Next Time”.
Fall Application is CLOSED!

Applications for students wishing to become Peer Mentors for the Fall session of the Connect program have now closed!
Interested in applying for Peer Mentorship?
Application will reopen this winter! Stay tuned!

Questions? Email Jessica Leone at Jleone@imagemd.org

Upcoming Events

Three female Connect Program participants posing together for a picture outside at a Picnic Table.
Three female Connect participants posing together during a Connect program event.

The Connect Program
STILL TIME TO REGISTER for the Fall session!

October 19th 6-7pm (Virtual)November 2nd 6-8pm (In-Person)November 16th 6-7pm (Virtual)November 30th 6-8pm (In-Person)December 14th 6-7pm (Virtual)December 28th (In-Person)

The Connect Program is a program that empowers teens and young adults with disabilities to step outside of their comfort zone, make connections with their community, build social experiences and recognize and achieve skills needed for increased independence in adulthood. These skills include money management, time management, social and communication skills, personal hygiene, meal planning and decision making skills just to name a few.

Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.
Click here to Register

PreETS Self Awareness and Self Advocacy Training Program
Registration for the September/October session is FULL! Registrations are now open for sessions beginning in November.

Want to be referred for this program? Contact Jessica Leone jleone@imagemd.org for information
The Self Awareness & Self Advocacy Training program through DORS is a five week program utilizing curriculum designed to empower teens with disabilities to explore areas of self awareness and promote the importance of self advocacy to enhance the overall independence and vocational opportunity of each student. During this program students will work with professional staff from The IMAGE Center to begin to engage in curriculum addressing Self Awareness & Advocacy, Disclosing Disability, Rights, Future Outlook, Transition Outlook and Utilizing Resources.
Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.

Support Youth Programs at The IMAGE Center

plant growing in cupped hands
Hands holding a growing plant.
Sponsor a Student Today!
Categories
Bridges Blog Independent Living Resources Series: Orientation October

Orientation October: How to Get a Cane, Different Types of Canes, and Your Rights as a White Cane User

What Type of Cane Should I Buy?

White cane users all have their individual preferences on what makes the most useful white cane. Here are some valuable questions to consider as you evaluate the type of cane you want to use:

  •  How heavy do I want my cane to be? — Some prefer a heavier cane made out of aluminum or graphite, and others prefer lightweight cane made out of carbon fiber or fiberglass.
  • What material of cane tip do I want to use? — Some users say that a metal tip gives the most tactile feedback, while other users say that a marshmallow or pencil tip glides more easily over surfaces.
  • How tall should my cane be? — Some cane users feel that a cane that goes up to their sternum works for them, and others feel unsafe unless they use a cane that goes up to their forehead. As you consider this question, it also may be helpful to consider how fast you walk. Some cane users claim that they can jog with a longer cane because they have more advanced notice of the objects in their path.

It takes some time to figure out what type of cane you prefer, and we encourage you to explore all possible avenues before you settle on the cane type that works best for you. At the Bridges Helpdesk, we are always happy to discuss your options with you. Many cane users own multiple types of canes for different types of travel, and that just means more tools in the toolbox. Here are some examples:

  •  Some individuals carry a straight, non-collapsible cane for regular use, but carry a folding or telescoping cane with them in their purse or backpack in case something happens to their straight cane while they are traveling.
  • Some cane users have a shorter cane for daily use, but a longer cane for long walks or jogs.
  • Some cane users have lightweight canes for regular travel, but have heavier canes for hikes to assist with durability.

How Do I Purchase a Cane?

You can purchase a cane through a variety of places:

Free White Cane Program

If you have never used a white cane before, or you just want to try out NFB’s model of cane, you can order a free white cane from the NFB every six months with no charges. This cane is a straight fiberglass cane with a metal tip. If you want to look into other types of canes through NFB, those are not part of the white cane program but can be purchased at the Independence Market link indicated above.

Get your free white cane by filling out the Free NFB White Cane form.

Contact Us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Bridges Blog Information Resources Series: Orientation October

Orientation October: History of the White Cane and White Cane Safety Day/White Cane Awareness Day

History of the White Cane

In older literature and in written accounts of daily life, it is common to read that a person who was blind/had low vision used a long object such as a branch or metal pole while walking to give them information about the ground in front of them so that they could safely navigate. It truly was a fantastic innovation that blind/low vision individuals created themselves: if one cannot feel the ground while also trying to walk, then they thought to make a longer device that could give them information from the ground so that they could safely and confidently navigate.

Not until the 1930s did it become standardized for blind people to use the white cane specifically. The white cane has become a symbol that indicates blindness or low vision around the world. The white color allows the cane to be seen more easily in the dark. Blind/low vision cane users today enjoy all kinds of benefits from the standardization of the white cane, including customizable lengths, materials, and weights.

What is White Cane Safety Day?

October 15 marks White Cane Safety Day, which is a time to educate society about the white cane and how blind/low vision people travel. It is a time to be proud of the innovation that keeps cane users safe and traveling confidently to the things that they want and need to do.

White Cane Safety Day was established nationally in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Here is the proclamation as made at that time:

“The white cane in our society has become one of the symbols of a blind person’s ability to come and go on his own. Its use has promoted courtesy and special consideration to the blind on our streets and highways. To make our people more fully aware of the meaning of the white cane and of the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind persons who carry it Congress, by a joint resolution approved as of October 6, 1964, has authorized the President to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day. Now, therefore, I Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America do hereby proclaim October 15, 1964 as White Cane Safety Day.”

What about White Cane Awareness Day?

In the decades since 1964, some in the blindness/low vision community believe that, “the emphasis of White Cane Safety Day has shifted over time away from safety, and toward independence and equality” and have adopted the term “White Cane Awareness Day” to “to celebrate this history and recognize the white cane as the tool that allows the blind to “come and go on [our] own” as President Lyndon Johnson said back in 1964.” National Federation of the Blind. Additional organizations that celebrate White Cane Awareness Day include the U.S. Library of Congress, the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, the American Printing House for the Blind, The Braille Institute, and many Lighthouses for the Blind across the country.

Canes and more! Blind Americans Equality Day

In 2011, President Barrack Obama proclaimed October 15, 2011 “Blind Americans Equality Day.” In his proclamation, he referenced the original “White Cane Safety Day” proclamation and specifically recognized the importance of technological accessibility, including moving the federal government toward compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. You may read the entire proclamation at Presidential Proclamation – Blind Americans Equality Day, 2011.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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