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 to learn about 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!
The company Foursquare developed BlindSquare with many features that can enhance location and destination identification. Users can enjoy many customizable features which include but are not limited to the following:
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 was not specifically designed for blind and low vision users; it is a widely-used, mainstream app. Yet, Google Maps provides excellent navigation information regardless 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 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 to give driving directions to a driver or ensure 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 on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome operating systems. Additionally, you can download Google Maps for free to use on your SmartPhone or tablet:
Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@imagemd.org
- Text: Send to: (410) 357-1546
- Voice mail: Call (410) 357-1546, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call
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.
Updated as of September 28, 2023.