DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

Getting Around Safely in Winter Weather

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Winter weather can pose challenges for pedestrians who are blind, especially once the snow settles, making it difficult to detect familiar tactile clues and to maneuver the long cane. Pedestrians who are blind understand that traveling on foot with snow on the ground poses a host of challenges, from canes not being able to locate familiar landmarks, to canes getting stuck on snow. A study originally published in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) sought to determine the best cane tips for performance in winter weather conditions. All study participants were legally blind, knew basic cane techniques, and were familiar with traveling in the snow. They used a variety of canes and cane tips, including bundu basher (all-terrain) tips, marshmallow roller tips, metal glide tips, and rollerball tips. The study evaluated the type of cane tips used and their frequency of sticking or veering in the snow, as well as the ease of making a roundtrip walk through snow depths. Researchers found that cane tips had similar sticking frequency in both dry and wet conditions and that participants’ preferences were similar in different weather conditions. Of the cane tips studied, participants favored the rollerball tip for use in snow. The remaining cane tips, in order of preference, were the marshmallow roller, bundu basher (all-terrain), and the metal glide. So, if you find yourself struggling with winter travel conditions, you may consider using a rollerball tip, based on its being preferred among study participants.