Negotiating obstacles contacted by cane

Common mistakes made by students who are learning to use the cane is that when they try to walk around an obstacle such as a chair, pole, box, planter, etc. they:
  • side-step to get around the obstacle; or
  • anchor the cane tip at the obstacle while they walk around it; or
  • start to walk around the obstacle but they turn to resume their original path of travel too soon, and trip or catch their foot on the obstacle.

    Side-stepping into a space that has not been checked by the cane, or anchoring the cane on the obstacle while walking around it, leaves people vulnerable to tripping or falling over obstacles or drop-offs that they had not been aware were there. Turning too soon when they think they have passed the edge or corner of the obstacle can cause them to trip or stumble on the obstacle.

    Students need to learn that when they encounter an obstacle, they should:
  • use their cane to look for a clearing or opening beside the obstacle, and then
  • turn to walk into that opening (rather than side-step),
  • continue to move the cane in an arc ahead of them while passing the obstacle, and
  • return to the line of travel only after they have passed the obstacle.

    Returning to the line of travel only after passing the obstacle:
    When the cane tip reaches the end of the obstacle, many students don't realize that they themselve have not yet reached the end of the obstacle, and they turn to resume their line of travel too soon, tripping or catching their foot on the obstacle that they were trying to pass. It takes practice to realize how much further they have to walk when the cane passes the obstacle before they themselve pass it. Exercises that can help are:
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