Mobility equipment

Vision Australia offers training and advice around various mobility canes, assistive technologies and other devices which help people who are blind or have low vision to successfully navigate the environment and detect potential hazards.

Mobility canes

Often known as ‘white’ canes, all mobility canes are an international symbol of blindness and low vision. Mobility canes which assist people with vision impairments come in a variety of types. You can be assessed by an orientation and mobility specialist who makes qualified decisions about your needs and the environments where you will use the cane. Cane types include the following.

Identification cane

This white cane is designed to indicate a person has low vision. This cane does not detect all obstacles but can assist with the height of steps, gutters and down drops.

Support cane

This cane can aid balance and is used as a means of physical support. This cane does not detect obstacles but can assist with identifying that a person has low vision.

Long cane

A long mobility cane enables a person who is blind or has low vision to detect all obstacles and hazards within their path of travel. Vision Australia recommends getting advice from one of our orientation and mobility specialists about using a mobility cane.

It is essential that a cane is correctly prescribed and that there is training provided that will ensure the aid is used safely. This is a free service, and the recommended cane can also be supplied free of charge after an assessment with one of our orientation and mobility specialists.

To request a free assessment, training or advice, call Vision Australia’s helpline on 1300 84 74 66.

Columbus talking compass

The Robotron Columbus is a hand-held compass with speech output. The four major compass points north, south, east and west are spoken, as are the interim points northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest.

The user orients the compass in the required direction and queries the compass by pressing a button. The appropriate compass point is then spoken.

Almost any major world language is available, and new languages or personalized voices can be added. The current list of available languages is Arabic, Czech, Danish, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Indonesian, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai and Turkish.

The compass is battery operated, using two generally available N-sized batteries. It has a wrist-strap, which is designed to give the user instant access to the device while retaining freedom of hand movement.

There is a three-position switch along the side of the compass. The centre position is the ‘off’ position; the other two positions correspond to the two languages installed in the Columbus. The Columbus is a popular and reliable tool for people with vision impairment that can assist in orientation and mobility.

Technical specifications

Dimensions: 100 x 50 x 30 mm (3.9 x 2 x 1.2 in) Weight: 95 grams (3.4 oz) Compass points: 4 Cardinal points, 4 Intercardinal points Speech output: Digitized speech in two languages Speaker: Ceramic, piezo-electric Power: 2 x N-size batteries

Talking GPS

Talking GPS systems can be useful tools when you are out and about. In addition to your cane or Seeing Eye dog, a talking GPS can assist you to work out where you are, where you want to go and how to get there.

It takes practice and we recommend you seek advice and training from an orientation and mobility specialist to make the most out of this technology. Here is some more information about GPS for people who are blind or have low vision.

Accessible GPS systems

GPS receivers in general are not accessible by individuals who are blind or have low vision. Several companies have developed software which uses their own equipment to access the map information displayed on a GPS receiver and speaks or displays the information in braille.

Users can receive information about the relative positions of nearby points of interest. The software can tell the user which direction to go to reach a target location and identify points of interest along the way.

Users can program personalised travel routes and favorite spots, as well as use millions of points of interest supplied with the system. Electronic maps are available for Australia and other countries around the world.

Because a person who is blind or with low vision needs to purchase the GPS receiver as well as the software to get the information from the GPS receiver, talking GPS systems can be relatively expensive.

Several accessible GPS systems are available in Australia. Most of these systems require not only the GPS receiver, but an accessible portable notetaker on which the special GPS software runs.

There are two standalone accessible GPS units available on the market. They are the Kapten Plus GPS and the Trekker Breeze.

If you use an iPhone or iPad, you can download some user friendly GPS apps that work well. These apps do not always provide the level of detail you might need when walking around in an unfamiliar environment, in which case the Trekker Breeze or Kapten Plus may be the preferred option.

Please note: this product listing does not constitute an endorsement of these products by Vision Australia.

Contact us

Contact us early and get the support you need. For more information on Vision Australia’s services call our helpline on 1300 84 74 66 or email info@visionaustralia.org. You can also connect with our services here


Print Print larger font