Getting around safely if you are blind or have low vision can be a challenge. It is easy to lose your confidence and have this affect your ability to get around safely.
This is why Vision Australia has experts in ‘getting around’ called orientation and mobility specialists. They highly trained and skilled to help you learn to move about as safely as possible.
You can work with them to assess your needs and where you would like to go to make sure any potential risks are identified and reduced.
The pages in this section contain useful information about getting around safely:
It is important that you are safe and confident when crossing roads.
The following are some general rules to follow as a pedestrian:
- Be visible - wear clothing that other road users can see.
- Avoid stepping out between parked cars, near bends or at the crest of a hill.
- Cross in safe locations such as pedestrian lights and marked crossings.
- Allow enough time to cross the road; don't rush.
- Once on the road do not hesitate; act predictably so that drivers can anticipate what you are about to do.
- Have your vision and hearing checked regularly.
- The most important rule to remember when crossing a road is to stop, look, listen and think.
Often people who have low vision use a monocular to identify landmarks, read traffic light signals and signs when getting about in the community. As with all vision aids, you need to be assessed for the most suitable monocular. Orientation and Mobility Specialists can assist you in the use of vision aids used for mobility.
Types of road crossings
Uncontrolled road crossings
Uncontrolled crossing can be unsafe to cross because traffic does not have to stop.
Marked crossings (zebra)
Marked pedestrian crossings are simple to identify as they have white or yellow lines which contrast with the road and often have a yellow sign identifying the crossing.
Traffic light controlled crossings
Light controlled crossings are safer than pedestrian and uncontrolled crossings, because they control traffic and indicate when it is safe to cross.
Audio tactile traffic light crossings
Audio tactile light crossings are the safest road crossings to use because they provide audio, visual and tactile signals (felt by placing your hand on the button).
When choosing the safest place to cross a road, look for marked pedestrian crossing lines or a pedestrian crossing with audio signals.
Where possible, stick to known routes, where you are familiar the conditions.
Steps gutters and uneven surfaces
To assist with locating steps, curbs, gutters, uneven surfaces and changes in the ground surface look for:
- the slope of railing indicating if the stairs go up or down
- height change of the person in front can indicate if the steps go up or down
- end of building, grass line or other continuous shoreline
- curbs painted in contrasting colours.
When negotiating steps, curbs, gutters uneven surfaces and ground surface:
- slow down
- always use hand rails if available
- look for visual cues, such as the edges of steps or changes in colour
- turn light on
- use torch
- use your mobility aid.
If existing lighting is inadequate or hand rails and highlighted step edges do not exist in public areas you travel in, you can request the property owner or local council to look at these. You can certainly modify your own home to include these physical changes. Some local councils offer assistance with home modifications.
If visual and tactile cues are not enough to support you to get about safely, the use of a mobility aid, such as an ID, long or support cane may also need to be explored.
Remember, if you require further assistance to be able to get about safely, you can request specialist training from an Orientation and Mobility Specialist from Vision Australia.
Using public transport
The following are some strategies to help you travel safely and confidently by bus, train, ferry, tram and other modes of transport.
Accessing the timetable
- get a large print timetable
- use a monocular or magnifier
- use the audio recorded announcement system
- access the transport company's website or telephone service.
- ask a family member or friend to escort you to the station
- identify landmarks to assist you to orientate yourself and locate the station
- catch a taxi to the station, ask the driver to drop you at a location you know and will remember
- get a lift from a friend.
Locating the correct platform
- ask for directions or assistance
- look for platform signs.
Where to wait
- stand or sit within the allocated safe area, i.e. behind yellow lines along the platform, shelter
- always wait in the same position for the vehicle (the driver's end of the vehicle is the safest position).
Identifying the correct bus, train, tram or ferry
- ask the driver or other travellers/passengers
- look for a sign or number on the vehicle (may use monocular).
Getting on and off the vehicle
- wait for the vehicle to stop completely
- locate the entry using vision, hearing or a mobility aid
- hold onto rails or poles for support
- carefully judge the gap from the platform or the height of steps visually or with a mobility aid.
Paying the fare
- use a vision impaired persons' travel pass
- have correct fare or ticket ready.
Finding a seat
- use the seats reserved for elderly or disabled passengers
- ask another traveller/passenger if they can see a vacant seat.
Knowing where to get off
- sit near the driver and ask them to inform you when you get to your stop
- look for major landmarks
- count the stops or stations
- listen to audio announcements.
Locating the station exit
- ask staff or fellow passengers for assistance
- follow the crowd exiting the vehicle.
- look for identifying landmarks.
By far your most helpful hint in all situations is to ask and be prepared.
As with many areas of mobility, practice is very important. Having a practice run with a friend accompanying you will allow you the opportunity to identify the ways, signs and landmarks you require to travel safely and with more confidence.
Aeroplanes and coaches
When travelling on other modes of public transport such as aeroplanes or coaches:
- have a family member or friend accompany you either on a 'practice run' prior to trip or on the actual trip if it is a seldom used route
- use a mobility aid if required (many clients find an ID cane invaluable in these situations)
- contact airlines, coach companies, ports or stations, as they may provide 'meet and greet' assistance on request
- if it is a regular mode of transport, request individual service and training from Vision Australia.
Remember, if you require further assistance to be able to use public transport, you can request specialist training from an Orientation and Mobility Specialist from Vision Australia.
Below are strategies to assist you in hailing, travelling in and, exiting taxis.
You may also be interested in reading about mobility resources and advocacy here.
When ringing or hailing a taxi:
- know the taxi company phone number you require
- be able to dial the phone
- know your precise destination
- inform the company if you hold an M40 pass (special taxi voucher)
- know where the taxi stand starts and ends (you may require orientation training for this) or identify the taxi company's distinguishing colours if hailing from the street.
When informing the driver of your destination:
- have precise address details
- inform the driver of the route you would like to take (you may need to check this prior to the journey).
- use an M40 pass (special taxi vouchers) if you have one
- make sure you have an approximate idea of the price you normally pay so you can identify if the driver is trying to overcharge you
- have your money organised in a way which makes it easy for you to pay
- check your change and don't be afraid to take your time. Remember that you are a customer.
At your destination:
- ask your driver to take you to a location that you know
- double check with the driver that they have taken you to where you asked
- have a family member/friend meet you if you aren't familiar with the area you are going to
- have orientation training prior to your journey if you wish to travel independently.
From time to time, taxi drivers and companies do not provide a service that is up to the standard that they should provide to you, the customer. Each state has a taxi complaint service (contact details below), where you can report problems.
It is important to have some details about the taxi you are reporting on i.e. the taxi company, the taxi registration number, the time and place you got in and out of the taxi, if possible. The driver is required to give you their driver identification number if you ask.
To report an incident of make a complaint call:
Victorian Taxi Directorate Complaint Line
1800 638 802
Department of Transport, Taxi Complaints Hotline
1800 648 478 or 131 500
Queensland Transport, Taxi Complaints Hotline
1800 183 673
Urban Services, Transport Policy Manager
(02) 6207 6244
Remember, if you require further assistance to be able to use taxis, you can request specialist training from an Orientation and Mobility Specialist from Vision Australia.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also connect with our services here.