Shortly before my second year of college, I received a few orientation and mobility lessons for learning how to navigate with low vision and a blindness cane. These lessons were helpful for learning general travel skills, but I noticed they didn’t get into specifics about navigating college campuses or using university resources available for students with vision loss. One lesson that would have been really helpful is tips for using my blindness cane when navigating campus in the dark or at night, so I’ve created the College O&M series to share my most-used tips and strategies for learning about this topic and others. Here are my tips for learning how to navigate college campuses at night, from the perspective of a student with low vision who uses a blindness cane.
My favorite cane for walking at night
All of my blindness canes can be used safely at night, as they have white and colored reflective tape, which is a standard design feature of blindness canes. However, I prefer to walk with my glow in the dark cane whenever possible, which I purchased from Maxi-Aids, or with my bright yellow reflective cane which provides higher contrast against the dark sky and doesn’t look like the reflective poles on my college campus that many drivers are used to seeing.
- Decoding The Colors of Blindness Canes
- Decoding The Tips of Blindness Canes
- How To Order Custom Colors for Blindness Canes
Getting back from class
Whenever possible, I try not to take classes at night. However, I have had classes that get out at 10 PM, which is the latest class time at my university and after hours for the disability transportation service. In order to get back from class safely and make it to my dorm, I would do one of the following things:
- Use the campus bus system so I wouldn’t have to walk too far- my dorm was a one-minute walk from the bus stop and I didn’t have to cross the street
- Ask my professor or a classmate to walk me to a central student area that has a well lit path back to my dorm so that I wouldn’t be walking in an obscure part of campus.
- For one of my classes that got out at 10 PM, a trusted professor walked me all the way to my dorm when I lived in emergency/transitional housing, which was hard for me to get to from their building in the dark
- Walk with a friend or ask a friend to walk with me, or get a ride from a friend
- Using Disability Transportation Services In College
- How I Learned To Use The City Bus System With Low Vision
- Campus Addresses Every Student Should Know: College O&M
- How To Choose A Dorm And Pick College Housing
- Tips For Living In Transitional/Emergency Housing In College
Stick to popular, well-lit routes
While I am all for exploring campus and learning new shortcuts to get to class during the day, I recommend sticking to populated and well-lit routes when walking alone at night- no taking shortcuts through a forest or the back side of a building. I tend to follow the main sidewalk and use routes that have security officers stationed along the way, since those are the routes where I feel the safest.
- Blindness Canes and Building Identification: Navigating College Campuses
- Finding College Classrooms: College O&M
- Using GPS Apps On College Campuses: College O&M
- Blindness Canes And Satellite Campuses: Navigating College Campuses
Take a friend for late night adventures
While my college is safe to walk around at night, I feel much more comfortable walking with a friend for late night adventures to the dining hall or similar places. They can also act as a human guide or help me stay alert when I am walking to and from my destination. Alternatively, I might meet my friends at the dining hall, and then have someone walk back with me afterwards when it is later at night.
- How To Be An Effective Human Guide For People With Vision Loss
- How Do People With Visual Impairments Guide Each Other?
- Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing a College
See what’s available online before going outside
One time, my friend was telling me about how worried they were about having to walk to the library at night to get a copy of a book. Before they left, I had them check the school’s online library resources, and they discovered they could read a full copy of the book online, which meant they could wait until daytime to get their book. Other examples of potential online resources can include late-night food delivery and video chat for projects- I used Microsoft Whiteboard for a group project on a video call.
- College Libraries and Low Vision
- Watching Free Documentaries With Kanopy
- How I Use Microsoft Whiteboard With Low Vision
- My Favorite Digital Library Resources For Low Vision
- Blindness Canes and Robots: Navigating College Campuses
Don’t be afraid to call a security escort
There were many nights in college where I went to the dining hall at 7 pm and didn’t leave until 2 am. To avoid walking back by myself, I take advantage of my college’s free security escort program so I can have someone walk with me back to my dorm, or get a ride in one of the security cars. Don’t feel bad for calling a security escort late at night- that is what they are there for, and they would much rather make sure you get back safe than worry about having to look for you the next day.
- Blindness Canes and Campus Security: Navigating College Campuses
- Navigating The Dining Hall: College O&M
What about going off-campus?
I didn’t go off-campus at night very often, and whenever I did, it would be to indoor places where one of my friends/a family member would be traveling with me and/or driving. I wasn’t interested in nightlife or going to parties/bars, and tried to stick to locations that I had been to during the day before.
Of course, not all of my late night adventures were exciting or fun. For handling medical emergencies that require a trip to urgent care or the ER, I have a few posts on how I handle various medical situations linked below.
- How To Handle Medical Emergencies In A Dorm
- What If I Get A Concussion In College?
- What If I Get Appendicitis in College?
More tips for walking on college campuses at night
- Students with disabilities often have priority registration times, which can make it easier for students to register for classes during daylight hours- I had to take a few classes that were only offered at night
- I wear tinted non-polarized glasses for photophobia that don’t impact my ability to see in the dark- read more about them here in How Tinted Glasses Help My Light Sensitivity
- When I was in a building or floor/hall group chat, many students will send messages inviting other students to walk with them to the dining hall or go other places after dark so that they wouldn’t walk alone
- I recognize that orientation and mobility lessons can prepare students to walk in the dark/at night without having to adapt their routines. However, I take personal safety seriously, especially after having to live in emergency housing, so I wanted to share these strategies with others.