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 how to navigate campus construction, 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 dealing with campus construction and sidewalk closures, and how I navigate campus as a student with low vision who uses a blindness cane.
My favorite blindness cane for navigating construction
If I’m going to be navigating a particularly bumpy area, I prefer to use my large ball tip blindness cane whenever possible. The ball tip cane provides lots of feedback for me, and I can use the tip for long periods of time without it wearing down too quickly with the constant contact method. This is especially important when it comes to construction, as I once had to replace a marshmallow tip on my cane after less than a month due to extremely rough terrain on campus, though that was a one-off instance.
- Decoding The Tips of Blindness Canes
- Ten Things To Know About Going To College With A Blindness Cane
- Decoding The Colors of Blindness Canes
Learn at least two different routes to get to each building
There’s nothing more frustrating than starting to walk to class and discovering that construction is blocking my path, so I make sure to learn at least two different routes to get to each building on campus. Since I’ve been on campus for so long, I can easily figure out alternative routes based on surrounding roads, but other helpful methods include asking friends and the Disability Services office for the best ways to get to certain buildings with a mobility aid. Another thing I like to note is the nearest campus shuttle stop to my favorite buildings, so if needed I can easily hop on the campus shuttle which stops right near my building.
- How I Learned To Use The City Bus System With Low Vision
- Using GPS Apps On College Campuses: College O&M
- Campus Addresses Every Student Should Know: College O&M
Follow campus construction websites
By monitoring my college campus construction website, I can easily be alerted about current and future construction information so I can plan my routes appropriately. I typically check this information once a week, though I have been known to check it more often if I hear rumors about expected or emergency road closures from others. This is also helpful information to know when choosing housing, as it’s important to ensure construction will not be blocking your daily routes.
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- College Scheduling Hacks For Students With Chronic Illness
- How To Set Up Emergency Alerts For On-Campus Students
- Dorms and Campus Housing: College O&M
- How To Choose A Dorm And Pick College Housing
Sign up for construction alerts for information on alternative routes
Recently, my college started sending out construction alerts for people who request them. They provide information about expected closures and alternative routes for students to take, and ensure that there is always a stair-free route available. I found out about this from one of my college’s assistive technology specialists, though many colleges offer a similar service for students. If no such service is available, I highly recommend contacting the campus facilities management or construction offices and requesting this information be sent out.
- Ten Templates For Emailing Professors
- Reporting Accessibility Issues: College O&M
- What To Know About College Assistive Technology Specialists
Use disability transportation services, if available
I tend to get tired pretty quickly if I have to walk around a lot, so having access to disability transportation services helps me to conserve my energy and not have to worry about planning a route to class. At my college, this means a golf cart (driven by a student staff member) picks me up at a pre-set location and drops me off at my class building. Even if you use this option, you should still learn how to get to your classes on foot or by shuttle (or ideally both) since transportation may not always be available, especially at night.
- Using Disability Transportation Services In College
- Navigating Campus In The Dark: College O&M
- Dealing With Broken Bones In College
- Campus Police and Security Escorts: College O&M
Try to get to class during off-peak times
Instead of trying to push through a gigantic crowd of students and risk getting pushed around, I try to get to class during off-peak traffic times so that I can hear my surroundings better. For me, these off-peak times are the 15 minutes before classes get out. For example, if I am heading to my 10:30 class, I will leave at 10 so that I can beat the rush of students leaving their 10:15 class. Of course this isn’t always an option, especially for back-to-back classes, but it does help me to leave earlier for classes when I can.
Use smartphone apps for orientation and mobility
My favorite tool for navigating campus construction (besides my blindness cane) is my smartphone, as I have a few different apps for orientation and mobility installed, including:
- Google Maps/Google Assistant for getting directions and searching for information
- Be My Eyes for getting quick assistance with visual tasks from a human volunteer
- Google Lens (or Seeing AI for iOS) for reading short text
- Aira for getting real time information while walking from a professional interpreter
- Campus safety app for real-time alerts
- Using GPS Apps On College Campuses: College O&M
- How I Use Google Assistant While Traveling
- Smartphone Apps For Orientation and Mobility
- How I Use Be My Eyes With Low Vision
- Using Aira With Low Vision
Other tips for navigating campus construction with a blindness cane
- Another option for getting to class is to use the campus bus system, which stops at various building sections on campus.
- If there is a lot of construction or safety issues such as exposed power lines, I prefer to use a human guide for navigation- learn more in my post How To Be An Effective Human Guide For People With Vision Loss
- Sometimes there may be construction inside a dorm building- notifications about this are usually sent out via email or by the resident advisor/resident director and will have information for alternate routes
- There have been a few cases where campus construction has triggered a power outage- learn more about how to handle these in Power Outages and Low Vision