When I first started using a blindness cane during my freshman year of college, I discovered that cold temperatures and snow affected my ability to use my blindness cane to navigate campus and that I had to modify my cane technique to be able to get from my dorm to other locations on campus. This also included modifying my clothing and finding ways to stay warm while also making sure that I didn’t restrict movement or impact my ability to use my blindness cane. Here are my tips for staying warm with a blindness cane and how I navigate snowy weather in my home state of Virginia.
What blindness canes work best for snow/ice?
Marshmallow tip canes are great for walking through the snow as it allows users to create a path for themselves in the snow, though it does not work well for large amounts of snow as it can get stuck in drifts and may not easily slide over the snow- this isn’t an issue for me as I don’t typically encounter large amounts of snow and I stick to paved areas. I prefer to use my rolling ball tip cane when there are large amounts of snow as it rolls much easier, though it isn’t as good at detecting changes between snow and ice.
For people that live in much more snowy areas, the Dakota disk tip is a great solution for walking in the snow with a blindness cane, though I have not personally tried it since I don’t lie in an area with regular snowfall.
- Ambutech Dakota tip on MaxiAids
- Decoding The Tips of Blindness Canes
- Five Questions To Ask When Buying A Blindness Cane
Thick padded gloves can affect a user’s ability to receive tactile feedback from their blindness cane, so I wear a single fingerless glove on the hand I use to hold my cane so that I can still get feedback through my fingers. The glove still keeps the other parts of my hand warm and does not restrict the movement of my fingers so I can keep a steady grip on my cane. I typically wear a traditional winter glove on my other hand that isn’t using a cane to protect against the elements.
Sunglasses for increased glare
Bright white snow, especially when it reflects sunlight, can create a lot of glare and make it difficult for people with vision loss to navigate their surroundings. A great solution for helping to minimize the effects of glare is to wear polarized sunglasses, which come in a variety of lens colors and are available as prescription or non-prescription glasses. I wear gray polarized lenses, though some people who spend lots of time in the snow may prefer blue tinted lenses or specialty snow glasses.
Long coat with hood
Wearing a long coat with a hood is a great way to stay warm in the snow in general, blindness cane or not. I prefer to use a jacket with a hood over an umbrella when walking in freezing rain or snow because it is safer for me to have one free hand when walking across potentially slippery terrain.
- Blindness Canes and Snowstorms: Navigating College Campuses
- Blindness Canes And Pouring Rain: Navigating College Campuses
Choose a hat that does not muffle sound
I didn’t realize when I first walked outside in the snow that sounds might be muffled due to the snow, and that it might be harder to hear cars that are coming. One of the most valuable tips I received from a friend who also has low vision is to avoid wearing earmuffs or things that cover the ears, as this can limit hearing even more, and instead to opt for wearing a warm beanie or another type of hat.
Other clothing layers
One of the main considerations I have when choosing base layers, winter hats, scarves, and similar layering items is how securely each item fits. Having a winter hat slide over my eyes or a scarf that is prone to falling off can be a safety hazard, and some people with low vision may experience strong sensory sensitivities to items like clothing seams and tags that are in clothing layers. Since I have a secondary medical condition that affects how my body regulates temperature, I will typically change out of base layers and winter clothing as soon as I get indoors and change again before I go outside, instead of keeping layers on all day.
- Adapting Band Uniforms For Photosensitivity and Sensory Overload
- Organizing A Walk-In Closet With Vision Loss
Boots or shoes with traction
Another important factor of staying warm with a blindness cane and traveling safety, it’s important to ensure that boots or shoes provide adequate traction to avoid slipping and falling on the ice. Even if I am wearing shoes with good traction, I try to use a human guide when walking in the snow whenever possible, since I have trouble with balancing and walking on snow.
- How To Be An Effective Human Guide For People With Vision Loss
- How To Approach Someone with Low Vision Without Scaring Them
Summary of how to stay warm with a blindness cane
- Use a blindness cane with a tip that has a large surface area
- Fingerless gloves allow for unrestricted movement of the fingers and make it easier to feel cane feedback
- Sunglasses can help to minimize the effect of sun reflection on snow
- A long coat with a hood is a great way to stay warm and a good alternative to an umbrella for freezing rain
- Snow can muffle sounds- keep ears uncovered when possible
- Clothing layers should fit comfortably and securely on the body and not restrict movement
- Shoes should provide good traction and keep the wearer from slipping/falling in the snow