Common mistakes made by students who are learning to use the cane is that when they try to walk
around an obstacle such as a chair, pole, box, planter, etc. they:
side-step to get around the obstacle; or
anchor the cane tip at the obstacle while they walk around it; or
start to walk around the obstacle but they turn to resume their original path of travel too
soon, and trip or catch their foot on the obstacle.
Side-stepping into a space that has not been
checked by the cane, or anchoring the cane on the obstacle
while walking around it, leaves people vulnerable to tripping or falling over
obstacles or drop-offs that they had not been aware were there. Turning too soon when they think they have passed the edge or corner of the obstacle can cause them to trip or stumble on the obstacle.
Students need to
learn that when they encounter an obstacle, they should:
use their cane to look for a clearing or opening beside the obstacle, and then
turn to walk into that opening (rather than side-step),
continue to move the cane in an arc ahead of them while passing the obstacle, and
return to the line of travel only after they have passed the
Returning to the line of travel only after passing the
When the cane tip reaches the end of the obstacle,
many students don't realize that they themselve have not yet reached
the end of the obstacle, and they turn to resume their line of travel too soon,
tripping or catching their foot on the obstacle that they were trying to pass.
It takes practice to realize how much further they have to walk when the cane
passes the obstacle before they themselve pass it. Exercises that can help
Learn how far to walk once the cane is past the obstacle by walking along a wall toward an outside corner, either sliding
the cane tip along the edge or touching the wall with the tip at each arc of
the cane (shorelining/trailing with the cane). When the cane goes around the
corner, walk forward, and notice how long it takes for you to get around the
corner (you can feel the wall with your hand or use echolocation to notice
when you reach the end).
Once you understand how much distance there is between you and the cane tip,
do the same exercise as above, but instead of using a wall,
trail/shoreline with the cane along a sidewalk with grass or dirt at the side, approaching an
intersecting sidewalk. When the cane reaches the corner of the intersecting sidewalk, keep walking and moving the cane normally
to check ahead for more hazards,
but remember where the corner is. Turn into the other sidewalk when you think you're past the corner. You'll know you
turned too soon if you step on grass instead of
Once you have mastered walking past the corner before turning into the other sidewalk, do the same exercise while walking toward an outside corner along a low wall or border, like a low planter. When
the cane goes around the corner of the planter, continue walking just enough
to pass the corner yourself, then turn the corner. You'll know you didn't
walk far enough if your foot touches the planter (be careful not to trip).