Route Patterns/Shapes – Point 1 of 5 of the 5 Point Travel System

Tutorial Video on Route Patterns/Shapes

The 5 point travel system is an important set of orientation and mobility skills for people who are blind and visually impaired to become independent travelers. For an introduction to the 5 point travel system, check out my previous blog post here.

The first point in the 5 point travel system is the ability to learn and execute basic route patterns or shapes. This skill is the foundation for the other four skills. If one does not learn basic route patterns it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to become a good independent traveler. Many experienced travelers instinctively perform this skill and may not think about it in the way presented here. But for someone who is a less experienced independent traveler breaking down route patterns into four different shapes is recommended and can be very helpful.

overhead view of two men walking along a sidewalk. one is using a support cane and the other is holding a phone and wearing a backpack.

The four basic route patterns increase in difficulty from easy to more complex and these patterns are designated by using the English alphabet letters in capital form. The letters are I, L, U, Z.

The I-Route is the least complex of the four and is ultimately traveling in a straight line from point a to point b with no turns. This straight-line route looks like a capital I hence the name. Examples include: A person walking straight down a hallway from one end to the other without turning down any intersecting hallways. Another example is walking from one street corner to another without making any turns down any of the perpendicular side streets. For a route to be considered an I-Route it must have no turns.

a long straight desert road with a white lane marker line down the center.
A Long Straight Desert Road

Next comes the L-Route which builds off of the simple I-Route. The L-route is just an I-Route with the addition of one turn. This forms the shape of a capital L. Examples include: A person walking straight down a hallway and then making a left turn down an intersecting hallway. Another example is if a person is walking down the street and makes a right turn down a perpendicular street when they arrive at the corner. For a route to be considered an L-Route it must have just one turn in either direction.

Then there is the U-Route which builds upon the L-Route. The U-Route is when a person makes two turns in the same direction. This forms the shape of a capital U. Examples include: a person walking down a hallway and making a left turn at an intersecting hallway, then walking down that hallway and making another left turn at another intersecting hallway. Another example is if a person is walking down the street and arrives at the street corner and makes a right turn then walks straight to the next street corner and makes another right turn. For a route to be considered a U-Route it must have two turns in the same direction.

The final route shape is a Z-route. The Z-Route is a route that also has two turns like the U-Route but rather than the two turns being in the same direction the two turns are in opposite diretions. This pattern forms the letter shape of Z. Examples include: a person walking down a hallway and making a left turn at an intersecting hallway then continuing down that hallway and making a right turn at another intersecting hallway. Another example is a person walking down the street and arriving at the street corner and makes a right turn then continues to the next corner and makes a left turn crossing the street. For a route to be considered a Z-Route it must have two turns in opposite directions.

three men looking at a street map on a table one is wearing a hat another is holding a camera
Pointing at a Street Map

Those are the basic route patterns and shapes but one thing to note is that the different routes can be added on to. Such as a Z-Route can be connected to a U-Route. Being able to combine route patterns pretty much covers all the travel routes a person may travel. Once someone becomes comfortable and proficient with the different route patters cardinal/compass directions can be added. Learning this first skill is highly important and is worth a person’s time and effort to get comfortable executing all the different route shapes.

Published by Mike Mulligan

Is a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist who provides product resources, reviews, and tutorials.

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