Using Landmarks for Orientation – Point 4 of 5 of the 5 Point Travel System

Video Demonstration

Introduction to the 5 Point Travel System

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

If you missed any of the first three points or need a review you can click on links below

Point 1 – Route Patterns/Shapes, Point 2 – Compass/Cardinal Directions, Point 3 – Hallway/Street Names

What are Landmarks?

Now we come to the 4th point of the 5 point travel system, using landmarks for orientation and independent travel. First, it is important to understand what landmarks are before diving into how to use them for orientation. The term landmark can mean a lot of different things to different people but for orientation and mobility, some set characteristics are required to consider an object a landmark.

People walking along cobblestone sidewalk near buildings.
People Walking on Sidewalks Near Buildings

1: Permanent/Fixed – The object needs to be permanent, unmovable, and set in a fixed location. The object should not be able to be moved easily. Some good examples include telephone poles, buildings, or trees. Some bad examples include a parked car, movable trash cans, or unfixed patio furniture.

2: Easily Recognized/ Unique – The object needs to be something easily identifiable either visually, audibly, or tactically and also unique to an area. Good examples include a single fire hydrant along a street, a stop sign at a street corner, or a railing along a pathway leading up to a house. Bad examples include: one of many similar trees lined up along a sidewalk, a door into a college classroom that is the same as the other classroom doors, or identical street parking signs that are scattered along a city block.

If the object fits the characteristics above it can be considered a landmark.

Boy wearing a backpack running down a school hallway with an elevator on his left
Boy Running in Hallway

How to Use Landmarks for Orientation

The main goal of landmarks is to identify to a person their specific location in the environment as well as directional information. Without the use of landmarks as an orientation tool it can be very difficult to maintain one’s orientation within an environment. However, what one person uses as a landmark along a route may be different from what another person uses along that same route. For example, one person may use the stop sign at the end of the street to know they are approaching a corner. And another person walking along that same route may use the yellow tactile warning strip as a landmark that they are approaching the corner. Both are landmarks and good ways of detecting the coming corner.

When considering what object to use as a landmark it is also helpful to consider the potential landmark in relation to other landmarks or objects. For example, there may be several elevators in a university building, but only one of them may be located near a drinking fountain.

Here is a list of some of the benefits of using landmarks.

  • Establishing one’s orientation within an environment
  • Knowing one’s relationship to other objects within the environment, being able to locate those objects
  • Establishing both parallel and perpendicular alignment
  • Confirming if a desired destination is reached

Tips for Establishing Landmarks

Step 1: Locate a potential landmark, note its general location within the environment.

Step 2: Determine what the object is and if it’s permanent and can be considered a landmark according to the characteristics above.

Step 3: Note other recognizable objects in the area and the landmarks orientation to those objects.

Step 4: Practice locating and recognizing the landmark without assistance.

Landmarks vs. Clues

In the field of Orientation and Mobility, we use two terms quite frequently, landmarks, and clues/cues. Both are important terms and skills for orientation but it is important to note the distinctions. Landmarks are permanent, fixed, easily recognizable, and unique. Clue’s or cues on the other hand are helpful ways of establishing a person’s orientation but are not always reliable. The reason being they are not permanent or fixed and come and go. Clues can be helpful when they are available but if they are not available they do not provide assistance to the traveler.

Stack of six Baguettes on a table
Baguette Bakery

Some examples include the smell of a bread shop baking bread during the day. The smell can be a great clue to know where a person is located but when the shop is closed the smell disappears and is no longer helpful. Another example is the sound of kids playing at a playground which can be a helpful clue to determine one’s location but as soon as the kids leave that clue is gone.

By using a combination of both landmarks and clues a person can feel confident in their orientation ability within an environment.


The use of landmarks is one if not the most important skills a person who is blind or visually impaired can learn to become a truly independent traveler. There is a reason this is one of the points of the 5 point travel system. As an Orientation and Mobility Specialist, I highly recommend practicing and developing this skill.

To see why counting steps is not a good practice click here

Thank you for reading. I hope this article was helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at with any questions or comments.

How to use Microsoft’s Seeing AI App to Audibly Read Currency Denominations – Tip of the Day #15


In today’s tip of the day, I will be sharing with you how to use Microsoft’s Seeing AI App to audibly read currency denominations.  One area that can be a challenge for someone who is blind or visually impaired is being able to differentiate between the various denominations of United States currency. When it comes to currency accessibility the Unites States falls far behind the curve. All the bills no matter what the denomination tactically feel the same and visually look very similar. Making it impossible for someone who can’t see the bill well enough to read the number to tell how much each bill is worth. Fortunately there are some ways to navigate this problem.

Pile of one dollar bills layered on top of each other.
Pile of one dollar bills

Ways of Determining Currency Denomination

There are several different ways for someone who is blind or visually impaired to tell the different bills apart which range from asking someone sighted (make sure you trust them) to using a standalone bill reader devices or apps designed for smartphones. Today’s tip is on one of those apps, Microsoft’s Seeing AI. Seeing AI is a great free app created by Microsoft that is available on the ios app store for iPhones and iPads. The app uses the camera of the phone in conjunction with the app itself to accomplish different tasks which include audibly reading currency denominations.

How to use Microsoft Seeing AI App

Once the app is downloaded onto a device it is very easy to get to the currency reader function activated. You can download it here. Below is a step by step instruction guide that is geared for someone who is using voiceover. If you are interested in more voiceover tutorials you can click here.

Step 1: Locate the Seeing AI app on the home screen. Once found double-tap with one finger to open the app.

Step 2: Swipe right 5x with one finger until it says “Channel Short Text”. You are now in the channel menu bar at the bottom of the screen.

Step 3: Swipe up with one finger 5x until it says currency, once it says currency the feature is now activated.

Step 4: Point the camera on the front of the phone towards the bill you want audibly read. It will automatically read the denomination without having to press or swipe.

a $20 dollar bill a $5 dollar bill and a $1 dollar bill on a table with an iPhone using Microsoft Seeing AI to read the $1 dollar bill.
3 bills on a table,Microsoft Seeing AI reading a $1 dollar bill

Final Thoughts

A few more things to note the currency reader is very forgiving in regards to the cameras orientation and distance away from the bill. Which I find to be super helpful because it can be challenging to aim the camera if you are unable to see where it is pointing. And finally, as of the time I am writing this, there are 6 different currencies the app can read.

Indian Rubies

British Pounds

Canadian Dollars


U.S. Dollars

Japanese Yen

Overall, I find Microsoft’s Seeing AI app to be a great tool for easily reading currency denominations audibly. If you have an iPhone or iPad I highly recommend checking out the currency reading feature as well as the other awesome features.

To learn how to use magnifier feature on an iPhone or iPad for Orientation and Mobility check out my video tutorial.

I hope you found today’s tip of the day helpful. Please feel free to comment below or send me an email at If you have any tips you think would be worth sharing also please let me know. Have a wonderful day! For more tips of the day visit here.

Hallway/Street Names – Point 3 of 5 of the 5 Point Travel System

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, you can check out my Introduction blog post here.

Also, if you missed the first two points or need a review, you can click here for Point 1 – Route Shapes and click here for Point 2 – Cardinal Directions.

Why are Hallway/Street Names Important for Orientation & Mobility?

Now we come to the 3rd point of the 5 point travel system which is to use hallway or street names for orientation purposes. This point is probably the easiest of the 5 points to learn and master but that does not make it any less important. To truly become an independent traveler it is important to know where a person is in their environment to avoid becoming disoriented. A great way to do this is by creating hallway names or using street names as a way of confirming and remembering one’s location. Another bonus is if a person needs to ask for directions or gets disoriented it is much easier if the names are known.

A long hallway with multiple intersecting hallways.
Long hallway with intersecting hallways

For example, if a person is traveling within a large office building there are most likely a lot of different hallways and intersections that can become disorienting pretty quickly. Since most hallways are not named the person can create a name based on a key characteristic or landmark of the hallway. For example, the hallway with the drinking fountain can be called the “drinking fountain hallway.” Having names for hallways makes navigation much easier and helps to confirm to a person their location.

The same principle can be used in many outdoor environments by using the street names. Street names can be learned by either asking someone the different street names or by using one of the many GPS apps available for smartphones to determine the street names.

Learning to use hallway or street names is a valuable tool that all travelers who desire to be truly independent should strive to learn and put into practice.

Thank you for reading. I hope this article was helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at with any questions or comments.

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