Tip of the Day #14 – Labeling with Rubber Bands

A Video Demonstration of Rubber Band Labeling

In today’s tip of the day, I will be sharing with you a cheap, easy, and effective way of labeling using rubber bands. Rubber bands are a great tool for helping someone who is blind or visually impaired differentiate between items that share similar or identical packaging. Many products come in identical packaging but contain different things some examples include shampoo and conditioner bottles, salt and pepper shakers, and prescription medications. There are a lot of strategies out there to help label and mark different products but probably one of the easiest is using rubber bands.

Brown Rubber Bands in a pile
Brown Rubber Bands

Rubber bands are tactile and easy to feel when wrapped around a product for most people. If someone is having trouble feeling one rubber band multiple can be added easily. They also come in many different colors if adding high color contrast would be helpful for someone. I believe this tip is worth trying if you or someone you know struggles with knowing which item is in which packaging.

One important factor for the rubber band labeling system to work is to know before putting on the rubber bands which product is which. This can be done in many different ways, including asking someone for help or using different technologies such as Microsoft Seeing AI, Be My Eyes, or Aira.

For example, you can take a look at the video at the top of this article or by clicking here.  

I hope this tip was helpful. I would love to hear from you if you have any other tips that you think would be good to share with the world. Please feel free to comment or email me at blindonthemove@gmail.com

Cardinal/Compass Directions – Point 2 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, check out my previous blog post here.

What are cardinal directions?

Cardinal directions also known as compass directions are North, South, East, and West.

hand holding a traditional compass with a black background
Hand holding a compass

Why are they important for Orientation & Mobility?

To become a truly independent traveler a person needs to be able to understand and incorporate cardinal directions into their travel. The reason cardinal directions are so important and part of the 5 point travel system is because no matter which way a person is facing cardinal directions remain constant and consistent.

Let me explain with an example. Imagine you are standing with your back to a wall in a large open room. The wall behind you is the North wall. No matter which way you turn, left, right, or even face the wall it is still the North Wall. However, if you are using lateral directions if you turn the direction of the wall changes. For example, if you turn left the wall is now the left wall but if you turn right it is now the right wall. Having set and consistent directions such as knowing exactly where the North wall is in a room no matter which way a person is facing can be very helpful for orientation purposes.

establishing Cardinal directions

The first thing a traveler needs to do is establish which way is North, South, East, and West. There are many different ways to do this. A person can use a traditional compass, large print compass, or a talking compass. Another option is to use a compass app on a smartphone. There are many different compass apps available to meet a persons need whether that be large print, high contrast, or audible speech.

Person holding an iPhone with it on the home screen
person holding silver iPhone

If for whatever reason a person is unable to establish the true cardinal directions. There is the option to come up with contrived cardinal directions. I’ll explain again with an example. Imagine walking into an unfamiliar room and you have no compass to establish the true cardinal directions. You can instead pick one wall, it doesn’t matter which one and you can call that the North wall. Which is essentially doing the same thing, by establishing a consistent and constant direction.

examples

Example 1: If a person is trying to find a house in a residential neighborhood using cardinal directions will be far more helpful then using lateral directions. For example, saying the house is on the left side of the street assumes that a person is facing or coming from a set direction. However, as soon as the person faces a different direction or comes from another direction it is no longer reliable. Instead, if it is established that the house is on the north side of the street no matter which way a person is facing or coming from they will know exactly what side of the street the house is located on.

birds eye view of 3 houses in a residential neighborhood
Birds eye view of three residential houses

Example 2: When at an intersection being able to identify the different corners of that intersection using cardinal directions can be very helpful for orientation purposes. By establishing cardinal directions for the different corners no matter which way a person is facing or the corner they are at they will no exactly where they are located at that intersection.

For an example video and demonstration click here

Conclusion

As an Orientation and Mobility Specialist, I highly recommend learning how to use cardinal directions as a way of increasing a person’s ability to travel independently. It is good to start small by learning how to incorporate cardinal directions first indoors in a familiar environment and gradually increasing the difficulty to outdoor unfamiliar environments.

For a review of step 1 of the the 5 point travel system 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 blindonthemove@gmail.com with any questions or comments.

Squaring Off

Video instructions

Squaring off YouTube Video Demonstration

written instructions

Squaring Off is a basic O&M technique used for establishing perpendicular alignment to cross open spaces in a straight line. Crossing open spaces can be a challenge for someone who is blind or visually impaired for several reasons. First, there is the chance of veering off course and missing the desired destination altogether. Second, traveling through open space can be hard to replicate, the same way every time. Squaring off can be a helpful technique in minimizing some of this by assisting a person to have a straight perpendicular alignment before they begin their travel.

Ultimately squaring off,  is placing one’s back against a straight or flat surface that is perpendicular to the persons desired line of travel. A majority of the time it will be a wall, but it can be anything straight and flat. Squaring off should not be done on round or movable surfaces such as a curved wall or rollable furniture. One way to check to make sure alignment is correct is by having two symmetrical body parts touching the same surface at the same time such as the heels or shoulder blades.

woman wearing a yellow turtle neck shirt squaring off on a blank wall giving a thumbs up.
Woman squared off on a wall in a yellow shirt giving a thumbs up

After squaring off the person projects a straight line of travel through their environment. A good way to picture this is to have the person’s nose and toes pointed in the same direction they want to travel or picture facing 12 o’clock on a clock face. After squaring off and projecting a straight line of travel the person can now begin moving. This technique can be done with or without a cane using protective techniques when necessary. Squaring off can also be used both indoors and outdoors. Examples of indoor uses include crossing a hallway or locating a table in the middle of a room. Outdoors it can help in crossing perpendicular streets by providing a straight line of travel to minimize veering.

Overall, squaring off has many uses and is a highly beneficial O&M technique. I highly recommend getting familiar with this technique. As an Orientation and Mobility Specialist, I teach this skill to most if not all of my clients. Please reach out to an instructor for some training to learn how to use this skill effectively and safely.

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