Mobility aids

What are mobility aids and how can they help?

Mobility aids such as walking sticks and canes can provide support or are used to help people to find their way around the environment.

Walking sticks are also used to help people with balance problems.

Ambutech reflective folding guide cane | © RNIB

As well as the white cane that blind people use to navigate their surroundings and let people know they are blind, there is also a red and white cane to show that someone is deafblind.

Tactile maps can be produced that enable navigation around an area by touch. Organisations may be able to produce tactile maps of their premises to help with their accessibility obligation.

A global positioning system (GPS) is technology that can pinpoint your position on a map.  A GPS can be a stand-alone system or it may be built into braille notetaker or mobile phone software.

A GPS will often include route-planner software which shows how to get to a destination. The information is usually presented on a screen with audio telling which way to go, but it may be presented in braille depending on the device being used.

One of the best aids to mobility and navigation is still a guide dog. Guide dogs help their owner to navigate safely in both familiar and unfamiliar situations and can also provide other benefits that technology is unlikely to be able to match.

What should I look for?

Some examples of mobility aids:

  • Cane - some canes have reflective finishes, others can be red and white to indicate deafblindness
  • Palmsonar PS231 Obstacle Detector | © RNIBObstacle detector - these hand-held devices vibrate when an obstacle is detected. The frequency of the vibration increases as the obstacle becomes closer. It’s recommended to use these as a secondary aid to a cane or a guide dog.
  • Assistance dogs - Hearing Dogs and Guide Dogs work together to train ‘Dual-purpose dogs’ for people who have sensory impairments. Dual-purpose dogs can be trained to assist those who have lost both their hearing and sight. They are subsequently placed with recipients who are deafblind. 
  • Maps / signage - tactile signs and maps are available in varying formats including braille and text. Where graphic pictures are available they can be integrated for indoor and outdoor use
  • Trekker breeze | © HumanwareGPS system - there is a good selection of GPS systems on the market. Some record routes, others tell you where you are and also how to get to your destination the next time you walk the same route. There are also GPS systems available for mobile phones 

Possible stockists

Please note: the following list is not exhaustive and Sense is not responsible for the content of external sites nor do we endorse any of the products mentioned.

Guide Dogs for the Blind
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

First published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
Updated: Friday 23 January 2015