Getting around when you have Usher

Usher syndrome affects your sight, hearing and balance, which can have a significant impact on your mobility.

There are a wide range of mobility aids and support available, and on this page you’ll find advice on how they can help you to maintain your independence.

Local authority support

Your local authority can provide you with orientation and mobility support through a rehabilitation officer for the visually impaired (ROVI).

A ROVI will assess your mobility and access needs, including the lighting inside and outside your house. They will also help you to find one-to-one sessions and training for mobility aids, such as using a cane.

If you have received an assessment under the Deafblind Guidance, the ROVI will follow this report.

Mobility aids

Everybody has their own preferences when it comes to mobility aids, and you should choose an option that suits you and your lifestyle.

Canes

There are canes of different lengths, colours, shapes, weights and materials, which can be foldable or straight. Each type of cane and cane tip has a different purpose and meaning.

  • White cane: This identifies you as being blind or visually impaired.
  • Red and white striped cane: This identifies you as having a combined sight and hearing impairment.
  • Symbol cane: This is a short cane that’s held rather than used to detect obstacles. It tells people that you are visually impaired.
  • Guide cane: This is longer than the symbol cane and is used to find obstacles, such as kerbs, steps, posts and rubbish bins. It also tells people that you are visually impaired.
  • Long cane: This much longer cane is designed for you, based on your height. It’s swept from side to side, along the ground, so you know when there are cracks in the pavement, cobble stones, steps, kerbs and obstacles. It’s important that you get mobility training before using this cane.
  • Vibrating cane: An Ultracane is long with ultrasonic obstacle detectors and vibrating buttons. The cane vibrates faster the closer you get to an object. The Ultracane also indicates whether an object is on the ground or at chest or head height.  

Different cane tips:

  • Point tip: This is shaped like a piece of chalk. The cane is moved from side to side, with the pointer tapping on the ground, letting you know what is around you. This is not as sensitive as a ball tip.
  • Ball tip: This tip is shaped like a small orange. The cane is moved from side to side with the ball rolling over the ground. The ball tip is a popular choice and is sensitive to the condition of the pavement and other obstacles.
  • Rollerball tip: This is smaller than the ball tip, but glides well over surfaces.

There are a number of other cane tips available. It’s important to get advice to find the cane that works best for you.

Guide dogs

A fully trained guide dog can help you to get around, navigate obstacles and help you go about your day-to-day life.

Dual purpose guide dogs

A dual purpose dog is trained to perform more than one role, for example seeing and hearing.

You can find out about the benefits and responsibilities of a guide dog from the charity Guide Dogs.

Assistance aids

Vibrating mobility aids

  • iGlasses ultrasonic mobility aid: These glasses vibrate to alert you when an obstacle is nearby, similar to the Ultracane. The closer you are to the object, the faster the vibrations.   
  • Miniguide: This is a small handheld device that vibrates when it detects obstacles. There is also an optional headset that gives you an audio warning.

Additional aids

  • Long distance magnifying aid (known as a handheld telescope or a hand monocular): This small aid can help you to see things at a distance, for example a train departure board, a football match or small animals.
  • Eyeshields: Similar to sunglasses, eyeshields protect your eyes in strong sunlight.
  • Torches: Can help you to identify footpaths and obstacles in the dark.

Communicator guides and sighted guides

A communicator guide can help you get out and about and give you practical support with day-to-day tasks.

This can be particularly useful at work, and you can apply for Access to Work funding to cover the cost. You can also apply for an assessment under the Deafblind Guidance to find out whether you would benefit from a communicator guide.

It’s important that any guide has an understanding of Usher syndrome and your particular needs, and you should agree on how to communicate while moving about.

Formal sighted guide training is provided by a number of local and national organisations. Contact the Sense Usher Service for advice on where to find this training.    

Get in touch

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