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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

walkers and wheelchairs with detection mechanisms for persons who are totally blind?

With robotics, cameras, low tech or something, does anyone know a way to make walkers/wheelchairs useable by a person who's blind? Does anyone know of current and progressive projects researching this or ideas for selling a corporation etc. on doing the project??


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Re: walkers and wheelchairs with detection mechanisms for persons who are totally blind?



Hi, I know this is an old post. However, a few years ago I heard there was a project to make a talking walker. IT was called guido smart walker. I heard it did not pan out for safety reasons. I wish it could work.


Re: walkers and wheelchairs with detection mechanisms for persons who are totally blind?



I worked with a longtime cane user who, post stroke, needed to use a walker. He, his OT and I devised a forearm trough that used Velcro straps to attach the walker to his cane arm leaving his hand free for the cane.


Re: walkers and wheelchairs with detection mechanisms for persons who are totally blind?



There are many issues with making wheelchairs and walkers usable by people with low vision. One big question is, how much usable vision does the person have? Also, is it a manual or electric wheelchair?

I have trained someone before with an electric wheelchair and minimal vision to use a white cane. However, she had to reduce her speed and she used a much longer white cane to scan ahead. The important thing is the ability to detect a drop-off BEFORE the client goes over the drop-off. If they are unable to stop in time, that drop-off could easily be a curb to a street or something else.

Walkers are much more difficult if a client has less vision, primarily because both hands are needed on the walker for stability. There were some prototypes where a white cane was attached to the middle of a walker, but it was extremely slow to use. The client would have to move one hand off the handle to the cane, do one scan, move their hand BACK to the handle, take a step, and repeat. It could easily take 2 or 3 seconds per step, so you would be travelling at a very slow pace.

As for robotics, cameras and high tech devices.... the same issue comes up with other high tech devices, and that is how effective they are. If they are unable to accurately locate a drop off before coming to it, then it is a dangerous liability.

One method is a specially trained guide dog for working with vision loss and a wheelchair, although I personally have never worked with a dog that was capable of doing that.


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