An individual experiencing vision loss encounters many new challenges. One challenge is navigating around one’s home and community. MCB's Orientation and Mobility Department consists of Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) who provide individualized travel training programs within one’s home, workplace and community. Instruction begins with an assessment of the individual’s travel needs, motivation, and visual and physical abilities. Based upon this assessment, a training program is developed with the goal of maximizing independence. Or, for the more experienced traveler, training may focus on providing orientation to a new environment, such as a college campus, work location, new residence, etc. In addition to the long white cane, MCB provides a support cane for assistance in detecting inclines and obstacles in pathways. Falls prevention training is provided to the growing elderly blind population.
O&M Consultation Services
MCB's Orientation and Mobility Department also offers consultation services to families and other professionals on issues such as:
Accessibility issues such as accessible pedestrian signals, safe travel routes, and environmental barriers which impact pedestrians who are legally blind
In-service training on blindness etiquette to professionals, such as employers, Senior Centers, Assistive Living Residences, group homes, etc.
Massachusetts White Cane Law GL c. 90 § 14A
Whenever a blind pedestrian, guided by a guide dog or carrying a raised or extended cane that is white or white tipped with red, attempts to cross a street, drivers must stop for the dog or cane user. A person who owns an animal shall restrain and control such animal on a leash when in proximity to a guide dog that is on a public or private way. Violations of this law are punishable by a criminal fine of not less than one hundred and no more than five hundred dollars.
Enforcement: State and local police enforce the White Cane Law.
Massachusetts Service Animal Law G.L. c. 272, §§ 92A and 98A
Any person with a disability accompanied by a dog guide or service animal is entitled to any and all accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of all public conveyances, public amusements and places of public accommodation, within the Commonwealth, to which others not accompanied by dogs are entitled, subject only to the conditions and limitations applicable to all persons not accompanied by dogs. People training service animals are also protected. No service animal user may be required to pay any charge or fare for the service animal in addition to those lawfully chargeable for the user’s own travel. Enforcement: Violation of this law is punishable by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and the service animal user is entitled to damages. Complaints must be filed within 300 Days at
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)
1 Ashburton Place, #601
Boston, MA 02108
White Cane Information
White Cane recommendations are based on a number of factors, including the type of visual impairment, age, height and other specific needs as accessed by a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS). The two main types of white canes used by Individuals who are legally blind are:
A LONG WHITE CANE with red at the bottom. This cane type is for independent travel and to avoid obstacles. It is also used for identification, the detection of objects and drop-offs, and information gathering. There is also a variety of different types of cane tips.
And/or a WHITE SUPPORT CANE with red at the bottom, which is designed to identify the individual as legally blind but has usable travel vision. It is used to assist with depth perception on stairs or curbs in familiar areas. It does not offer protection against the unexpected obstacles.
Specialized training for both types of canes and travel skills are provided by a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS). These canes may be rigid or collapsible. They are used to help navigate the area ahead of the user. The long cane allows a person who is blind or visually impaired to check for objects in the path of travel and changes in the walkway surface.
A small percentage of persons who are legally blind use a dog guide rather than a long cane but usually need long cane and orientation & mobility training before acceptance to a guide dog school.