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.
- Hurricane Preparedness for People who are Visually Impaired
- Emergency Preparedness Kit for Individuals who are Blind and Visually Impaired
The MCB Orientation & Mobility team hosts an annual White Cane Awareness Celebration event on October 15th for the MCB community to discuss the history of the white cane, the “White Cane Law”, white cane benefits, different types of canes, traveling recommendations, and best practices. The recipient of the Meg Robertson Mobility Award is also announced during the event. For more information about upcoming events at MCB, visit https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-commission-for-the-blind/events.
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 a red marking at the bottom. Cane tips may vary in size and type, (ball, pencil, rolling marshmallow, metal, etc.). The long cane is used for independent travel, learning about the environment, by detecting obstacles and drop offs and for identification at street crossings.
A SHORT WHITE ID CANE, with a red marking at the bottom with a rubber tip. This cane is designed to identify an individual as legally blind but has usable travel vision, assisting with depth perception on stairs, or curbs in familiar areas and visual balance. 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.
A small percentage of Individuals who are legally blind use a guide dog as a mobility tool but need Orientation and Mobility and long cane training before acceptance to a guide dog school.
O&M Live - Virtual Training Events
Winter Travel Techniques and Emergency Preparedness - Monday, December 14, 2020
This presentation offers tips for individuals who are blind and visually impaired to be more prepared for winter weather by adapting their travel skills and developing an emergency preparedness plan for adverse weather.
- O&M Live - Winter Travel Techniques and Emergency Preparedness
- O&M Live - Winter Travel Techniques and Emergency Preparedness - WORD
- O&M Live - Winter Travel Techniques and Emergency Preparedness - TRANSCRIPT
- O&M Live - Winter Travel Techniques and Emergency Preparedness - VIDEO
Are You Mobility Ready for College? - Tuesday, January 19, 2021
This presentation reviews the different O&M skills needed for a successful college experience. Different O&M skills, such as wayfinding, transportation, and pedestrian routes are included.
- O&M Live - Are You Mobility Ready for College?
- O&M Live - Are You Mobility Ready for College? - VIDEO
- O&M Live - Uber Checklist
- O&M Live - Are You Ready For College?
- O&M Live - COMS/TVI O&M Skill College List
- O&M Live - Customized Transportation Assessment
Researching a Career in Vision Studies?
Why a Degree in Vision Studies?
University of Massachusetts Boston Vision Studies program is the only online program in New England that offers graduate degree programs in the following areas:
- Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
- Orientation and Mobility Specialists
The university is seeking graduate applicants in each of the six New England states and other states in high-need, and is particularly interested in expanding enrollment of students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds as well as students with disabilities.
The UMass Vision Studies program has grant funding to address a national and regional shortage of teachers and related service professionals with specialized knowledge in visual impairments. Students meeting admission and grant scholarship requirements may be eligible for tuition support.
The UMass Boston Vision Studies program uses a combination of web-based courses, one in-person course for O&M, and field-based activities which allow students to build a portfolio of professional skills and experiences.
Admissions to all University of Massachusetts Boston Graduate Programs are coordinated through the Office of Graduate Admissions and are completed through the online application. The program requires 2 letters of recommendation, evidence of MTEL testing, official transcripts with a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0, and a two-part essay.
Meg Robertson Mobility Award
In recognition of former O&M Director Meg Robertson, MCB developed the Meg Robertson Mobility Award to be presented annually at the White Cane Awareness Day Celebration event every October. This award highlights Meg’s hard work, dedication, and advocacy to the blindness community with over 30 years of service. This award is to celebrate the white cane and its impact in the lives of individuals who are blind and visually impaired.
The award is open to long cane users of all ages and abilities and will be presented at the annual White Cane Day event. We are looking for people who are motivated that demonstrate mobility skills at their level and incorporate the cane into their lives to increase independence. The nomination form must be completed by a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), and the deadline is in September.
Nominations should include the following:
- How has an individual's travel ability with a cane improved since the beginning of O&M instruction to their current level?
- Where does the person travel with a cane?
- How has O&M made a difference in their life?