How Does a Visually Impaired Child or Teen Travel in the Cold, Snow, and Ice?

I can hear it now—Frozen’s beloved Anna grasping her stiff, emerald dress and murmuring, "cold, cold, cold, cold, cold" as she tiptoes through the snow. Then there are the famous Dalmatians trudging through knee-deep snow, "Mama, my ears are cold and my nose is cold." Disney does a fine job of depicting the distress of traveling in wintry weather when unprepared. So, how do we elude those scenarios with our children who are blind or visually impaired? How does one prepare for winter weather orientation and mobility?

parent and two children playing in the snow

Optimal Winter Gear

If your child will be traveling in cold weather, snow, and/or ice, quality, winter gear is a top priority. Read on to learn the most appropriate cold-weather gear.

  • Want to know the ideal winter hat for a traveler who is blind or visually impaired? A beanie-it can be folded above ears, so as to not impede auditory clues.
  • Want to know the ideal glove for a traveler who is blind or visually impaired? Knit mittens or mittens you’ve adapted to tube shapes—they allow for optimal feedback while providing warmth.
  • Want to know the ideal shoe for a traveler who is blind or visually impaired? Winter boots with maximum traction or warm boots with YakTrax—they minimize slipping on icy surfaces.
  • Want to know how to minimize glare? Good sunglasses (likely amber tinted lenses will be recommended) are a must, and a visor will provide additional protection.
  • Want to know the best mobility cane for freezing conditions? A non-collapsible cane—your child won’t have to worry about freezing joints, and it will hold up well if it is leaned on in icy conditions.
  • Want to know the best cane tip for snow conditions? There’s no easy answer here! The cane tip of choice will depend on the technique your child is using. If your child is poking snow which has been iced-over, a thin tip is best; if your child is gliding over soft snow, a broad tip is best.

Winter Weather Mobility Techniques

Guide dog in the snow standing with handler

Now let’s talk mobility techniques, skills, and strategies used in the snow and ice:

  • Your child will learn a light cane touch for fluffy snow and a heavier touch for icy conditions. Additionally, your child will learn to poke the snow with the cane to gauge its depth and consistency.
  • Your child will learn to choose a route that has been recently plowed (when possible).
  • Your child will learn to ask for assistance to navigate around icy terrain.
  • Your child will learn to call for a taxi or call a friend if conditions worsen, and it is no longer safe to travel.
  • Your child will learn to leave the house with ample time when weather conditions are poor.
  • Your child will learn to utilize a GPS, a particularly helpful tool when landmarks are unrecognizable.

Alright experts, do you have additional mobility tips and tricks for the snow and ice? We would sure appreciate your suggestions!

Additional Resources

A Mother’s Advice on Community Orientation and Mobility Skills

Orientation and Mobility Questions and Answers

Mobility in the Snow for People Who Are Visually Impaired: The Art of Travel on Hidden Landscape