Mobility visually impaired children need consistent tactile path information the same as sighted chi

Mobility visual impairment is an important new term for identifying the needs of learners who are severely visually impaired. Mobility visual impairment (MVI) means you cannot use your vision to avoid obstacles in the path ahead. When this is the case, you are at risk for injury.

In the dark, sighted people experience temporary MVI. It is temporary until the lights are turned on. The feelings of safety and confidence provided by lights are needed even in our familiar homes, because MVI robs us of safe travel.

The reason we need the term MVI is because professionals who teach orientation and mobility skills to people who are severely visually impaired or blind are often in the same meeting as professionals who provide mobility therapy (e.g., physical therapists). At some point at these meetings, there is a need to distinguish the difference in the mobility goals of these professionals.

Physical therapists (PT) may be called on to consult on cases of children aged five and younger who are visually impaired because they have a mobility injury or they have difficulty achieving gross motor milestones, like walking with age appropriate pace and posture across open space.

O&M specialists teach children aged five and younger who are mobility visually impaired or blind (MVI/B) how to use specific mobility tools. Mobility tools are like light bulbs for people who are MVI/B, because they enable them to locate obstacles in the path and avoid injury.

Learners who are MVI/B don’t necessarily have a mobility injury, but they are at risk for one if they continue to walk without a mobility tool.

It is easy to recognize the negative impact MVI or blindness has on gross motor skills, because it looks the same as when sighted people walk for any length of time in the dark (slow, halting gait and defensive postures). These automatic defensive mobility postures are used to reduce the impact from inevitable collisions.

There are different types of mobility tools used by people with MVI/B; the human guide, the dog guide, the long white cane, a rectangular adaptive mobility device or a wearable white cane. With the aid of these tactile path detectors, people who are MVI/B no longer crash into obvious obstacles with their bodies, because they can find them first with their tactile warning device or avoid them altogether with their guides. Therefore, with a mobility tool they no longer need to adopt those protective gait abnormalities.

Yet, without a mobility tool, people with MVI/B are just steps away from their next collision. People who are MVI/B may not need a PT; but they do need a mobility tool.

The term MVI is needed to clearly identify the proper course of action for children five and younger who are not able to speak up for themselves and are unable to see where they are going. Proper identification of children five and younger as having a MVI indicates to the PT and O&M specialist, the need to first equip the children with an effective tactile path detector, then see what therapy is needed to achieve gross motor milestones.

However, it is important to note that children five and younger are too little to use dog guides or long canes. Therefore giving them these mobility tools is the same as offering them no protection at all. A one-year old baby with MVI/B can play with a dog or long cane, but in order to walk with consistent tactile path information they need a device that will always be in front of their next step, a wearable cane.

Wearable canes are developmentally appropriate canes for little kids.

Therefore, before treating the consequence of MVI/B with physical therapy, we need to prevent the cause of motor injury and milestone delays by providing little ones who are MVI/B with a way to have anticipatory control when walking (the ability to detect obstacles with every step). The wearable cane is an effective device for providing very young children with MVI/B the consistent tactile path information they need to achieve gross motor milestones.

Children who are MVI/B need to have consistent tactile path information everywhere they go, every day, all day.

Children who are MVI/B need to have consistent tactile path information as often sighted babies, toddlers, preschoolers need to have the lights on.