Most people who are blind or who have substantially diminished vision use a white cane when walking. The cane allows them to find obstacles in their paths, recognize uneven pavements or terrains, and handle steps and curbs. It also alerts others to the user’s visual impairment, allowing them to offer assistance or stay out of the way.
Traditionally, the preferred length of the cane has been up to collar bone level, but recently the use of longer canes rising to chin level has been promoted. Those who favor the longer cane believe it allows the user more time to react to upcoming steps, curbs and obstacles while those who support the shorter cane find it functions better to guide over and around the area immediately in front of its user and avoid entanglement with other nearby people. The cane may be rigid or collapsible, either by folding into sections or telescoping one-half into the other. Collapsible canes are usually lighter and more convenient to carry when not in use but they are not as strong or durable as rigid ones. Both rigid and collapsible canes can be purchased at local low vision product stores or from online vendors. See the link Commercial Aids on this site for contact information for vendors. Rigid white canes can be obtained for free from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Roughly 3% of blind people choose to use a guide dog. Numerous organizations provide guide dogs and training in their use, often for free. For more information, visit the web site:
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) provides information about such organizations. See the link Resources on this site for information about AFB. Information about its directory of guide dog organizations can be found at the following page on AFB’s web site:
For information about accommodations that must be made available for guide dogs under the Americans With Disabilities Act, visit the web site at:
Orientation and mobility training is available for children through the public school systems as discussed under the Link Education on this site. Adults may receive free orientation and mobility training through their home governmental rehabilitation divisions. The Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind also offers orientation and mobility training. See the link Resources on this site for information about these divisions and CLB.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) provides free instructions on riding its Metro Rail trains and buses for those who are visually impaired. They may also be entitled to reduced fares. WMATA provides a low cost shared ride car service for blind persons through its Metro Access program. Persons using Metro Access may travel to any destination within the Washington metropolitan area which is reachable by WMATA's trains and buses. Metro Access rides must be booked at least one day in advance. Information can be found by calling (202) 637-0128 or by visiting WMATA’s web site at:
Certified MetroAccess users and their companions ride free on MetroBus, Metrorail, DC Circulator, Montgomery County Ride On, Fairfax Connector, Arlington County ART, Prince George’s County TheBus, and the City of Fairfax CUE.
If you don’t qualify for Metro Access, you may qualify for the Reduced Fare Programs for Adults 65+ or People with Disabilities? Visit:
People with disabilities will soon be able to use a smartphone app to navigate WMATA's rail and bus systems. A free app and accompanying website will provide riders with audio-based navigation beginning next fall.
WMATA will give riders with disabilities expedited access to MetroAccess for the duration of the summer-long shutdown of six stations in Northern Virginia. The transit agency also will explore ways to offer blind riders free or subsidized access to smartphone-based technology that allows sighted individuals to serve as remote navigators.
The DC Taxicab Commission has set up Transport-DC to provide transportation for Metro Access users within DC. During the last half of each month rides may only be taken to and from dialysis, hospitals, medical centers and employment places. Unlike regular Metro Access rides, Transport-DC rides are not shared, do not make other stops along the way and may be booked as late as one hour in advance. Each ride costs $5; companions may ride free. Information can be found by calling (844) 322-7732.
MetroAccess customers who are traveling between origins and destinations that are in Maryland, which means all locations in the MetroAccess service area (3/4-mile corridor around fixed-route) of Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, have a new, more flexible option for travel with the launch of the Abilities-Ride program. WMATA is looking into extending this option to patrons in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. The program offers subsidized taxi rides in partnership with Regency Taxi and Silver Cab. It allows eligible customers to use on-demand taxi services--without sharing a ride--at a discounted rate. Riders can request their trip in advance by calling the taxi company directly, or through their respective websites or smartphone apps. Rides can cost as little as $5. An estimated fare will be provided to the customer before taking a trip. Customers pay the first $5 and Metro is funding the next $15 in fare. Any remaining fare over $20 will be billed to the customer. The two designated taxi providers will offer wheelchair-accessible vehicles and accommodate customers traveling with a personal care assistant (PCA) and/or a service animal at no additional charge. For more information visit the website at:
In Arlington, Virginia Metro Access-eligible persons can also use Specialized Transportation for Arlington Residents (STAR). STAR is a shared-ride paratransit service intended to provide a comparable level of transportation as provided by Metrobus and Metrorail. Information can be found by calling (703) 228-1700 or by visiting the web site at:
The updated Transportation Network Directory for People with Disabilities and Adults 50+, a comprehensive guide that can be used by anyone looking to get transportation from going to the airports, Ocean City, New York and beyond, is now available at:
The Federal Department of Transportation provides information about the transportation rights and options of people with disabilities. Information is available concerning air and train travel as well as local trips. Information can be found by visiting the web site at:
Dulles airport is one of just a few hub airports that have dog relief areas inside the security perimeter.