Getting from A to B.

Jan 12, 2010 | Uncategorized | 4 comments

Get off the train. Let a few people go first. Their useful for following to find the right ticket validation machine to go through. Most people use the very wide one at the end of the row so it’s safe enough to follow them as that will leave you almost directly in line of the steps that lead down to the exit.

When you get off the train, turn left and be prepared to follow quickly as people leaving the station do so very quickly.

You will gradually turn to the right. Scan with the cane carefully as there are three steps to go down before you meet the ticket validation machines. These steps will be on your right side and as you go down them the ticket validation machines are in a row to your left.

When you get down the steps continue following the crowd to the left. There will be two very small plastic signs that most likely don’t even reach past knee level on the ground. One is at three steps that lead down to another area but I have no idea what it’s used for and I don’t know what the other sign is for. There’s a bin and a pole to the right of it. When you reach the pole your only a few feet away from the row of machines. If you stand with your back to this pole and bin and you walk straight forward, you’ll meet a machine however although you can get through this machine if you have the correct ticket with you, it’s not the best one to go through in terms of accessibility as you will find no land marks between it and the steps down.

Again, although you know of these land marks and their useful if the crowd is too quick for you to follow, try where possible to follow them as it’s much easier.

When you meet the ticket machine, go straight through. During rush hour there are usually two people there. One on the outside and one standing in the way of the door thing so it doesn’t close. This machine is slightly wider to allow access by wheel chairs but is used informally for commuters who purchase yearly tickets.

Again, continue following the crowd through this machine. They will turn gradually left as when you are facing with your back to this specific machine the stairs down are almost directly in front of you.

If you turn left with them, scan with the cane to the left. You’ll find a pole. Navigate around this pole and take a step to the left.

Walk straight ahead and you will find the side of the steps. This is a wall with a rail on your right. If you move about three or four steps to your left you’ll meet another wall. I find using the right is better. It’s personal preference though. I choose it because I can go straight out of the station at the bottom while following the wall and because most other people try to rush out the door nearest the traffic lights it usually results in me getting there before the rest of them. Oh, plus, I avoid the people giving out news papers too so its win win.

Right. Half way down the steps is a small platform. It only lasts for about two steps. When you get to the bottom you’ll notice tactile markings. Go straight out to the very edge of the footpath. Use the cane by scanning the edge of the path as you turn to the left. Follow that path with the cane scanning the step to your right. You will come across one pole that is out on the edge but it’s not a huge obstacle considering the mess on the left.

You’ll meet a dip. After this dip the traffic light pole is only a few steps away.
Use that crossing.

At the other side, move to the end of the tactile and take a sharp left. Attempt to continue in a straight line for around twenty feet.

After you do this, gradually turn left scanning to your right for a wall.

Continue down this road scanning the wall and steps on your right. These are reasonably straight so you shouldn’t have major problems. There are two areas however where the wall has been removed and the path widens. Simply carry on straight.

You will be aware when you come to the corner as the surface of the path changes and you will meet tactile markings that are sloped from a traffic light pole toward the corner. Find this corner and take a sharp right. Stay in close as there are a few poles and metal boxes used for maintenance or something on the outside of this path.

On this street, continue walking until you reach a change in the surface. Be aware that there are two points along the wall that jut out. However, the cane will detect these.

When the surface changes, immediately start walking to the right scanning for the ramp that marks the start of the road. This is a very wide corner that turns to the left. Continue following this ramp until you feel a slope up and a change in surface.

There are a lot of poles on the edge of the path on this road but the buildings on the right have very inconsistent fronts that angle, curve, jut out and are generally hard to follow. The road gradually curves to the right after a while but after meeting the first pole on the edge, take a step to the right and walk down the centre of the path for around 40 feet. This will likely help you avoid the person that begs at the wall and allows you to avoid a lot of the navigation you would need to do if you followed the building edge.

After 40 feet or so, turn to the right gradually and begin following the buildings around to the right. After the dip, you will soon meet a change in surface as well as access covers down to the seller for the pub on the right. After passing these two metal covers, step to the left and follow the middle of the path for a short time.

You will meet a tactile crossing. Use these traffic lights to cross the road.

After crossing the road, use the cane to find the gulley. Follow this gully for only a few feet. If you continue to follow this you will meet poles as well as the edge of the foot path. Veer in to your left but don’t follow the edge of the building. Go straight along the centre of the path. You will very likely meet a slope down as well as tactile markings. Cross this very quiet and narrow road and continue along the path following the buildings to your left. There is only one obstruction on this path. It is a barrier used by a coffee shop. After the barrier you are only a few steps away from the crossing at the bottom of Kildare Street.

This route is much more in-depth and complicated than when walking it with a dog. I’ll prove it.

Standing on the train, the doors open.

The dog with experience now takes this as his sign to start.

He carefully stretches off the train. It’s not a step; it’s more like a stretch. It’s great! By him stretching to the platform, I instantly know how far it is. I don’t even think he knows what he’s doing.

We walk, following the crowd to the machine. The dog stops at the step and as he knows I’m a bit to egar for my own good, he angles his body around my left knee just a little bit to stop me going any further. This is not something he’s trained to do but he rathers stopping at steps even if I know their there.

We change angle slightly so we’re not walking at a curve down the three steps. Once at the bottom, the dog corrects his angle and makes a bee line to the furthest ticket machine. He weaves to the right of the crowd that are now in front of us so we pass them out. We rather get to the machine ahead of most of the other passengers as it’s easier for the dog to take his time in placing him self so as we can continue the recommended guiding position even while walking through the gap.

We get through the ticket validation machine and the dog again veers to the right as he wants to get past others who have got through the machines while we were going through the one for yearly tickets / wheel chair users. He stops again at the steps giving me just enough room at the rail to walk down with him. Again, that’s another technique as it almost forces me to stop with him.

We go quickly down the steps but we take the door to the far left. This is because we are ahead of most of the crowd and if we time it right, we can usually get to the crossing just before the lights change.

That’s important as with a busy crossing like that, I don’t like to cross when the lights have changed before I get there as it breaks a very important habit. The dog should always stop at a controlled crossing.

We cross the road and swing around the traffic pole on the other side toward the left.

We keep going at a steady pace along the buildings on the right. The dog slows down at one point for an instant because there is a pole slightly too close to us and he rathers being on the safe side.

We meet the changed surface and turn tightly to the right.

We continue walking and he concentrates on the roadway into trinity that is denoted by the changed surface. If cars are going in or out of this gate he stops rigidly until they have passed.

We continue on our way, turning to our left along the narrow path where the strange building fronts are on our right.

The dog sees the seller covers in the distance so makes a decision to guide me around them.

We pass them and stop at the crossing.

Here, we do something that very few guide dog owners bother with; we perform a strict left turn. This is where the dog turns around to your right across your body and continues around in a circle with the handler following until they face left. This is done strictly at this crossing for two reasons. The first and most important is that the dog goes ahead of me and therefore is officially guiding and watching out for obstacles. I am basically not walking anywhere that he has not checked first. In my experience with this particular dog, this is not really necessary but it’s always good to be aware of. The second and most important reason is that we regularly continue down this road to the Dawson Street so he needs to be aware that stopping here is a necessity and although he may like going to Dawson Street, it is me who controls our direction. Simply stopping and doing what would be considered by trainers as an incorrect turn to the left doesn’t place in the dogs mind the importance of this junction.

Anyway, with all that rubbish out of the way, we cross and quickly turn to the right. We continue straight stopping at both crossings before hitting the corner of Kildare Street.

See? Isn’t that so much easier? Fortunately, I hope to have my dog working again tomorrow. I’m looking forward to cutting out all the complications.


  1. Sean

    Mobility is a big, big part of anyone’s life. Having lived fairly rurally and not travelled much independently (through lack of necessity more than anything else) it’s fascinating to read this sort of thing from your perspective.

    Growing up and attending mainstream education until the age of 18 my “blindness” skills are perhaps a little lacking. My mobility training was always with a cane, and though we did local train and bus routes, shops, post offices and eateries, almost all of the training (after the initial cane teaching and the like) seems now to be utterly useless. Why? because it was very route specific.

    I’ve long since moved away from my home town – I now live well over fifty miles away. Still rural, more so now than then, in fact; we live on a farmyard at the moment where you can walk for miles and miles without fear of getting either lost or run over (you can hear tractors and the like coming a mile off). But, reading this has raised an interesting point for me.

    I have to attend a training course in London in a few weeks time. This means a long train journey, a taxi to the rendezvous, and the inverse on my return (though with a train change on the way home). None of my “kid” mobility will be much help here: how could it? I learned the layout of a few local stations, a few platforms unique to the area. I’m travelling different routes, different train companies, without anything other than a white cane and the good will of assistants to get me from A to B. I’m not worried, because I feel it pointless to stress over an issue out of my control (it is not possible for me to perform some miracle now to increase my confidence then). But events have made me wonder…

    I always maintained that working from home, being able to meander around the countryside as we like and not travelling very far without sighted family (local bus and train services being what they are) rendered the need for a guide dog superfluous. not only would it be unfair to expect the dog to accompany me on walks for which I don’t need its help, I reasoned, but it would also mean one less dog for a person who would need one to travel to and from work or to social settings. I still hold that view: we’ve both had and would have again pet dogs, and I can count the number of times I would have liked a confident canine travelling companion on one hand in the last five years.

    I didn’t see my life going this way, hadn’t planned to live here specifically; never intended to work from home in the fashion I do. There are times, when I have to travel halfway around the country, when I think that having trained with a guide dog would have done a lot for my confidence and independence. Then there are times when I can go for a romp through the countryside in snow or sun, and I wonder which would’ve been better.

    For a long time, I’ve fancied my ideal job as travelling to places (probably places of other people’s employment) and fixing their access needs: JAWS scripting, and that sort of stuff. It’s something I am reasonably proficient at, after all, and pays well. How I’m going to break into that exclusive market I don’t know. For the meantime I have a part time job and get to pump out JAWS scripts as a hobby and all is good. But if that dream job did turn up next week, I’d have to get far more into the traveling angle than I have done thus far. Perhaps then I’d reevaluate my thoughts on a guide dog.

    all the dog owners over the age of 25 I have seen have been very confident, happy travellers. Maybe the need to travel would be the kick I needed to think on it more.


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