Vision Loss Alliance clients use canes – not guide dogs – to walk through Morristown | Citizen news


DENVILLE TWP. – Guide dogs are part of the fabric of Morristown, but on Monday, May 23, participants from the Denville-based Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey (VLANG) used white canes to cross sidewalks and intersections in the city.

Three orientation and mobility specialists from The Seeing Eye and the O&M expert from VLANJ provided one-on-one instruction to participants on a route that included several blocks of Maple Avenue and South Street.

While one group of participants received instructions, the other visited a local business and, after lunch, they swapped roles.

“It is so important for visually impaired and blind people to learn mobility skills and practice how to navigate safely in indoor and outdoor public spaces, as well as sidewalks and crosswalks,” said VLANJ Vice President of Programs Elsa Zavoda.

“It gives them greater confidence to venture into their own communities and beyond.”

The O&M outing was the third in a series, funded by grants from the William G. and Helen C. Hoffman Foundation and the Lydia Collins deForest Charitable Trust. O&M specialists from The Seeing Eye, including VLANJ trustee Lukas Franck, offered their services.

Peggy Kane dated Kristin Lake of The Seeing Eye, who first fitted her with a Global Positioning System that alerted Kane to upcoming intersections. As they walked along Maple Avenue, Lake noticed uneven sidewalks in places and reviewed cane techniques. Kane knew the importance of listening to the flow of traffic to know when it’s safe to cross an intersection that doesn’t have a walk signal.

“I don’t travel alone in the community as much anymore, so it was nice to have the opportunity to practice my boating skills outdoors,” Kane said.

Franck, senior consultant at The Seeing Eye, worked with Marvin Morgan.

At the traffic light at Maple Avenue and Miller Road, Franck asked Morgan to raise his pole to signal his intention to cross before entering the crosswalk.

Inside Braunschweiger Jewelers on South Street, owner Gretchen Braunschweiger stood in front of a circular display case and pulled out highly textured estate pieces for VLANJ attendees to handle.

Sensing a thick gold chain, Matthew Graves said, “It looks like a glow stick.”

He tapped on a thick, smooth sterling silver bracelet and said, “It smells and sounds like glass!”

After examining more than a dozen pieces of jewelry, VLANJ attendees showed off the Braunschweiger mobility techniques they learned.

Mary Ann Zino put on a demonstration of drag, using her cupped hand to work her way around the circular jewelry display. Nicole Klein showed him different cane techniques for getting around the store.

Braunschweiger said people with vision loss often visit the store, but usually they are accompanied by guide dogs. When they enter, “someone comes up to the front to greet them,” she said.

After lunch, participants who took the orientation and mobility training in the morning visited Blue Mercury, a make-up and skincare boutique on Morristown Green. VLANJ attendees familiarized themselves with products and smelled perfumes and colognes, and demonstrated a human guide technique to Blue Mercury staff.

The outing ended with a visit to Kilwins Morristown for ice cream.

Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey is a 501©(3) that provides hands-on training and emotional support to help those who have experienced profound vision loss regain self-esteem and independence. Since its founding in 1943, Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey has used a holistic approach to empower people with profound vision loss to live engaged, productive and independent lives. Go to for more information.


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