Woman crossing a street using a long cane, vector image.

Veering when crossing streets

Wonder why your student veers when crossing streets? How to analyze the situation and possible solutions!

The dreaded veering when crossing streets issue. . . As COMS, we have all spent hours working with students/clients on how to cross streets in a straight line to find the curb/sidewalk on the other side. Lining up and crossing the street without veering is challenging!

Recently this discussion came again on an O&M listserv. The question was initially posted by an adult cane traveler, who gave permission to share her question and her responses.


“I tend to veer a lot especially when crossing streets, my instructor says this is normal but I still find it annoying. Is this true and if so, is there anything that I can do to prevent it from happening altogether or at least reduce the chances of it happening? If it matters at all, I use a folding cane with a roller ball tip because apparently it works the best on all surfaces.” 

Gather more information

In the ideal situation, the COMS would directly observe the person as she crosses the street. In order to correct the issue, first we need to understand what is causing the issue. Some of the things to observe are:

Intersection information

Does the person veer into or away from the intersection? 

Does it make a difference if the intersection is on the person’s right or on the left? 

What does the person use to line up with at the intersection?

Does the person get a line of direction when crossing an intersection?

Does it matter what kind of curb is at the intersection?

Other factors?

Person’s O&M/cane skills information

How straight is the person’s body when traveling?

Is the cane arc the correct width? Does the cane consistently cover both sides equally?

Where is the cane held in relationship to the body?

Does the person veer when walking down a hallway, sidewalk or through open spaces?

Does the person shoreline or trail the wall or grass line?

Other factors?

Response from adult cane traveler who asked the veering question

“Generally, I veer away from the intersection and it doesn’t seem to matter which side it’s on. Yes, I do veer when I’m walking in other places. I shoreline but also sweep a lot. I use traffic sounds and the curb to line up. It doesn’t seem to matter though a lot of curbs in our area are the same with little lips.”

Editor’s Note: As always, safety is always the first and foremost concern. A COMS should be working with the student/client in person. This post is to help COMS better diagnose and teach straight street crossings. The information in this post can also empower the cane traveler be more self-aware. This post does not replace lessons with a COMS!

In this scenario (question on a listserv), the adult cane traveler is working directly with her COMS. The discussion is to brainstorm and discuss different thoughts about how to cross streets without veering.

Possible reasons for veering and possible solutions

My written response:

I have some thoughts based on many years’ experience as a COMS. Veering is a very common issue! Keep in mind I’m simply brainstorming. Without watching you as you cross a street, it is challenging to identify what is causing you to veer. I’m going to use the terms shorelining/trailing but it could also be touch and drag or 3-point touch (on the sidewalk). Trailing is simply where the cane maintains contact with the wall or grass edge of a sidewalk. Most people use a cane sweep to follow the wall/grass and not trailing, as trailing does not provide protection on the left/other side.

Additional comments by other COMS

If you have additional suggestions or tips on straight street crossings, please contact us at [email protected].

By Diane Brauner

Back to Paths to Technology’s Home page

Kindergartener's hands on a braille display.

Writing and editing with an iPad and braille display: Intro part 1

Two overlapping chairs representing seeing a chair with double vision.

Ten “odd” things I do with double vision

Brailliant BI 20X with "terminal" being displayed in braille.

Tips for pairing a Brailliant BI 20X with an iPad