The Diagonal technique makes it possible to move independently in a familiar safe space – preferably indoors – and protects your body. Typhlo-teacher, specialist in orientation and mobility, and columnist of the Special Viewportal Marta Lyubimova speaks about how to hold a cane correctly, what distance to maintain from the wall during movement and in what situations to use this technique.
Where to use
The Diagonal technique can be used only in well-known spaces with an even floor since a white cane does not "visualise" the whole space in front of the body, but only follows a shoreline (for example, a wall, carpet edge etc.) or just crosses the body. This technique does not always allow you to notice obstacles or changes in the floor level, for example, steps or thresholds.
Audio description: Against a light-blue background, there is a colour photo in a white frame. It is a sunny day. A slim light-haired woman in black glasses is walking on a pavement along a painted pebbledash cement wall. She is holding a white cane diagonally in front of her, with the cane touching the wall. The woman is wearing black trousers, a cardigan and shoes with heels. This is Marta Lyubimova. She is smiling. Her hair is gathered into a low ponytail on one side.
Components of the Diagonal technique
Since this technique suggests holding a cane in the hand opposite to the shoreline, you must be able to perform this technique with both your left and right hands.
Holding a cane. The standard way to grip a cane is at the base of the handle: you hold the cane in your fist, the thumb is on one side, the fingers – on the opposite side, with the thumb facing the tip of the cane. You can also hold the cane like a pencil.
Audio description: Against a light-blue background, there is a colour photo in a white frame. Marta Lyubimova, wearing black trousers and a beige jacket, is standing by a white wall. In the fist of her right hand, she is holding a white cane at the base of its handle. On the wall, there is a black-and-white photo in a black frame.
Position of the handle. The handle of a white cane should protrude out along the forearm for the length of your index finger or slightly more to provide elbow protection, therefore, it is better to hold a cane not at the end, but at the base of the handle, near the cane shaft.
Position of the hand. There should always be a gap between the white cane and your body to ensure that you are not hurt by the cane if it hits an obstacle. For this reason, the hand holding the white cane should be positioned at the distance of a spread palm – about 20cm – from the hip. The arm from shoulder to elbow rests in a natural position along the body, but, starting from the elbow down, it should be bent at about 30 degrees and positioned in front of the hip.
Position of the tip. The white cane is held diagonally across the body, with the tip being on the opposite side from the hand holding the cane. The tip should be no more than 5cm away from the side of your body, thus protecting your body and giving you enough time to react to an obstacle, without creating hindrances in the way of other pedestrians.
During movement, the white cane can sometimes come too close to your legs. This can happen, for example, if you are holding it in your right hand and the tip is moving too far to the left. This should be avoided. If the tip is too close to your body, there will be too little time left for you to react or stop if you detect an obstacle or change in the floor level.
Audio description: Against a light-blue background, there is a colour photo in a white frame. Marta Lyubimova, dressed in black trousers and a beige jacket, is walking in a white room along a wall lined with photographs in black frames. She is touching the wall with a white cane. Her hair is down, and she is smiling.
This technique is actively used in educational, medical and public places since it makes it easy to count and find the necessary door. It allows you to move around a familiar space following a shoreline, for example, a wall. In this case, the cane should be held in the hand which is further from the wall.
On the wall, there could be stands, fire extinguishers, protrusions and so on, therefore, you should move at a distance of about 20cm from it. You can check the distance using your palm: spread your fingers and then touch your hip with your thumb and the wall – with your middle finger. For a safe and effective use of this technique, stand in parallel with the shoreline before you start walking. In order to do so, touch the wall with the back of your hand and make a swing forwards and backwards, straightening up your body.
Audio description: Against a light-blue background, there is a colour photo in a white frame. It is a zoomed-in image of Marta Lyubimova standing by the same wall. In her right hand, she is holding a white cane at the base of the handle. The fingers of her left hand with bright red nail polish are spread: her thumb is touching her hip, and her middle finger is touching the wall.
During diagonal shorelining, the tip should always remain in contact with the shoreline in order to avoid losing the latter. You can move the cane tip along the line where the wall and floor meet if there is no skirting board. Otherwise, you can move the tip along that line 3 to 5cm above the floor. If you move the tip along the line where the floor and skirting board meet, you might miss the door as they are often located above skirting boards.
Audio description: Against a light-blue background, there is a colour photo in a white frame. A white cane with a lower red section and marshmallow tip is touching the white wall just above the floor. On the light-coloured floor nearby, there are two female legs wearing black trousers and elegant court shoes with heels.
You can find the door you are searching for by texture or counting. If the door is made of a different material than other doors, pay attention to your sensations and stop once the tip detects the necessary texture. If all the doors are identical and the only way to find the necessary door is by counting, think how to optimise the process. Think of the position of the door. If there are ten doors in the corridor and you need the ninth one, it will be easier for you to go to the end of the corridor and find the last but one door rather than count nine doors from the start.