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Wagon Wheel Approach (Methodological Visual Search Approach)

The wagon wheel approach is a way of finding things that has been very effective for some people with CVI.

If you have CVI or you support someone with CVI, this may be helpful.

Example: Where is the Bank?

You have got out of the elevator on the second floor of the mall where you have been told your bank is...but where is it?

Take the elevator to the second floor, to get to the bank.Take the elevator to the second floor, to get to the bank.

Above is what people with typical vision will see when exiting the elevator.

The bank for some may be reasonably easy to find, particularly if you are familiar with the logo, but not for everyone.

The mall is visually complex, there is an awful lot of detail to process. What the photo does not show is the movement of people walking in different directions and the noise.

So how do you find the bank if you can't see it?

Starting-Point

First, look around. Find something it is easy to come back to. This ideally should be something that stays in the same place, and is either very familiar or very bold. This will become the 'starting-point' which represents the middle of your of your wagon wheel, but it does not have to be in the middle, it just needs to be a point you can visually find again.

We deliberately picked a really difficult image, and the middle point will be different for everyone, but for this example let us use the orange stall:

Find and pick a starting-point.  It needs to be something you can visually find your way back to.Find and pick a starting-point. It needs to be something you can visually find your way back to.

From the starting-point, look upwards at a pace slow enough for you to take in the detail, and look. If you do not find what you are looking for, then go back to the orange stall (your starting-point)

From the starting-point, at your pace, look upwards to see if you can find what you are looking for.From the starting-point, at your pace, look upwards to see if you can find what you are looking for.

If you need to keep looking, from the starting-point, look up again, but this time at a slight angle to the right, imagine a wagon wheel, and you are following each of the spokes, from the central one (your starting-point) outwards, to methodically search for what you are looking for, without getting visually-lost - that is the purpose of the starting-point.

Imagine a wagon wheel, the centre is your starting point, and you follow each spokes in order, returning to the starting-point each time.Imagine a wagon wheel, the centre is your starting point, and you follow each spokes in order, returning to the starting-point each time.

And you keep looking, until you find what you are looking for. It might look like a long complicated process, but with practice we have heard it can sometimes be completed successfully so quickly, in a split second, that someone with CVI can find something as fast as someone with typical vision (how long did it take you to spot the bank in the very first picture?).

Keep going back to the centre then follow the next spur around, until you find what you are looking for.Keep going back to the centre then follow the next spur around, until you find what you are looking for.

We made a short film using this image to show you what it might be like:

Video Link: https://vimeo.com/426221843

Eventually, the bank is found.

The bank is found.The bank is found.

Having visually located the bank, now you have to get there, and the Wagon Wheel Approach can be used again to find the route if needed. Once in the bank, it can be used to find the counter, and when your task with the bank is complete, find your way back to the elevator.

Personalise Your Wagon Wheel!

We have described a wagon wheel approach, but if helpful, you need to make yours your own.

At home, or somewhere you feel very safe, maybe with someone you know well, practice it.

  • Firstly find a starting point - how easy is it to find again? If not that easy, see if you can find something else - it that easier? Then think about what it is that makes things easier to find - maybe their size, or a particular colour you may be drawn to, of something else that is familiar. This will help you pick stronger starting-points in future. The starting-point stops you getting visually-lost and confused.
  • Next, which direction do you feel most comfortable looking? In our example we went upwards first, then around in a clockwise direction (to the right). You may prefer going left first, and working around anti-clockwise (as some left-handed people may naturally prefer). This is your wagon wheel, make it your own and what works best for you.

Wagon Wheel Way - Benefits

  • When learnt this method can mean much greater independence.
  • In addition to finding things, it can also be used to build up a fuller picture of what you are looking at in your mind.
  • It can be used anywhere, for example to find an empty chair in a classroom / lecture hall, and find a route to it, or to help finding things in shops or finding a shirt in a closet.
  • With practice, it can even be used to build up fuller pictures of people's faces, so they can be remembered and more effectively recognised.

Wagon Wheel Way - Limitations

CVI can sometimes mean nothing is usefully visible, not even a tiny amount of vision like looking through a straw, and this can leave someone feeling vulnerable, so a plan is needed, maybe to phone someone. It can happen any time.

Stress and anxiety have been consistently reported as making vision more difficult. If you can manage your stress levels this will help. Think about what works for you, and what you can do when out and about, maybe practiced breathing exercises for example.

The Wagon Wheel Approach was developed by Nicola McDowell (pictured) who has kindly allowed us to share it with you.The Wagon Wheel Approach was developed by Nicola McDowell (pictured) who has kindly allowed us to share it with you.

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At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.