Geocaching and Letterboxing for Orientation and Mobility Lessons

For those wanting to add some creative adventures to their Orientation and Mobility lessons, you can introduce the concept of Geocaching and Letterboxing.

Here are some suggestions for activities:

  • Have prepared locations for “letterboxing” with described directions, using cardinal directions from a known landmark and use the compass (braille, talking, or app from smart phone) as an orientation tool.

  • Have students enter the location of a cache with latitude and longitude coordinates into BlindSquare (iOS) or APH Nearby Explorer (Android) to get some prompting by tracking the coordinates as a landmark.

  • For a team activity, braille the clues and hints so that students can use their compensatory skills to read to the group.

  • To develop concepts for Orientation and Mobility, be sure to use words that emphasize the concept in the directions, such as parallel and perpendicular, traffic side of sidewalk, cardinal directions, with the landmark behind you, etc.

  • Consider making a sample activity plan to share with parents and families so they can participate with their child as well

The Geocaching app on the iPhone with VoiceOver affords a way to search for the presence of caches in your area, but as far as using it in an accessible way, it is a bit of a challenge. The app has a compass to direct the user but the compass position is not read by VoiceOver due to the app design. What you can get from the app is the latitude and longitude of the cache itself which can then be entered into another app that is more accessible. One such app that is specifically developed for users with visual impairment and blindness is BlindSquare (costs about $29.99). BlindSquare allows a user to enter their own places as landmarks and then edit the location with latitude and longitude coordinates. The technical part is that Geocaching displays coordinates in a hybrid form (e.g. 32˚ 49.818′ N and 116˚ 46.574′ W) while BlindSquare uses Decimal degrees (e.g. 32.8303˚ N and 116.7762˚ W); luckily there are free conversion apps you can get that will do the conversion for you. You can also use programs and apps like Google Maps to get the latitude and longitude of a location anywhere on the planet without having to have physically traveled there to set it as a landmark. This lets you have guidance to where you would like to travel. BlindSquare can provide directions with cardinal directions (N, S, E, W), relative directions (To Your Right, To Your Left, etc.), or clock face (toward One O’Clock, or Three O’Clock), and can have distances expressed as feet or meters. 

The app will get you close to the cache but locating the actual box will be more manual. One way to adapt this is to arrive early and to have a sound module with a motion sensor (such as the kind used in halloween decorations where the sound effect occurs as you walk by, [ ]) placed at the cache or coordinate directions with tactile landmarks that will be clues to bring the students in closer. At some point you may be able use things like iBeacons and “Nearables” (just visit for fun dreaming about how you could use the technology). Another strategy is to use a wireless doorbell. The main unit can be placed at the cache site and the button for the doorbell can be used by the student looking for the cache, as they get within range the doorbell will respond to the button press and provide a sound clue of where to head to ([\_1\_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1431017857&sr=1-1&keywords=wireless+doorbell ]).

Letterboxing sites:

Geocaching sites:


Chris Tabb, 2015-05-07