Visually impaired persons present an atypical gait pattern characterized by slower walking speed, shorter stride length and longer time of stance. Three explanatory hypotheses have been advanced in the literature: balance deficit, lack of an anticipatory mechanisms and foot probing the ground. In the present study, we compared the three hypotheses by applying their predictions to gait analysis and posturography of blind children without neurological impairment and compared their performance with that of an age-matched control group. The gait analysis results documented that blind children presented reduced walking velocity and step length, increased step width and external rotation of the foot progression angle, reduced ground reaction force and ankle maximum angle, moment and power in late stance, increased head flexion, decreased thorax flexion and pelvis anteversion, compared with the control group. The posturographic analysis showed equal skill level between blind children and normally sighted children when they close their eyes. The results are consistent with only one of the three hypotheses: namely, they prove that blind children’s gait is influenced only by the absence of visually driven anticipatory control mechanisms. Finally, rehabilitative recommendations for children with blindness are advanced in discussion.
- Anticipatory mechanisms
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