Working with the Visually Impaired: Orientation and Mobility Specialist

December 6, 2012 in Medical Careers

orientation and mobility specialist

A healthcare career is far more than becoming a doctor or a nurse.  There are so many careers within the field that it would be difficult listing them all.  Something that most of them seem to have in common, though, is that they involve helping others directly or indirectly.  Many healthcare careers are always in demand and are very rewarding.

One career in particular works directly with people helping them in many ways.  The orientation and mobility specialist is an individual who helps people that have visual impairments learn to travel independently.  These professionals work with infants, children, and adults who have visual impairments to help them adapt to and navigate through their environment using their remaining senses.

There are many potential safety challenges that people who are blind or have low vision face, especially when travelling through crowded streets or busy sections.  Orientation and mobility specialists help people with vision impairments learn to “read” or “know” their environment and determine where they are and orient themselves to plan routes that can be taken using any residual vision they may have and other sensory cues.

Another important training they are involved with is showing their clients how to use assistive devices, such as handheld telescopes, white canes, service animals, or even GPS systems.

The Orientation and mobility specialist’s main objective is to enable their clients with visual impairment to move confidently and safely through unfamiliar areas and use public transit.  This will ultimately lead to the enabling of the client to travel as independently as possible.

Education

Many universities offer bachelor’s or master’s degrees in the study of Orientation and Mobility.  Most programs now require a master’s degree, but there are some agencies with extended learning programs in orientation and mobility training.  However, this type of informal training is not recognized by the certifying organization, the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.  Being certified is important when looking for work in most places.  Certification is valid for five years and can be renewed indefinitely by meeting continuing education and work requirements.

Work Settings

Orientation and mobility specialists have many places of employment.  They can work in schools, public and private rehabilitation centers, veterans’ centers, and other facilities that serve children and adults with visual impairments.  They can also serve as consultants to educational systems, government agencies and organizations.

If interested in working with people who have visual impairments, there are also many other careers in the broad category of teacher of the visually impaired, vocational rehabilitation counselor, certified low vision therapist and the list goes on.  Good luck.

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