The Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies at Western Michigan University has won two Rehabilitation Services Administration grants totaling nearly $1.5 million to strengthen recruiting efforts and increase the number of highly qualified vision rehabilitation therapists and orientation and mobility specialists over the next five years.
Orientation and Mobility for Working-Age Adults
Orientation and mobility is an exciting discipline in low vision and blind rehabilitation that teaches people to travel safely, efficiently and independently in their environment. Orientation is the process of mentally organizing the environment and determining one's location within that environment. Mobility is the act of moving through the environment in a safe and graceful manner. An orientation and mobility specialist teaches people who are blind or visually impaired to travel by:
- Assessing an individual's current travel-related skills, discussing goals and helping the individual to select a program of instruction that will allow for achieving the greatest travel potential.
- Teaching people to travel by using their hearing, remaining vision and other senses.
- Teaching people to use a long cane for travel and to establish and maintain orientation while traveling.
Orientation and mobility specialists work with people across the lifespan, from infants to senior citizens. The majority of clients on an orientation and mobility instructor's caseload tend to have some remaining vision. It is also common to have clients with additional disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, hearing impairments, physical impairments or cognitive impairments.
There has been a national shortage of orientation and mobility specialists for several years. Individuals willing to relocate generally have little difficulty in finding employment. Orientation and mobility specialists may work in schools, at agencies for the blind or visually impaired, at Veteran Administration Medical Centers and at universities and colleges. Many orientation and mobility specialists, after gaining experience in the field, contract to schools and agencies as part of their own private practice.
Orientation and mobility is a profession of highly trained, caring individuals who are committed to providing the best service to each client and who are committed to a professional code of ethics. Many professionals in the field are members of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired and are certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals, which are professional organizations that govern the field.
Program costs - Find information about tuition and fees here.
News and Updates
For more information about Western Michigan University's orientation and mobility program, contact Dr. Dae Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org or (269) 387-3447.
For information about WMU's orientation and mobility program for children, contact Dr. Dawn Anderson at email@example.com or (269) 387-5944, or Dr. Robert Wall Emerson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (269) 387-3072.
If you attend full-time on campus, you may complete the program in one calendar year (fall, spring, summer I and II). We also offer a distance education program if you have significant experience in the field of blindness and low vision. Our admissions committee will review your application to see if your experience qualifies you for the distance education program.
Graduates will earn a Master of Arts degree and will meet all of the education requirements for certification by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals in orientation and mobility. You will also be prepared for the successful completion of the national certification examination.
The orientation and mobility program requires 37 credit hours. This includes a practicum and internship that offer professional field experience with mentors. Courses are listed below. Check the graduate course catalog for course descriptions.
- BLS 5770: Services for Persons with Disabilities (one credit)
- BLS 5880: Psycho-Social Aspects of Disability (two credits)
- BLS 5890: Medical and Functional Aspects of Disability (two credits)
- BLS 5900: Physiology and Function of the Eye (two credits)
- BLS 5920: Orientation and Mobility for Children (two credits)
- BLS 5950: Introduction to Methods of Orientation and Mobility (four credits)
- BLS 5960: Electronic Devices (four credits)
- BLS 5970: Principles of Low Vision (two credits)
- BLS 6010: Small 'N' Research: Design and Analysis (three credits)
- BLS 6020: Gerontology - Orientation and Mobility and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (two credits)
- BLS 6040: Issues in Independent Travel (two credits)
- BLS 6050: Practice in Low Vision (one credits)
- BLS 6100 or 7100: Assisted or Independent Research (two credits)
- BLS 6940: Principles of Orientation and Mobility (three credits)
- BLS 6950: Practicum in Orientation and Mobility (two credits)
- BLS 7120: Professional Field Experience (Internship) (six credits)