ORIENTATION & MOBILITY
Orientation and mobility is a critical area for students with visual impairments as it is essential for the student to learn to move safely and efficiently and as independently as possible through all environments. Teachers who have been specifically prepared to teach orientation and mobility to students who are blind and visually impaired are necessary in the delivery of this curriculum. The Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist (O&M) will evaluate the student's need for such instruction.
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Orientation and Mobility training focuses on alternatives to using sight for safe and independent travel purposes. In this instructional area, students are taught the use of the long cane and techniques for using any remaining vision that they may have such as the use of optical devices such as telescopes or monoculars. Some areas of instruction include development of body image; development of concrete environmental concepts; development of spatial concepts; development of directional concepts; understanding of traffic and traffic control; trailing techniques; sighted guide techniques; use of vision for travel and orientation; development of orientation skills; use of long cane; independent travel in a variety of environments; and public interaction skills.
Orientation and mobility services are provided by O&M instructors, professionals who are trained to teach travel concepts and techniques to enhance the independent travel skills of persons with visual impairments. The O&M instructor might work directly with the student, or he might work with the student’s primary teacher, showing the teacher how to incorporate O&M into the daily classroom routine and monitoring the correct use of O&M skills. After determining the student’s needs, the O&M instructor will consult with the teacher. Together they will determine how to incorporate O&M into the student’s educational program.
Although the actual travel skills will be taught by the O&M, the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) will assist the student by teaching basic concepts, body image, visual efficiency and follow through on instruction by the O&M. The student needs to learn how to move safely in both familiar and unfamiliar environments. The O&M may instruct the student in how to get around in special situations (halls, stairs, doorways, curbs, restrooms, restaurants, banks, hotels, pools, parks, etc) and may also instruct the student in special techniques (trailing, "squaring off," protective technique, sighted guide), and dealing with unusual environmental encounters (ice, snow, gratings, escalators, revolving doors, elevators, trains, plains, taxis, etc.).
Some students will need to use a trailing technique to move safely through hallways. This is a skill that is introduced by the Orientation and Mobility teacher. The student uses this technique to orient themselves as they travel. Keep this in mind when displaying students’ projects in the hallway. Although the O&M instructor will encourage the student to use a light touch, it is best to place materials at a height that they will not be accidentally ripped or torn. You may also want to consider placing a strong, textured collage at a student’s handrail height to provide motivation for maintaining a trailing technique. This will help the student realizes where the collage is in relation to other activity areas and classrooms. The art teacher may embrace this idea and design permanent three dimensional collages specific to key areas of the building. You may also consider attaching interesting items (balloon, brailled message, sticker, etc.) along familiar trailing surface for the student to locate. These activities will increase a student's motivation for maintaining contact while trailing.
The O&M may encourage the younger student to use push-toys or other alternative mobility devices (frequently called pre-canes) to help teach the student that something he pushes in front of him can bump into an object first. The student can then identify and/or maneuver around the item. Older students may be instructed in the proper use of the long cane. There are different canes as well as different techniques and the O&M will work with you to ensure that you can confidently carry over the skills throughout the day.
Proper Guide Technique
For students who require Orientation and Mobility instruction, the O&M will help show you how to follow through on techniques that the student is receiving instruction in.
For the older student: Encourage the student who is blind to lightly grasp the guide just above the elbow as this position gives the best movement clues. The thumb should be on the outside as in holding a glass. The students arm should be held at a right angle.
For the younger student: Encourage the student to hold onto the guide's wrist and follow the guide's body movement. The student is guided, not pushed or pulled when walking along.
The following is youtube video, published by AFB, demonstrates proper guide techniques.