It is critical for individuals with visual impairments to learn to move safely, efficiently and as independently as possible through all environments. Orientation and Mobility Specialists (O&M or COMS) will work directly with the individual to provide alternatives to using sight for safe and independent travel purposes. This section provides information on the different areas of O&M instruction.
By: Carmen Willings
Updated June 9, 2019
Orientation and Mobility (O&M) 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. The O&M will teach the student to move safely and efficiently through their environment.
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.).
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.
Movement Concepts (go, start, stop, fast, slow, push, pull, scribble, draw, trace, bend, close, open, slide, roll (roll-up), fold, hold, insert, place (put), put together, reach, sit, squeeze, turn, take apart, follow.) An understanding of movement concepts is important for following directions as well as in the development of orientation and mobility skills. Modeling these activities and providing fun games to practice these skills is a natural way to develop movement concepts.
Trailing is a technique that most students will use in order to move safely through hallways and through rooms as well as to orient themselves as they travel. It is a way of moving the fingers along a surface. Keep this in mind when displaying students’ projects in the hallway. The O&M will instruct the student on the proper trailing technique which uses the back of the hand to lightly trail along a wall or surface. The student should be encouraged to touch the wall with the back of the hand nearest the wall. The student should lightly/gently touch and use the back of their fingers (knuckles of the index and middle fingers) along the wall while walking.
When a student is using a trailing technique to explore a new room, help them explore the perimeter of the room and then have them investigate the center of the room using a crisscross pattern.
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 realize where it 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, braille message, sticker, etc.) along a familiar trailing surface for the student to locate. These activities will increase a student's motivation for maintaining contact while trailing.
Systematic Search Techniques
Students need to learn how to use a systematic search pattern to locate items that have rolled away or fallen. Teach students to stop and listen as soon as an object falls. Encourage them to try to hear where it struck the floor, rather than automatically reaching for it. Show them how to use their hand to make sweeps left to right. If they can't find it, then so forward or backward.
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 should collaborate with all team members to ensure that everyone working with the student can confidently carry over the skills throughout the day.
The Sunu Band is an inclusive smart-bracelet along with an object tracker that empowers mobility and independence for people who are visually impaired. It uses ultrasonic technology to sense the user’s surroundings and deliver haptic feedback on the user's wrist to indicate proximity. It can also provide the time with a discrete vibrational watch feature and can help locate missing objects with the Sunu Tag (a keychain size beacon like device) that can be clipped to any personal object. The Sunu Band helps the user detect and locate obstacles up to 13 feet away, find thresholds or openings to walk through, follow or avoid people in the vicinity with precision and feel what’s around without physical contact.
Sign up for free membership to access the FREE downloadable handbooks and handouts on the Free Printables page along with access to the Goal Bank pages. Simply click on the Log In | Register link in the navigation bar. If you haven't joined yet, you will be prompted to create a password.
ECC Complete Set Bonus Pages
Purchase the TVI's Guide to Teaching the ECC Complete Set and immediately unlock the pages within the ECC Complete Set Bonus including bonus printables, interactive sensory stories, interactive matching activities, interactive choice making activities, job task box activities and MORE! This is my way of continuing to support you and say "Thank you!" for choosing to purchase the Complete Set.
TVI's Guide Complete Set Bundle + BONUS Resources
Buy together and get BONUS resources!
The TVI's Guide to Teaching the ECC Complete Set includes the following:
The LOTTO Cards Grab and Go Supplement includes 37 theme related unit cards along with activity suggestions that support activities within the TVI's Guide to Teaching the ECC.
On My Way File Folder Cards
Print and use these cards to represent locations the student may visit that are related to the current thematic unit. Use these with the On My Way File Folder Game outlined in the TVI's Guide to Teaching the ECC p. 27.
NEW! Access to TVI's Guide Bonus Membership Pages
Bonus pages include tutorials, printables, interactive sensory story downloads, and interactive choice making, matching and visual discrimination computer games (PowerPoint based interactive games), and job task activities.
All products are digital pdf downloads. Once you make your purchase you will be directed to an order confirmation page where you will find the download link. This download will also be included on the receipt sent to the email address you provide. The pdf download can be found directly under the order number. If you encounter any difficulty, please let me know and I can assist you. Once you purchase the complete set you will have immediate access to the bonus pages!
*Please contact me if you need to purchase using a purchase order. I am happy to help guide you in the process of adding Teaching Students with Visual Impairments as an approved vendor for your school or program or you can visit the product support page for information on using a PO.
Shop More Categories