Professional Preparation Programs
By: Carmen Willings
updated April 9, 2020
There is currently a critical need for vision specialists as there is a nationwide shortage of professionals who work with individuals with visual impairments. Special certification is required for working with students with visual impairments. There are two professionals that work with students in school age programs: a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and an Orientation and Mobility Specialist. It must be understood that each is a separate profession with separate professional standards.
Most states states require that TVI's have a preexisting teaching certificate (typically in Special Education, Elementary Education, or Secondary Education) and a bachelors degree from an accredited university. The following is a list of colleges and universities in the United States that offer courses to prepare individuals for a career in education and rehabilitation of individuals who are visually impaired, deaf-blind, or have multiple disabilities. Each state has their own criteria for certification and licensure. It is your responsibility to determine if the program meets the criteria for the state in which you would like to work. If you are interested in pursuing certification in this much needed area, explore programs offered through the following universities.
The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired identifies university programs that have successfully completed the a university review process and have earned the distinction of "AER Approved". According to AER's website, "approval is given to programs that demonstrated adherence to high quality standards that lead to a valuable academic experience; and the competencies needed for employment and certifications." I have indicated the programs below that are AER approved.
Do you know of a university program not listed here? Please contact me and provide information and a link to the university page so I can add them to this resource list.
California State University, Los Angeles offers an Educational Specialist Credential in Visual Impairment (VI) and a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Visual Impairment. Courses in both the VI credential and MA program promote educational equity, collaboration, reflective practice, while maintaining mastery of the body of knowledge for the specific discipline of interest.
Dominican College offers a Teacher of the Visually Impaired program with the option of an M.S. in Teachers of the Blind or Visually Impaired or certification only. The program prepares pre-service teachers in a non-traditional format to become skilled, ethical and respectful teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired. Most of the course work is offered online. An on-campus residency is scheduled for several days at the end of June. Two Sundays during the 4th quarter are required for the Orientation and Mobility for Teachers course.
Florida State University prepares teachers of students with visual impairment at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Candidates seeking certification receive comprehensive preparation in supporting students with visual impairments in a variety of educational placements and in teaching the expanded core curriculum. Students at the master's degree level take additional coursework that focuses on a specific ECC area, such as orientation and mobility, or on a specific group, such as preschoolers , adolescents in transition, or students with severe disabilities. All coursework is available at the main campus in Tallahassee or at satellite locations in the Tampa/St. Petersburg, or Miami/Ft. Lauderdale areas. Most instruction is provided using a traditional face-to-face format. Financial assistance is often available to students in these programs.
The VI Consortium is the only academic program for preparing teachers of students with visual impairments in Virginia and is comprised of five universities: George Mason University, James Madison University, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, and Radford University. Its primary goal is to prepare teachers to be highly skilled at working with students with visual impairment and blindness. Completion of the VI program meets the Virginia Department of Education's required competencies for teachers of students with vision impairments.
Hunter College, CUNY, offers three specialization programs on the graduate level that prepare individuals to work with children and adults who are blind or visually impaired: teachers of learners with visual impairments (TVI), rehabilitation teaching/vision rehabilitation therapy (VRT) and orientation and mobility (O&M). These programs are offered at the master’s degree level only. Both the TVI and O&M programs offer graduate advanced certificates. Hunter offers combined TVI/O&M programs (full masters or advanced certificate) and combined VRT/O&M master’s degree. The TVI program is for individuals who plan to work in NYC/NYS. The VRT and O&M programs are distance learning programs and open to all applicants.
Illinois State University (ISU) offers a certification program as a Specialist in Low Vision and Blindness (LVB). The ISU LVB Program consists of a specific sequence of content-based curriculum of best practices for teaching children with all degrees of visual impairment across the entire age range of the pre-school through high school years. The program features a newly revised curriculum that includes an extensive emphasis on assistive technology. In addition to the LVB specific sequence of courses required of all teacher candidates in this major, the LVB Program provides many opportunities to work directly with students who have visual impairments.
Indiana State University offers a graduate licensure program for licensed teachers in special education or general education. Individuals interested in expanding their education and obtaining additional experience as an instructor of the visually impaired will benefit from this program, which is funded by the Indiana Department of Education through the Promoting Achievement for Students with Sensory Loss (PASS) grant at Blumberg Center. Admission to the Visual Impairment Graduate Licensure Program is managed solely by "Promoting Achievement for Students with Sensory Loss (PASS)." It is mandatory that individuals contact PASS prior to applying for admission to the University.
The Visual Impairment program in our College of Education is one of the oldest and most established of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania. Special Education majors pursuing a B.S. in Education/Visual Impairment will be part of an extraordinary network of students and faculty who make this program so outstanding among others of its kind. In this program, all elementary education certification requirements are met. Field experiences are provided and teacher candidates will experience them in both elementary education and visual impairment settings. The university has recently added a post baccalaureate distance TVI certification program in addition to the undergraduate program.
Louisiana Tech University (Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness)
Louisiana Tech University (Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness) provides a professional preparation program for individuals entering the field of visual impairments. The Institute on Blindness has worked in partnership with the Louisiana Center for the Blind to develop the following graduate level programs: Master of Arts with Certification in Teaching Blind Students; Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction with Cognate in Teaching Blind Students; and a Master of Arts in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology in Orientation & Mobility.
Mississippi State University offers graduate certificate training for rehabilitation counselors seeking to become Vision Specialists, annual K-12 teacher workshops, and educational outreach to school districts in North Mississippi. MSU-NRTC contracts with individual states to provide on-site training for VR personnel working with consumers with vision impairment, and state program evaluations and training needs assessments. Their National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Low Vision provides information for service providers, employers and consumers including short CEU/CRC courses for professionals, and transition helps and Forums.
The Blindness & Low Vision Program and the Orientation and Mobility Certificate Program are designed for candidates with a Bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.50 overall cumulative GPA (2.75 for O&M Certificate). Both currently certified teachers and candidates with a bachelor's degree and no teaching certificate are eligible to apply for either program. The VI program is entirely online, however, the O&M coursework requires students to attend a blindfold course that is on campus.
New Mexico State University's Visual Impairment Program (VIP) offers graduate-level licensure coursework for teachers of students with visual impairments and certified orientation and mobility specialists. The VIP is a hybrid program, which means that classes are primarily offered online with face-to-face meetings every semester. The New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired offers tuition assistance to anyone willing to work in the capacity in which they were trained in New Mexico for three years after completion of the program.
North Carolina Central University *AER Approved
The Visual Impairment Training Program is a concentration of study in the Master's of Special Education at North Carolina Central University that prepares teachers of children who are visually impaired. The VITP is a distance education program with courses offered through a combination of on-campus weekend/summer classes and online study allowing students to continue working during the school year. As part of every program, candidates complete a minimum 350 hour internship in their specialty area.
Northeastern State University offers a Visually Impaired Certificate. This special program for standard teacher certification in Visually Impaired is expected to be completed in two consecutive summer sessions. The program is comprised of two components and will be limited to 15 students each.
Northern Illinois University *AER Approved
Northern Illinois University offers a comprehensive program for training professionals to provide educational and rehabilitation services for persons of all ages who are visually disabled. The program consists of three components: Training teachers for work in the schools with children who have visual disabilities; Training orientation and mobility specialists to work with children and/or adults who are visually disabled; Training rehabilitation teachers to work with adults who have visual disabilities.
Northern State University and the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired have enjoyed a collaborative relationship for decades. That unique partnership was strengthened thanks to the Educational Impact Campaign, which raised funds for a brand new school for SDSBVI. This expanded partnership also creates new educational possibilities that could help lessen a national shortage of educators of the visually impaired. NSU education students now have the option to pursue a Blind/Visually Impaired Endorsement, which includes working directly with SDSBVI students at the new facility. Northern and SDSBVI are also currently working toward a master’s degree in Blind/Visually Impaired Education. Learn more about the endorsement requirement or about their School of Education. They currently do not offer the VI endorsement classes online, but some generals are available online.
The Ohio State University M.Ed. program is designed for individuals who wish to earn Ohio's Intervention Specialist: Visual Impairments license. They offer two programs. It is for students who are new to the field of blindness who want to be teachers of children with visual impairments in Ohio's public schools. The program leads to both the graduate degree and Ohio licensure and takes approximately five quarters of full-time study to complete. The first is a licensure only program that is available to teachers who have a current license and would like additional licensure in the area of visual impairment. No degree is awarded upon completion of this program, only a recommendations of the licensure to the Ohio Department of Education. The second program is for people who either want a Master's degree in visual impairment education or who do not have an initial licensure.
Portland State University is the regional university preparation program for the Pacific and Northwest Consortium for Vision Education (PNWCVE). The consortium is currently comprised of 4 states: Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Montana. Portland State University offers a comprehensive, graduate level program for the preparation of teachers of students with vision impairments (TVIs) and leading to teacher licensure or endorsement. The program to prepare TVIs is a 2-year, distance education hybrid program that begins with an on-campus summer session in even numbered years.
Salus University *AER Approved
Salus University College of Education and Rehabilitation offers a Master of Education degree program and a certificate program for Teachers of Children with Visual and Multiple Disabilities. These competency-based programs offer coursework and practical experiences that develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for the instruction of infants, children, and youth who are totally blind or visually impaired and those with multiple disabilities. Both programs are offered for part and full-time study, with coursework primarily online during the fall and spring semesters, and a ten week summer residency at Salus University for two summers.
San Francisco State University *AER Approved
The Program in Visual Impairments at San Francisco State University is designed for both pres-service and in-service professionals in the areas of Education Specialist Credential in Visual Impairment; Master of Arts in Special Education; as well as a Doctorate in Special Education.
This 22 credit hour program offers graduate level coursework leading to licensure as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired. The program is designed to be completed in one year and applicants must hold a valid Ohio teaching license. The coursework is primarily online with extensive face-to-face field experiences and is delivered through a consortium of Ohio Institutions of Higher Education, with Shawnee State University as the Lead Institution. Funding for tuition and books is contingent on a state-funded grant and a three-year service agreement. Please contact Dr. Karen Koehler for more information firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen F. Austin State University offers the only undergraduate O&M training program in the United States. The program also offers O&M training at the graduate level for certification. Graduate students may elect to continue after certification and seek a Master's degree in Special Education with a specialization in Orientation & Mobility. Students who complete our O&M certification training program at the undergraduate or graduate level are equally eligible to become nationally certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).
Texas Tech University *AER Approved
Texas Tech University's College of Education offers the required curriculum for the Texas State Board for Educator Certification Visual Impairment Supplemental Certificate EC-12 online. Certification also requires the successful completion of two TExES examinations. The Visual Impairment Certification Preparation Program is available both as a stand-alone certificate or an area of emphasis with the Masters of Education in Special Education. All coursework is offered via distance education with three face-to-face weekends in Texas required.
The College of New Jersey offers a program for professional preparation as Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired and is the only VI program offered at a NJ college or university. The Department of Special Education, Language & Literacy offers several options to become certified as a teacher of the blind/visually impaired. Graduates will be prepared to serve as itinerant teachers in New Jersey’s public schools and will be skilled in the critical areas of Braille literacy, assistive technology, collaboration and teaming, and the specialized strategies that enable students who are blind/visually impaired to function independently in general education classrooms. Interaction with children and adults that are blind and visually impaired is an integral component of the program.
The Visual Impairments (VI) program at UAB includes Traditional and 5th Year Non-Traditional Degree in Special Education. Students attend lectures, work collaboratively and individually on assignments, work hands on with students who have visual impairments as well as other disabilities and observe teaching strategies under masters level teachers in various departments and other appropriate agencies.
University of Arizona *AER Approved
The University of Arizona offers a graduate-level program leading to a specialization in teaching children who are visually impaired: TVI, or Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. Nationally recognized for excellence, this program prepares individuals to provide services in this challenging and rewarding profession. Their graduates are successfully employed in school districts, special schools, and agencies in Arizona as well as in other states across the country. Financial assistance is often available to students enrolled in this program.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock *AER Approved
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers a graduate-level program with an emphasis in orientation and mobility.
The University of Kentucky (UK) is the only teacher preparation program in visual impairments in Kentucky. It offers three certification programs in visual impairment at the graduate level: Initial certification (for those with an unrelated bachelor’s degree), alternate certification (for those employed as a TVI while enrolled in the program), and advanced certification (leading to Kentucky teacher rank change). Classes are online in the evening, in addition to face-to-face- classes one to two weekends a semester and an intensive summer at the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) in Louisville. Lodging is provided for all face-to-face meetings. UK is also in the processes of developing an undergraduate and master’s degree program, as well as a master’s degree in Orientation and Mobility (O&M).
University of Massachusetts - Boston *AER Approved
The Northeast Regional Center for Vision Education (NERCVE) is an established center within the Institute for Community Inclusion that is academically affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Boston, School of Global Inclusion and Social Development. The Vision Studies program at UMass Boston is New England's only academic center for preparing Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments Orientation and Mobility Specialists and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists, three key specialties which assist people with visual impairments to achieve their goals of high quality education, fulfilling employment, and safe/independent travel. NERCVE is committed to improving education for individuals with visual impairments through: personnel preparation, professional development, technology & research. Coursework is offered online with some Saturdays.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers a graduate level program leading to a teaching endorsement in Visual Impairments.
University of Northern Colorado *AER Approved
The University of Northern Colorado offers a Master’s Degree program in the area of Visual Impairment and an endorsement in Orientation and Mobility. The master’s degree in Visual Impairment is designed to prepare teachers who will work with students who are visually impaired in schools.
University of Pittsburgh *AER Approved
The Vision Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh prepares professionals to serve the academic and Orientation and Mobility (O&M) needs of children and/or adults who are blind or visually impaired. This Program enables students to acquire single and/or dual certification as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and/or as an O&M Specialist with an option for completing a Master of Education (MEd) degree in a unique hybrid program model (online and on-campus).
South Carolina State University offers an Orientation & Mobility Graduate Certificate as a post-master's certificate. The curricula prepares scholars/students with the skills to work with individuals of all ages who are blind or have visual impairments. The program is nationally approved by the Association for Education and Rehabiitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER).
The Master of Education in Visual Impairment Program is shaped and aligned with the School of Education's core values and disposition and the standards set by the Council for Exceptional Children. The SC Department of Education requirements for endorsement in visual impairment have also been embedded into the program. Candidates in the program are typically full-time teachers from across the state. Thus, the two-year program offers live classes at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind in the summer and distance learning classes in the fall and spring.
The University of Utah Visual Impairments program prepares teacher candidates to work with children/students who are blind or visually impaired at the Bachelor’s, Master’s (M.Ed. and M.S.), and endorsement/certification only levels. Candidates may choose from three tracks: Birth through age 5, Kindergarten through age 21 or Birth through age 21. Candidates are prepared to work in specialized classrooms or inclusive/itinerant settings. The Visual Impairments specialization courses, that include content based on best practices, provide candidates with a range of knowledge and experiences to support their students in the development of academic, functional and expanded core curriculum skills.
Vanderbilt Peabody College *AER Approved
The Program in Visual Disabilities in the Department of Special Education, Vanderbilt Peabody College, currently is in receipt of a federal grant to prepare teachers of students with visual impairments (children with low vision and blindness). The program seeks general education and special education teachers who are interested in an M.Ed degree specific to Visual Impairments.
Western Michigan University *AER Approved
This 50 hour degree program prepares teachers to work with children with visual impairments in public and residential schools. Instruction is provided in skills to support the regular educational curriculum as well as the expanded core curriculum specific to children with visual impairments. Graduates are eligible to become certified teachers of children with visual impairments. Students may choose to combine this degree program with preparation as an orientation and mobility specialist to attain dual competency in the Master of Arts in Teaching Children Who are Visually Impaired/Master of Arts in Orientation and Mobility for Children program.
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Itinerant teaching is very rewarding, but it can present many challenges as well. TVI’s must be able to work well with a variety of personalities to best support students and their teams. It is just as essential to be organized, flexible, reliable, and a team player as it is to be knowledgeable in your field. This hour-long presentation is packed full of tips and strategies from Carmen Willings who has been a full time Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments for over 20 years. This webinar is perfect for TVI's just entering the field and for all TVI's as they start the new school year!
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