What is Orientation and Mobility?

Orientation & Mobility (O&M) is the art and science of teaching a person with vision loss to travel efficiently, safely and independently – according to the individual’s goals and ability.

O&M training usually, but not always, involves the use of the long cane.  There are a variety of skills and techniques that facilitate safe travel.  An O&M instructor teaches the student to focus on and accurately interpret sensory information available in the environment.

Orientation is the ability to know where one is, where one wants to go and how to get there.  To do this a person learns to create and maintain a “mental map” that changes as he or she moves through space, using landmarks and environmental clues to supplement whatever vision the person has.  Depending on the student’s goals, teaching can include skills in traveling through complex urban environments and the use of public transportation.

Who teaches Orientation & Mobility?

Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in orientation and mobility training.  Their coursework includes understanding  the functions of the eye and how various diseases or disorders affect a person’s ability to accomplish daily living skills and travel independently.  A COMS has training in blindness, low vision and physical development.  COMS have spent many hours under blindfold, learning the cane techniques and orientation strategies they will teach.

In order to earn their certification, Orientation and Mobility Specialists must complete 350 hours of discipline-specific practice under the supervision of a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist.  They must also pass the certification exam.  It is only after all of these requirements have been met, that an individuals is certified to provide mobility training to someone with vision loss.

How is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist different from a Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist?

A COMS does not teach exercises or physically rehabilitate a person.  A COMS assesses the current physical and cognitive ability of the student and teaches safe travel skills accordingly.

Contact Rachael Eschbach by email or at 312-236-8569 for information about Second Sense’s O&M training.