There are three steps required to become an orientation and mobility specialist: admission to an orientation and mobility specialist program, completing the course work, and related experience working with the visually impaired. An orientation and mobility specialist provides training for people with visual issues to help them travel and maintain their independence. The information and assistance provided by these specialists have a huge impact on the quality of life for the visually impaired at any age.
The path to become an orientation and mobility specialist can be quite varied, but all specialists share a dedication to teaching and support. Many specialists focus on a particular client group, which ranges from children, seniors, or accident victims. Each group has different challenges and different approaches and techniques learned over time allow the specialist to provide the most effective solution for the client.
The first step to become an orientation and mobility specialist is to find a post-secondary school. There are a very limited number of schools that offer this program and class sizes are quite small. The application requirements to become an orientation and mobility specialist include a personal interview, review of academic credentials and a least one field observation of the candidate with a visually impaired client. Although prior working or volunteering experience with the visually impaired is preferred, it is not a strict entrance requirement.
The program to become an orientation and mobility specialist is usually two years in length. The courses in the first year include the foundations of special education, vision, and psychological and sociological implications of blindness. Several courses each term focus on intensive observation of orientation and mobility in both sighted and non-sighted people.
In the second year, the focus is on problems in special education, multiple disabilities, children, and infant orientation courses. There is a research project on orientation and mobility issues as well as several fieldwork courses, designed to provide an opportunity to practice the techniques learned. Many students gain more experience through volunteer or work placement programs that allow them to further enhance their skills.
Experience working with the visually impaired is very important if you want to become an orientation and mobility specialist. This role provides individual counseling and training to clients who require assistance with mobility, across a wide range of abilities and ages. The ability to interact with others, excellent communication skills, patience, and dedication are all skills that are very valuable in this role.