A rehabilitation teacher provides support to visually impaired adults in the form of a rehabilitation program which is designed to maximize the ability of the patient to live independently. The goal of a rehabilitation teacher can be education and training for someone who is newly visually impaired, or ongoing support of someone with a visual impairment. This health care career can be very demanding, but also highly rewarding, as the ability to provide people with the tools to live independently can be very satisfying.
In order to become a rehabilitation teacher, someone must complete a bachelor's or master's degree in rehabilitation of the blind or visually impaired, and be certified by a professional organization which certifies rehabilitation teachers. Some professional organizations will accept people as candidates for certification if they have completed degrees in special education or related fields and they have a year of clinical training as rehabilitation teachers.
When a rehabilitation teacher is introduced to a client, he or she assesses the client to determine the level of visual impairment involved, and talks with the client about his or her goals and struggles. For example, someone who is newly visually impaired might be concerned about keeping a job, or being able to drive a car, while someone with ongoing visual impairment might want to learn more about adaptive technology which could help him or her negotiate the world with more confidence.
Once the rehabilitation teacher understands the client's issues and needs, he or she can develop a problem to help. The program can include teaching adaptive skills, introducing the client to useful technology, and helping the client apply for assistance such as a guide dog or adaptive devices which are available free of charge for people with visual impairments. There is a high focus on fostering independence and confidence for the patient, rather than just teaching coping skills.
Rehabilitation teachers usually work with blind and visually impaired adults. In addition to dealing with visual impairments, they may also encounter issues such as developmental disability, deafness, and other disabilities which can complicate the client's circumstances. Being able to work with all kinds of people and to adapt to complex situations is a critical skill for a rehabilitation teacher, as he or she may go from a client experiencing psychological distress about the onset of blindness to a client with profound developmental impairments in a single afternoon, and each requires a very different approach.