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What does an Orientation and Mobility Specialist do?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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An orientation and mobility specialist, also known as an O & M Instructor, helps those who are visually impaired become more independent by evaluating the extent of the visual impairment and creating a personalized program of instruction. An orientation and mobility specialist is helpful for those who have been visually impaired since birth, those who are newly impaired, and those who have several disabilities in addition to vision impairment. They most frequently teach their patients how to travel on their own safely, efficiently, and with confidence.

By taking the patient through real-life travel situations, the orientation and mobility specialist teaches her patient how to become oriented to new surroundings. The goal is to teach him how to travel alone, only using a cane for help. Familiar surroundings are often the starting place; but, the patient soon moves on to environments that are unfamiliar to him. For example, a patient may first learn to travel independently in his neighborhood; but, the area will gradually expand out to larger, more urban areas, and include the use of buses, subways, and other forms of mass transit.

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Teaching the patient how to communicate and use the senses that are not affected by a disability are among the greatest skills that the orientation and mobility specialist must stress. If a patient is visually impaired, then he must learn to rely heavily on his sense of touch or his hearing. While studying to become an orientation and mobility specialist, time may be spent wearing visual impairment simulation glasses. Thus, the specialist can begin to appreciate the need for good communication skills and understand the issues involved in traveling independently with impaired vision.

Depending on the needs of a given patient, an orientation and mobility specialist can collaborate with other educators and professionals in the health care industry. They can discuss ways that a specific patient can improve his way of life and travel safely on his own. For example, teachers of the visually impaired, physical therapists, occupational therapists, optometrists, ophthalmologists, and rehabilitation therapists can all work with an orientation and mobility specialist to help the patient gain increasing independence and confidence.

A bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree are usually common for those pursuing a career in orientation and mobility. A specialist can work in a hospital, school, rehabilitation center, nursing home, or even in a private residence for a private agency. In general, she can expect to teach about 30 patients each year on a one-on-one basis. It is the perfect opportunity for both men and women and is a growing field, particularly with the large number of baby boomers becoming older and suffering from loss or decrease of vision. In general, those who work for public institutions are paid higher than those who work in a private setting.

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