Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training teaches individuals who are visually impaired, blind, or deafblind to travel safely and independently in a familiar or unfamiliar environment. Evaluation and intervention are usually provided on an individual basis as early as preschool, or much later in life.
Orientation and Mobility training sometimes involves the use of canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. Orientation and Mobility training provides an individual with a selection of travel techniques to be employed indoors and outdoors. Students learn the most basic self-protective techniques using the natural extension of their arms and hands. They are taught sighted guide techniques so they can travel safely with another person. Some students require intensive instruction in the use of a cane. The length of training differs for each individual. Beginning students who request a guide dog should first demonstrate competency using a cane.
Orientation is an awareness of where you are in space. Infants experiencing vision loss need to learn how to move safely within their crib space. All school age children need to be taught spatial concepts, as well as acquire the necessary sensory skills to gather information about their surrounding environment. Advanced students are taught orientation methods that can be used as they venture out and face the challenges presented by the complex world of public transportation. Safety is always the key issue.
The ability to move independently though space is a skill the general population takes for granted. Orientation and Mobility training can make this experience a reality for the individual who is deafblind.
Most instructors hold advanced university degrees in education. Many instructors have combined certification as an Orientation and Mobility Specialist and Teacher of the Visually Impaired.
Many O&M specialists work as itinerant teachers in school systems, serving preschool and school age children throughout the school system. O&M specialists are also employed by State Rehabilitation Programs or the Veterans Administration to serve the adult population, and as consultants assisting architects or engineers with accessibility issues.