Every year thousands of individuals across the US are affected by a vision loss. Natural aging and diseases such as diabetes, glaucoma and cataracts take all or part of a person’s vision. Adjusting to such a profound life change is difficult. People who were once confident commonly feel anger and fear and lose confidence in their ability to perform even the simplest daily tasks. Fortunately though rehabilitation specialists such as orientation and mobility instructors, vision rehabilitation therapists and rehabilitation counselors provide services that simplify the adjustment process. Mobility instructors teach the skills required to travel independently from place to place. Vision rehabilitation therapists teach the individual alternative ways to communicate, to perform the activities of daily living and to return to former leisure pursuits and counselors help newly visually impaired people deal with emotional issues. This video will focus on the role of the orientation and mobility specialist and the process called personal adjustment training. Orientation and mobility once called parasitology or foot travel and often referred to as O&M began as profession through the Veterans Administration hospitals in the late nineteen forties to serve blinded World War two veterans since then many professional training programs have been established prepare professionals for teaching om the Department of blindness and low vision studies at Western Michigan University houses the oldest largest and one of the best-known blindness programs in the world as part of the preparation of students in Western’s program. Many hours are spent under the blindfold or using simulators that show functional vision loss in order to teach the necessary skills in non-visual travel these techniques allow the students to learn the skills that they will be teaching at a later time. The training received by the graduates provides them with empathy and the ability to effectively teach orientation and mobility. Many methods have been used by visually impaired persons to satisfy the basic desire to be mobile. From earliest times devices such as sticks or canes and guide animals have been used to achieve varying levels of mobility. Today there are several common ways to travel independently. Dog guides, canes electronic travel aids and human guides. The O&M specialist evaluates the current skills of individuals, discusses their goals and help them select a program of instruction that will allow them to reach the greatest travel potential. The mobility specialist usually begins instruction indoors and gradually introduces more complex environments as time progresses. instruction is provided in quiet outdoor residential areas, business environments, indoor shopping malls and downtown locations. In the process, the student learns to take public transportation to travel objectives. The O&M specialist also teaches individuals to use secondary travel techniques. Optical devices such as a monocular telescope can be used with remaining vision to facilitate independent travel. The O&M specialist works in a variety of settings these can include VA facilities, state agencies, private agencies, public and residential schools and colleges. Western Michigan University’s Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies offers a one-year on campus Master of Arts degree in Orientation and Mobility which can lead to a job in this wonderfully rewarding profession. You may also contact the Department for more information about the distance education option. For information write to the Department of Blindness and Low vision Studies at Western Michigan University

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