Orientation and mobility training helps people with visual impairment learn to navigate their environment. It teaches them to know where they are and create a plan to get where they want to go.
Vision impairment changes the way an individual navigates their environment. Simple routes may be challenging or hazardous, requiring planning and care to accomplish safely.
Orientation and mobility (O&M) training teaches a person with visual impairment to use mobility aids such as a white cane or guide dog and move safely through their environment.
Professionals usually conduct sessions one-to-one so they can tailor training to a person’s specific needs and goals. Some organizations also work with caregivers and guide dogs.
This article examines the goals of O&M training, the skills it teaches, mobility devices, and how to find an orientation and mobility specialist.
O&M training seeks to give individuals with visual impairment confidence and skills to move through their environment safely.
Orientation refers to an individual’s sense of place within their environment. Mobility is the plan to move safely from one place to another. This training is both physical and mental, as it requires using the remaining senses to navigate from place to place.
An orientation and mobility instructor will work closely with the individual to set and achieve specific goals. They work to teach certain skills that allow the person to move safely from place to place.
Using a white cane
It is essential for a person to find the correct type of cane and learn how to hold and feel with it. An instructor can guide a person on the proper techniques of cane use for mobility.
The ability to safely cross intersections and streets is vital to achieving independence. The individual will learn these techniques using their senses, environmental cues, and mobility aids.
Individuals who cannot drive should know how to access alternative transportation methods such as public transport, paratransit, or rideshare services.
A trainer will teach a person with visual impairment to use GPS apps on a smartphone, which can provide auditory guidance on the best route to follow.
Explaining their visual impairment and asking for or receiving help is critical for a person in public situations. A trainer can help create a plan for when these moments arise.
O&M training usually happens as a one-on-one session because trainers tailor it to an individual’s abilities and requirements. The trainer may come to the person’s home and community and hold some sessions in the training organization’s center.
Many training organizations also work with an individual’s caregiver to provide guidance and support. Some also work with guide dogs.
The first step in beginning O&M training is finding a specialist. A few organizations have search functions on their websites that allow for searching by state. They are:
Several options for mobility devices are available for people with vision loss. These include:
- white canes
- Symbol canes show others that an individual has a vision impairment. People do not use these for feeling obstacles or paths.
- Guide canes feel steps and paths.
- Long canes help detect and feel the texture of obstacles in a person’s path.
- support canes
- guide dogs
- smartphone apps, including GPS
Many people with impaired vision also rely on assistance from others.
O&M training provides guidance and support to teach a person with vision impairment to move through their environment safely and confidently.
Orientation refers to a person’s position in relation to their environment. Mobility is the ability to move from place to place. This training combines remaining senses, environmental cues, and planning to help a person create a plan to navigate their home, community, and beyond.
Training may involve mobility devices such as a white cane and smartphone apps. Some organizations also work with guide dogs and caretakers.