Welcome to AER Orientation and Mobility!

AER Orientation and Mobility Division: Position Paper

Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Roles, Responsibilities, and Qualifications

Approved by O&M Division membership through mail ballot Spring 2004
(Approval percentage:  99%)

This paper sets out to briefly summarize the roles and responsibilities of orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists that are unique among the professionals who provide services to children, adults, and older persons who are blind or visually impaired.  The complete listing of the competencies required of O&M specialists is available from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) and can be obtained by requesting the document entitled, the Academic and Clinical Competencies for O&M Specialists.  A full description of the roles and responsibilities of professionals who provide O&M services, also available from ACVREP as well as
the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), is set forth in the document, A Professional Standard for the Practice of Orientation and Mobility.

Role and responsibilities:  The ultimate goal of O&M service is for people who are blind or visually impaired to acquire the skills needed to move about their daily environments safely, as independently as possible, and with purpose.  To do this, O&M specialists provide children and adults who are blind or visually impaired with the skills needed to establish and maintain orientation within an environment and move through it safely and efficiently.  In addition to developing skills and techniques for safe and purposeful movement, the O&M specialist provides the services necessary to use these skills for carrying out activities in the environments that people use daily, including home, school, work, and community settings.

This is accomplished by interventions that develop skills and techniques to:

  • gain information about the environment, and their movement through it, with their remaining senses including kinesthetic, proprioceptive, auditory (including localizing, echolocation, and use of sound shadows), visual, tactile, haptic, vestibular and olfactory senses;
  • reliably negotiate obstacles, drop-offs and other hazards in the path of travel through the correct use of the human guide technique, indoor and outdoor self protective techniques, cane techniques, and effective use of visual, auditory, and other sensory information.
  • establish orientation to an environment, plan movement through the environment to reach desired destinations, and maintain orientation while moving through environments. 
  • understand concepts of the body and its position, movements and direction, and of the environment, including the relationships between objects and within spatial systems (particularly for those whose visually impairment is congenital);
  • problem-solve, reorient when lost, procure assistance, and deal with the public;
  • negotiate complex indoor and outdoor environments that include streets and intersections, commercial retail settings, and public transit vehicles and facilities.

Essential responsibilities unique to the O&M specialist include:

  • assessing present and future travel needs, current orientation and travel abilities, and goals;
  • assessing environments for travel demands;
  • developing goals and objectives for O&M service;
  • providing intervention and experiences for independent movement in daily environments at home, school, work, and in the community, including, as appropriate, mass transportation.

Academic knowledge and competencies required to provide orientation and mobility services:

  • Medical aspects of visual impairments and their effects on visual functioning;
  • Sensory motor functioning including the development, use, and assessment of sensory systems and motor skills for using indoor and outdoor O&M skills and techniques in a range of environments;
  • Psycho-social aspects of blindness and visual impairments, including adjustment processes which may accompany visual impairment and concomitant disabilities;
  • Human growth and development over the lifespan, including how they are affected by visual impairments, and interventions that can facilitate growth and development of visually impaired children and adults in relation to their movement and orientation;
  • Concept development of people who are visually impaired;
  • Multiple disabilities of visually impaired children and adults and implications for orientation and mobility;
  • Systems of orientation and mobility including the long cane and adapted canes and mobility devices, electronic travel aids, dog guides, and optical and non-optical devices as well as the use of ambulatory aids by people who are visually impaired;
  • Orientation and mobility skills and techniques including human guide; protective and orientation techniques; techniques for using canes and adaptive devices; use of landmarks, clues and cues, and search patterns; soliciting and declining assistance; analysis of intersections and traffic patterns; street-crossing techniques; and use of public transportation;
  • Instructional methods, strategies and assessment of orientation and mobility;
  • Philosophy of orientation and mobility including code of ethics, certification standards, and empowerment and advocacy issues;
  • Professional information, including sources of current literature, research, resources and professional organizations, and environmental accessibility standards;
  • Development, administration and supervision of O&M programs.

Clinical practice competencies required to provide orientation and mobility service:

The clinical O&M competencies address the skills that O&M specialists are required to demonstrate for the development of the O&M skills and techniques.  The clinical competencies that are unique to the practice of O&M fall into the following categories:

  • evaluate and maximize the use of functional vision in travel environments;
  • evaluate and maximize the use of auditory, kinesthetic, tactual, and other sensory information;
  • modify or adapt instruction in situations that affect O&M lessons such as adverse weather, noise, emotional upset, fatigue, etc.;
  • maintain an appropriate distance between student and O&M specialist to provide for effective instruction and safety, and provide discretion in the timing of interventions according to students need for support and opportunities to achieve independence;
  • teach sidewalk travel including negotiating driveways, and corner detection and negotiation.





Business Technology Source