Orientation and Mobility

Photo shows a student using a mobility cane and an O&M Specialist exploring a totem

Image shows a logo with a digital map with a marker.Orientation and mobility is the ability to navigate one’s environment safely and efficiently. Orientation and mobility (“O&M” for short) skills involve knowing where one is in the relation to other objects and people in the environment (orientation) and knowing how to navigate to the desired destination using mobility skills and devices (mobility).

Please see below for important information regarding O&M service delivery:

Per Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines (BC Ministry of Education, 2016), Orientation and Mobility (O&M) services are provided by a qualified Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Some O&M Specialists may be certified through the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP).
It is unethical and potentially dangerous for an unqualified professional to provide direct instruction in O&M skills to students with visual impairments. 

Check out the Orientation and Mobility Skills section in #Outreaching - the blog of the PRCVI Outreach Team.


Connections to the BC Curriculum – Core Competencies

The British Columbia K-12 Curriculum emphasizes Critical and Reflective Thinking as a core competency. Critical and reflective thinking includes students “[making] judgments based on reasoning: […] consider options; analyze these using specific criteria, and draw conclusions and make judgments.” The curriculum identifies three facets of critical and reflective thinking:

  • Analyze and critique
  • Question and investigate
  • Develop and design

Orientation and Mobility Skills – Students with Visual Impairments

Students with visual impairments need conceptual understanding, skills, and tools to understand and move through their environment at home, at school, and in the community. Orientation and mobility instruction, provided by a trained orientation and mobility specialist, may encompass concept development, use of mobility devices, techniques for moving safely through the environment, and understanding when and how to seek additional information or assistance. Ultimately, the goals of O&M is to allow a student to travel as independently or interdependently as possible (Fazzi, 2014) Direct instruction in these skills promotes independence and safely.

Examples of Orientation and Mobility Skills

  • Using techniques to move safely through one’s home and school environment independently.
  • Listening to traffic and other cues to determine the type of intersection and the safest time to cross.
  • Learning to ask for assistance and direct a peer or teacher how to provide help appropriately.

Resources to Support Instruction

PRCVI Library Catalogue

American Printing House for the Blind. Tactile Town: 3-D and O&M Graphics Kit. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. [Resource Kit]

American Printing House for the Blind. Picture maker: Wheatley tactile diagramming kit. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. [Resource Kit]

  • Useful for instruction and assessment of positional concepts, single-block orientation, grid-pattern development, building and room familiarization, and to illustrate intersection layouts.

Fazzi, D. L. & Petersmeyer, B. A. (2001). Imagining the possibilities: creative approaches to orientation and mobility instruction for persons who are visually impaired. New York, NY: American Foundation for the Blind. [Professional Text]

Pogrund, R. L. & Griffin-Shirley, N. (2018). Partners in O&M: supporting orientation and mobility for students who are visually impaired. New York, NY: American Foundation for the Blind. [Professional Text]

Zatta, M. C. (2014). Alternate routes: Adapting orientation and mobility techniques. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind. [Professional DVD]

Web-Based Resources

Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (2019). Orientation and Mobility Delivery Guidelines. Halifax, NS: APSEA. 

British Columbia Ministry of Education. Framework for independent Travel: A resource for orientation and mobility instruction. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/kindergarten-to-grade-12/teach/teaching-tools/inclusive/fit.pdf

PRCVI. O&M Sharing Day - Victor Stream and Favourite Resources. Retrieved from https://www.prcvi.org/resources/the-expanded-core-curriculum/orientation-and-mobility/orientation-and-mobility-sharing-days/

PRCVI. Mobility Monday - Remote Leaning and O&M. Retrieved from https://prcvi.org/resources/the-expanded-core-curriculum/orientation-and-mobility/mobility-monday-remote-learning-for-om/

Microsoft Corporation. (2019). Microsoft Soundscape App. Retrieved from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/product/soundscape/

  • Soundscape is a free app from Microsoft that uses 3D audio technology to enhance awareness of what’s around you in the environment. The app can be used to anticipate upcoming intersections, place sound beacons in the environment, and navigate to points of interest.

VisionAware. An introduction to orientation and mobility. New York, NY: American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved from https://www.visionaware.org/info/everyday-living/essential-skills/an-introduction-to-orientation-and-mobility-skills/123

Perkins School for the Blind. O&M and CVI. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind. Retrieved from https://www.perkinselearning.org/earn-credits/self-paced/om-and-cvi-tutorial

Perkins School for the Blind. Wheelchair Orientation & Mobility. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind. Retrieved from https://www.perkinselearning.org/videos/webcast/wheelchair-orientation-mobility

TMAP from the San Francisco Lighthouse. Are you introducing outdoor map reading to your student? TMAP is an online tool that uses map coordinates to automatically generate a tactile map file to be embossed on a graphics-capable embosser (such as a Tiger). Retrieved from 


Fazzi, D. L. (2014). Orientation and Mobility. In Allman, C. B., Lewis, S., & Spungin, S. J. (eds.). ECC essentials: Teaching the expanded core curriculum to students with visual impairments (pp. 248-282. New York, NY: AFB Press.

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