Become an Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Orientation and Mobility (O&M) represents the skills, knowledge, and tools that students with visual impairments will need to travel safely, efficiently, and gracefully at home, school, and in the community.
O&M is one of the areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with visual impairments and is taught by qualified O&M Specialists.
Orientation and Mobility in K-12
According to Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines, O&M is an essential part of the curriculum for students with visual impairments (BC Ministry of Education, 2016). O&M services are provided by qualified O&M Specialists working as school/district staff or on contract. According to the policy manual, the O&M Specialist:
- meets standards established by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP);
- has a Master's degree in orientation and mobility; or
- has completed post-graduate studies in orientation and mobility which include:
- at least 300 hours of supervised practice in orientation and mobility working with individuals with a variety of visual impairments (p. 77).
Under this policy, both qualified and certified O&M Specialists are able to practice in the K-12 education sector in British Columbia:
A Qualified O&M Specialist has successfully completed a post-graduate program of study in Orientation and Mobility.
A Certified O&M Specialist (or COMS) is a qualified O&M Specialist that has applied for certification with ACVREP, passed a knowledge exam and maintains their certification through continuing education, service, and professional practice. Please see the ACVREP Directory of Certificants for a list of COMS currently registered in British Columbia.
The Division on Visual Impairment and Deafblindess of the Council for Exceptional Children has a position paper outlining the role and responsibilities of the O&M Specialist.
One of the only English-language O&M training programs in Canada is located in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. This certificate program prepares students to qualify for ACVREP certification and to work with individuals across the lifespan (including in the K-12 sector) by providing direct O&M services to students.
Timeline to completion will vary based on the number of prerequisite requirements that the student fulfills at the time of application. Certificate program coursework is offered on-campus over two consecutive summers with online courses taken during the intervening school year.
Applicants that have previously completed graduate training to become a qualified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (or those in the process) may already have the prerequisite courses whereas an applicant with little or no previous coursework in visual impairment will need to complete prerequisite courses before being admitted to the O&M certification program.
Stay tuned for updated information on the next cohort.