AER Orientation and Mobility Division: Position Paper
Orientation and Mobility in Naturalistic Environments
Passed unanimously at O&M business meeting July, 2006; Revised 2013
Variations in visually impaired children's abilities and characteristics are related in part to variations in their environmental circumstances (Warren, 1994). A rich physical environment versus a restricted environment and encouragement to engage the environment rather than being protected from it positively affects development.
Assessment and instruction of safe, efficient, purposeful travel for people who are blind or have low vision (O&M) are provided in a wide variety of natural settings. Unlike conventional classroom instruction, O&M assessment and instruction for children and adults with visual impairments must occur in the environments in which the skills will be used (the natural setting). Lessons take place in all areas of the community, at all times of the day and in all kinds of weather, including at night or in dim lighting.
Why teach in a naturalistic environment?
During assessment and instruction, travel in an evolving complex environment must also be considered because:
- Orientation and mobility instruction through the interaction with the natural environment provides many opportunities for problem solving. Opportunities such as an obstacle in a child's path of travel, moving of an object such as a chair that marks their destination, or becoming disoriented requires that the child try to figure a solution. This requires that they engage in a few steps such as realizing what the problem or discrepancy is and coming up with a solution such as walking around the object or searching for the chair.
- Teaching and assessing O&M skills in isolation or simulated settings risks the propagation of abstract, academic knowledge. Safe, effective use of skills, and the confidence to use them, can come only from instruction and practice in the real world.
- Assessment and instruction in natural settings will allow students to become active participants in their environment instead of only passively receiving stimulation from others. When control can be exerted over the environment, the student is less likely to develop "learned helplessness".
The Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP) certifies O&M specialists. The Scope of Practice for an ACVREP Certified O&M Specialist (COMS) includes but is not limited to the assessment of and instruction in the following skills and concepts (http://www.acvrep.org, 2013), all of which can be efficiently assessed and taught only in natural settings:
- Over the years the environment has become more difficult for navigation. Signalized intersections have gone from timed cycles to actuated and semi actuated control that is based on traffic volume. This has made travel more challenging for the individual with vision loss. In addition, the advent of hybrid vehicles that are quieter than the standard internal combustion engine automobile has made it more difficult to detect the approach of cars as early as desired.
- Although O&M specialists and students have less control over the selection or modification of the environmental features found in the local community than they do in home or school environments, they are able to apply and practice integrated visual and orientation skills in real travel environments.
Gense, J.D., & Gense, M. (2004). The Importance of Orientation and Mobility Skills
for Students Who are deaf-Blind, DBLINK, Monmouth.
- Concept development, which includes body image, spatial, temporal, positional, directional, and environmental concepts.
- Motor development, including motor skills needed for balance, posture, and gait, as well as the use of adaptive devices and techniques to assist those with multiple disabilities.
- Sensory development, which includes visual, auditory, vestibular, kinesthetic, tactile, olfactory, and proprioceptive senses, and the interrelationships of these systems.
- Residual vision stimulation and training.
- Human guide technique.
- Upper and lower protective techniques.
- Locating dropped objects.
- Cane techniques.
- Soliciting/declining assistance.
- Following directions.
- Utilizing landmarks.
- Search patterns.
- Compass directions.
- Route planning.
- Analysis and identification of intersections and traffic patterns.
- The use of traffic control devices.
- Techniques for crossing streets.
- Techniques for travel in indoor environments, outdoor residential, small and large business districts, mall travel, and rural areas.
- Problem solving.
- The use of public transportation.
- Evaluation with sun filters for the reduction of glare.
- Instructional use of low vision devices
Wiener, W. R., & Sifferman, E. (2010). The History and Progression of the Profession of
Orientation and Mobility. In B. B. Blasch, W. R. Wiener & R. L. Welsh (Eds.), Foundations of Orientation and Mobility, third edition. New York: AFB Press.
Corn, A. L., & Erin, J. N. (2010). Orientation and Mobility Services for Children and Youths with Low Vision. In A.L. Corn & J. N. Erin (Eds.), Foundations of Low Vision, second edition. New York: AFB Press.
Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (2013) Scope of Practice for Orientation and Mobility Specialists. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from http://www.acvrep.org
(2010, February 23). Environmental Checklist for Developing Independence. Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from
Pogrund, R., Sewell, D., Anderson, H., Calaci, L., Cowart, M. F., Gonzalez, C. M…, Roberson-Smith, B. (2012) Teaching Age- Appropriate Purposeful Skills: an orientation & mobility curriculum for students with visual impairments. 3rd edition. Austin, Texas