Orientation and Mobility Specialists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Because you will need a college degree and a well-rounded education, take your high school's program of college preparatory classes. These classes should include math and science courses as well as a foreign language. Strong communication skills are needed for this work, so to improve your skills in this area take four years of English. Speech and journalism classes are also beneficial. Courses in history, social studies, sociology, and psychology are also recommended.

A large part of the job is providing information about disability services, so you should be comfortable using the Internet and various computer programs. Not only will you have to be able to work with computers yourself; you may be required to teach clients how to use them, too.

Postsecondary Training

The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (commonly known as AER) provides a listing of approved orientation and mobility programs at the graduate, undergraduate, and certification-only levels. Programs include instruction in mobility techniques, where students simulate blindness or limited vision with blindfolds or other devices. Internships with disability agencies are also incorporated into the programs.

Other specialists prepare themselves for the career by studying social work. The Council on Social Work Education requires that accredited bachelor's degree social work programs meet a series of rigorous standards, which have been developed by both educators and practitioners.

A master's degree or higher is typically the minimum requirement for entry-level positions in this profession. Graduate programs are organized according to fields of practice (e.g., mental health care); problem areas (e.g., substance abuse); population groups (e.g., the elderly); and practice roles (e.g., practice with individuals, families, or communities). They are usually two-year programs with at least 900 hours of field practice. Doctoral degrees are also available for those interested in research, planning, or community outreach jobs.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

All states regulate the practice of occupational therapists, including orientation and mobility specialists. The Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) offers certification for orientation and mobility specialists who meet certain educational and experience requirements. Applicants who meet these certification requirements can use the designation certified orientation and mobility specialist. For complete details, visit https://www.acvrep.org/certifications/coms. The American Occupational Therapy Association offers specialty certification in driving and community mobility, environmental modification, low vision, and other areas. Specific information is available at https://www.aota.org/certification.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Internships, co-ops, and part-time jobs at hospitals or with private agencies that focus on services for those with disabilities will provide useful experience for aspiring orientation and mobility specialists.

For years, people with disabilities have faced discrimination. This discrimination is fueled by fear, by misunderstanding, and by the way people with disabilities are represented in popular culture. Orientation and mobility specialists must be able to honestly address their own perceptions of people with disabilities. Specialists must be sensitive to the client's situation and have a genuine interest in involving that person in the community and workplace.

Because many of the problems facing those with disabilities stem from discrimination, many specialists work to educate the public about living with disabilities through research, reports, and fund-raising. Being comfortable talking to a variety of people and in a variety of settings is an asset for these specialists.

Specialists also work frequently with the elderly, which requires understanding the aging experience. Workers must be patient and be good listeners to provide the elderly with the supportive network they need.

Communication skills are also very important. Much of the work as an orientation and mobility specialist involves talking and listening to clients, teaching, interviewing, and counseling. You will need to provide clear instructions to clients, their families, and their employers.