Have you been thinking about a career change? Are you interested in teaching, but want a non-traditional setting and job assignment?
Do you have an interest in working with children with visual impairments (VI)?
Have you considered being a teacher of students with visual impairments or an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist, but don’t know how to get certified or get training?
Are you an independent worker who is active in teams, a good problem-solver, and eternally curious?
Then a career working with students with visual impairments might be for YOU!
What is in this packet?
Beginning your career as a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) or O&M specialist through a university program has at least two steps: being accepted in a participating university and being accepted by the certification program. This packet has the following information you need to begin this process:
Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialists Training in Texas (this document),
teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI),
certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS).
To learn more about these professions, please read Typical Roles and Responsibilities of VI Professionals, which is the white document included in this packet.
What are the training prerequisites?
You may seek certification as either a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) or an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist. Each is a separate profession with separate professional standards. The prerequisites will vary depending on the training option you choose:
Teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI)
Teaching certificate, preferably in special education, elementary, or secondary education, and
Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
Orientation and mobility Specialist (COMS)
Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
What will I be studying?
The specific program of study will depend on the training option (VI or O&M) and on other additional factors. Below is a basic listing of course topics. Exact course titles will vary by university and training option.
Common Courses (for all VI professionals)
All students will take the following courses:
Foundations in Visual Impairments
Structure and Function of the Visual System (Anatomy)
Methods for Students with Multiple Impairments
Basic Orientation and Mobility
Teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI)
In addition to the common courses, the VI certificate program includes:
Academic Methods, and
If you are not certified in special education or have not taken an overview course in special education, you must also complete a survey of exceptionalities course to become a Teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI). You will need to coordinate your specific needs with your university advisor.
In addition to the common courses, the O&M program of study requires additional coursework. SFA and TTU address the same competencies; however they arrange their courses a bit differently.
If you already hold a VI certificate and were trained at a university and have already taken the common courses, you will not need to take them again. Most districts do not require O&M specialists to hold an educational certificate.
How much will the program cost? Is financial assistance available?
Both SFA and TTU have funds to assist with the cost of tuition. Each university distributes funds according to university program guidelines. The specific method used and amount of stipends vary by university. This is a competitive process. You should discuss it with the faculty advisors at the university of your choice. You will be responsible for ordering and paying for your books.
TTU students will be required to travel to Lubbock and Austin as part of some courses. Students are responsible for these required travel costs.
You will be responsible for paying for, and ordering your books. However, some ESCs have either books to loan or funds to help defray the cost of the books. Contact your regional education service center for more information.
How are courses offered?
Courses are offered through a blend of distance learning strategies, such as via the internet, interactive television (ITV), interactive (audio only) internet, and face-to-face activities. The exact blend will depend on your location, the university and the specific course. For more information, you should contact the universities listed on the first and last pages of this newsletter.
One face-to-face course is offered by Texas Tech University each semester during the academic year. This course meets every other Saturday at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin. For this schedule, please check with the faculty at TTU.
Should I contact my regional education service center?
Each regional service center has at least one VI contact. You are strongly encouraged to contact the VI consultant at your regional service center (ESC) for various reasons.
The VI person or team will be a source of support and resources for you in the future. Why not start the relationship early?
If you take courses that have an ITV component, you must make sure that your region is participating.
Most VI programs at your regional service centers have resources that may be helpful. These may include reference materials, journals and specialized equipment.
VI programs sponsor workshops at the service center. They also help support professional development for VI professionals in their region. “Support” may include travel assistance to attend statewide conferences.
Someone at the ESC may be your mentor. Start the relationship on a positive, pro-active note by letting them know about you.
Of course, you must have an interest in and a commitment to working with children with visual impairments. Most VI professionals work as itinerant professionals. Therefore, as teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) or an O&M specialist you must be prepared for on-the-job travel.
In addition, you must realize that this is an intense program. The instructional content is exactly the same as traditional courses on campus. While the length of instruction is the same, ITV courses will have fewer meetings (but for more hours each time). Internet courses also require a substantial time commitment.
How do I apply?
Each university has specific requirements and procedures. You must contact the faculty at the university or visit their web site for information. You can find more information at the following sites:
Note: SFA only accepts students into the VI program in the spring of each year. New students take all of their courses as a group, starting in the summer of 2013 and are referred to as a “cohort”. The deadline for application to the 2013-14 cohort is March 18, 2013, the third Monday in March.
Go to http://www.depts.ttu.edu/gradschool/ and click the “Apply Now” link. Follow the instructions to apply to the Graduate School. There is a $60 application fee, and it can be completed online. You do not need GRE scores if you are only applying for a certification program (and not a Master’s Degree).
If only seeking a certification, under “Select Your Major” choose “Teaching Certificate in College of Education. even if you already have your teacher’s certification. Under “Major Area of Interest” you can write in “Visual Impairment” or “Orientation & Mobility”.
If you are planning on getting both a Master’s Degree in Special Education and a certification in visual impairment or orientation and mobility, choose the Degree option rather than the Teaching Certificate option, and you will then go back and add on the certification program once you are officially accepted into the Master’s Degree Program through a Change of Program Objective form.
You will need to have all of your official college transcripts sent in to the Graduate School. You can check your admission status online. For assistance, the Graduate School Admissions phone number is 806-742-2787. If you are having application problems, please call Pam Smith at 806-834-2969 or Anita Page at 806-834-1515 in the College of Education for help.
Once you have been accepted into the Graduate School, you can apply to the College of Education. Go to https://appserv.itts.ttu.edu/EAMT/Pages/TEPApplicant/Apply.aspx which is the Tech Teach- Educator Preparation Program application and sign in using the eraider name and password that you should have gotten after applying to the Graduate School. Click on "Supplemental" and choose Visual Impairment or Orientation and Mobility, as appropriate. If you are a Master’s student, you will first need to do your Change of Program Objective form to add on visual impairment or orientation and mobility before you can complete this step.
Go to: http://cms.educ.ttu.edu/research/sowell/students/cert-application. The application for a stipend award needs to be printed out and faxed to 806-742-2326 or mailed to the Sowell Center address at the bottom of the page. Deadline for consideration for a scholarship award for fall is June 1, for spring in November 1, and for summer is May 1.
If you also want to apply to the MASTER’S DEGREE PROGRAM in Special Education, you will need to complete an additional application at http://educgo.educ.ttu.edu/applications/gradapp/candidate/apply/selectdegree. Go to: http://www.educ.ttu.edu/uploadedFiles/academic-programs/psychology-and-leadership/special-education/documents/SpEdMasterHndbk.pdf for information about the Master’s Program. You will need to submit your GRE scores within the last five years to be considered for this program. You will need to make sure your status in the Graduate School is for a Master’s Degree Program (and not just for Certification).
Note: Both universities require official transcripts from all previous universities you attended. You should order an official copy of your university transcript(s) to be sent directly to the university as soon as possible – even if you have not completed your university or program application. Sometimes it takes time to have your request processed and sent. Don’t let this hold up your application.
Can I get a master’s degree?
Getting a master’s degree is an important and admirable goal. It should be considered fully. Both Stephen F. Austin and Texas Tech universities offer master’s degrees in education (M.Ed.).
The courses described here will contribute to certification as a VI professional; either as a Teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) or an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist. The courses will not provide all of the requirements for a master’s degree in either of those areas, but those at the graduate level can apply towards a master’s degree.
If you are considering a master’s degree, even if you are not sure, you should talk to the advisor at the university of your choise as soon as possible. This information may affect how you complete the application procedures.
Please note the grant provides support for certification courses. Students seeking a master’s degree will need to self-pay or seek funding elsewhere.
What are the acceptance criteria?
The goal of this program is to train and employ VI professionals to work with students with visual impairments. Therefore, in order to be accepted, you will have to make a commitment to work with children with visual impairments.
Each university has specific acceptance criteria and procedures. These are also affected by whether you want certification-only, or want a master’s degree. Also, each university has timelines for submitting documentation. You must contact the university of your choice for requirements and timeline information. Contact information is on the first and last pages of this newsletter.
Can I get an emergency or probationary certification?
Teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI):
It is possible to get a probationary certificate. TTU and SFA have a VI probationary certification program that requires the completion of two specified courses and enrollment in a third before applying for the probationary certification as a TVI. This program allows individuals to serve as a TVI in their district with the agreement that they will then complete the remainder of the courses required for full certification as a TVI.
Contact SFA or TTU for information about their probationary certificate program.
There are no probationary or emergency certifications available for O&M specialists.
How will the didactic portions of the courses be taught?
The courses are a blend of didactic (or lecture-type information) and skill-based learning. The didactic portion will be taught through a blend of the following methods: Internet, ITV and face-to-face meetings. More information about the skill-based training follows:
ITV (interactive television) sessions will require you to travel to a participating ESC for summer classes only. These classes are usually held on Monday and Wednesday from 4:30 to 7:30 PM. ONLY SFA uses the ITV system. You should contact your service center prior to sending your application to SFA. For the ITV portion of the instruction, you will sit in a room with other students and participate in discussions via an interactive audio-visual device that looks like a TV. You will be able to speak directly to the instructor and students at other sites.
The Internet is used throughout the programs; either for all of a course or some part of all courses. The instructor will be available via phone, discussion and/or email, and correspondence.
You will be able to participate in the Internet-based courses and activities at your convenience. Specific deadlines will be set for each module or unit. You must meet the deadlines; this isn’t an independent study course. It will be very important for you to develop and stick to a schedule.
SFA also uses an interactive program, Collaborate, as part of their internet instruction. It will be used to provide instruction during the fall and spring semesters. SFA typically only uses the interactive audio portion of Collaborate as most people do not have enough band width to use the video portion of the program. These classes are held in the evenings, usually for two hour sessions every other week. SFA has no internet-only classes.
TTU offers 1 course each semester during the year on Saturdays at TSBVI. Additionally, TTU requires skill-based instruction at Texas Tech in Lubbock or Austin for specific modules in some of the courses.
How will the skill-based portions of the training be taught?
Several courses have skill-based components that are taught face-to-face.
During Basic O&M students will meet with a facilitator for approximately 20 hours of instruction. Scheduling will vary by university. The skill-based training will be conducted at a university or an outreach site.
O&M specialists take a total of 6 credit hours of instruction on how to use the cane while under blindfold. SFA offers a single 6-hour course, and TTU offers two separate 3-credit courses. Both are taken in a single summer.
The cane courses must be conducted on a face-to-face basis. These courses will be offered at the TTU and SFA campuses. Pending availability of funds, students who attend these courses on-campus may be provided with a stipend to cover some of their tuition and assistance for housing and/or travel.
Anatomy of the Eye
At TTU, the eye course requires a weekend in Lubbock for hands-on and interactive training such as dissecting a cow’s eye, learning how to do a functional vision evaluation and a learning media assessment, using optical devices, etc.
At TTU, the academic methods course for teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) requires a weekend in Austin for the Assistive Technology component of the course which includes hands-on learning about the latest technological advances used with students with visual impairments.
Practicum or Internship
The VI and O&M training options both require field experiences, known as either a practicum or internship. These will be arranged on an individual basis. When possible, the practicum/internship will be in the local area. However, each practicum/internship experience must meet certain basic requirements. As a result, it may be necessary to travel from your existing job location for a portion or all of the practicum/internship. It is possible that O&M specialists will need to go out of Texas.
In O&M, the field experiences (internship and practicum) are completed under the supervision of an Academy (ACVREP) certified O&M specialist who meets the criteria for internship supervisors and who has been selected by the university to do so. Internship involves providing orientation and mobility services on a full-time basis. This important experience usually happens away from your home community. Faculty will make all arrangements.
Teachers of students with visual impairments (TVI) complete a practicum/internship, which will be supervised by an experienced TVI who has been designated by the university to do so. During that period you will need to work as a TVI, completing a series of professional experiences. It is possible that you will need to travel beyond your district for a limited period of time in order to complete those experiences.
Does it make a difference which university I attend?
NO. Both university programs address the same set of professional competencies, respond to the same set of accountability measures, and offer training which will enable you to be certified as either a Teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) or an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist.
There are differences. You must evaluate both programs and determine which best meets your needs. Stephen F. Austin only admits new students in the summer semesters. This block of students, known as a cohort, take classes together via the Internet and ITV systems. Texas Tech University accepts new students year round and offers courses predominately via the Internet.
IMPORTANT additional information is available from both universities. You should contact both universities to determine which is best for your situation. You can find information on their websites. The addresses are:
If you are interested in getting a master’s degree as a TVI and/or an O&M specialist, you must discuss this with the faculty at SFA and TTU. Each university has different requirements. You will be able to complete all of your coursework via on-line courses.
In order to help you make that decision, you should contact each university to discuss its application and acceptance policies. It will not be necessary to declare whether or not you are seeking a degree during the first semester; however, you should be actively exploring this possibility as soon as possible.
I heard braille is hard. Is it?
Braille is a new code to most pre-service professionals. As such, it can be a challenge. Learning braille is like learning a new code; not another language, but a new system for English. The key to mastering braille is the necessity for daily practice, every day, even on weekends. Sighted VI professionals learn braille visually, not tactually as a student with a visual impairment does.
All teachers of students with visual impairments must learn braille in order to be fully certified and to have access to a probationary certificate. You will be required to take a Braille TExES exam. You will be able to take the Braille TExES exam shortly following the completion of the braille course.
Like all of the courses in the sequence, the braille course is extremely rigorous in any situation, and even more so when taught in a condensed fashion, such as during a Summer Session.
If you are considering taking the braille course over the summer, the course will be condensed. If you will not have several hours to devote to braille each day (including weekends), you are advised to wait until the course is offered during the long semester. If you take it from SFA over the ITV during the summer, plan on traveling to the ESC two times a week.
What are the deadlines for enrollment?
Remember, there are at least TWO steps you must complete:
Applying and being accepted by the university,
Being accepted into the College of Education Post Bac Certification Program at TTU.
Being accepted to the Reach Across Texas Program at TTU or Project Vision as SFA, if you are interested in applying for a competitive stipend award.
These are separate procedures. You MUST complete all of the steps according to the chosen university’s procedures. To learn more about the steps for enrolling in the university, visit the websites for the VI programs at SFA and TTU.
Texas Tech University (TTU)
Texas Tech accepts students throughout the year, although the majority of TTU students begin the program in the fall semester. You must apply to the university and to Reach Across Texas no later than May 1, 2013 for the Summer semester or June 1, 2013 for the Fall semester. There are a limited number of scholarship awards for the spring and summer, since most of the awards are made in the fall. You can begin the program in the spring or summer but will most likely need to find your own resources for tuition and fees. Many students start the TVI program in the summer, taking braille and the foundation course and register for the eye course in the fall so that they can start a job as a TVI in the fall with a probationary certification. Once accepted, you must register for the designated courses. For more information visit: http://www.educ.ttu.edu/research/sowell/default (NOTE: if you have trouble with the website, please contact Robin Rekieta at 806-742-1997 x251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. TTU is revising all their websites.)
Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA)
At SFA VI professionals take their courses as a group, or cohort. This means that everyone starts together and takes their classes together. The cohort is accepted in the spring of 2013 and start courses the first summer session. You must apply no later than March 18, 2013 the third Monday in March.
SFA – Deadline for admission to the 2013 VI & O&M Cohorts: March 18, 2013
TTU – Deadline for admission for SUMMER 2013 – May 1, 2013
TTU – Deadline for admission for FALL 2013 – June 1, 2013
Will I need to get my transcripts?
Yes. You will need to arrange for a copy of your official transcripts to be sent to the university of your choice. The holder of your transcripts (all previously attended universities) will send them directly to SFA or TTU. Since it may take time for your request to be processed, you are strongly advised to start this process as soon as possible. Do not wait! You might miss a deadline!
Will I have a mentor?
We are committed to the mentor program. All participants will be paired with a trained, experienced professional. Mentors are assigned either when you have a caseload or after your first year of taking courses, whichever comes first. To the degree possible, the mentor will be from your home region.
Together you will complete a series of experiences designed to further enhance your learning and your understanding of children with visual impairments. Your mentor will also be available for questions and concerns.
This is a non-evaluative mentor program. This means that your mentor will not be called upon to provide an evaluation of your skills, either by the university or your district. This is a person to whom you can turn when you have questions and/or concerns about content or skills.
When will courses be offered?
Texas Tech University
Stephen F Austin
Cane I & II (TTU campus in Lubbock)
Braille (6 weeks) (Internet)
O&M Internship (off campus; sites vary)
Basic O&M (internet + on-campus weekend)
O&M Internship (Off campus; sites vary)
Eye Anatomy (Internet + on-campus weekend)
Foundations (internet or face-to-face on weekendes at TSBVI in Austin)
Basic O&M (Internet + on-campus weekend)
Multiple Disabilities Methods (internet)
Visual and Multiple Impairments Methods (Internet)
Intermediate O&M Seminar (Internet)
O&M Internship (Off campus; sites vary)
VI Internship (Off campus; sites vary)
Basic O&M (face-to-face on weekends at TSBVI in Austin )
Academic Methods (Internet + weekend in Austin or face-to-face on weekendes at TSBVI in Austin)
Foundations (face-to-face on weekends at TSBVI in Austin)
Eye Anatomy (Internet + on-campus weekend)
Advanced O&M Seminar (Internet)
VI Internship (Off campus; sites vary)
O&M Internship (Off campus; sites vary)
Clinical Practicum in O&M (6 hours)
Advanced Clinical Practicum in O&M (3 to 6 hours)
Methods in visual and multiple impairments
Intermediate Practicum in O&M (3 hours)
Practicum in VI
Practicum in O&M (3 to 6 hours)
Advanced Clinical Practicum in O&M (3 hours)
Let’s review your action steps
Read the enclosed Typical Roles and Responsibilities of VI Professionals (white).
Determine which university program fits best with your lifestyle and learning style, and other factors. Contact each university for more information.
Send for an OFFICIAL copy of your transcript(s). You may choose to have the transcripts sent directly to the university.
Applyto the university of your choice. You will find links so that you can apply online at:
Talk to your advisor at the university. This is likely to be one of the university faculty listed below.
Register for the first course. TTU students: Your advisor will help you to understand what course and the procedures for completing this step on-line. SFA students: Do not register, until you receive an e-mail telling you which class, section and CRN # to use in registration.
Complete all of the scheduled activities.
How can I get more information?
If you want more information, or have a special circumstance, please do not hesitate to contact: