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Information on how to become certified in visual impairments or orientation and mobility.

January, 2016

What is VI Preparation in Texas?

Certification to work with students with visual impairments is available, regardless of where you live in Texas.  Training is provided through Texas Tech University and Stephen F. Austin State University.

For more information about VI and O&M Preparation in Texas, you can contact:

General information:

Mary Shore, COMS
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1100 W. 45th St.
Austin, TX 78756
Phone: 512-206-9156


How Do I become a VI Professional

Stephen F. Austin State University:

Michael Munro
Stephen F. Austin State University        
Tracy Hallak (O&M)
Stephen F. Austin State University 


Stephen F. Austin Vision Program

Texas Tech University:
Rona Pogrund, Ph.D. (VI)
Texas Tech University
(806) 252-8026
(512) 206-9213 (TSBVI)
*On Sabbatical Spring 2016
Nora Griffin-Shirley, Ph.D. (O&M)
Texas Tech University
*Contact for all TTU programs in Spring 2016


 Texas Tech Vision Program

Who should read this?

  • 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 includes the following information you need to begin this process:

  1. Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialists Training in Texas (this document),
  2. Typical Roles and Responsibilities of VI Professionals.  Read this prior to submitting the university application.

What are my career or training options?

As a VI professional you have two options:

  • 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.

Is coursework available in the area of deafblindness?

Texas Tech University offers a Dual Sensory Impairment Graduate Certificate. The coursework is available as a stand-alone certificate or an area of emphasis with the Master of Education in Special Education. For additional information go to: Texas Tech Dual Sensory Impairment Certificate. Funding assistance may be available for tuition and fees. Contact Lottie Tomko for more information: .

What are the training prerequisites for a TVI and a COMS?

You may seek certification as either a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) or an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist.  Although a VI professional may choose to become dually certified as both a TVI and an 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,
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university

Information on how to obtain a Texas Teaching Certificate.

Orientation and mobility specialist (COMS)

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.  SFASU also offers an undergraduate degree in O&M.

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:
    • Braille
    • Academic Methods, and
    • Internship/Practicum.

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. 

O&M Specialist

In addition to the common courses, the O&M program of study requires additional coursework.  SFASU and TTU address the same competencies; however they arrange their courses a bit differently.


  • O&M Seminars (6 credit hours)

  • ‘Blindfold’ or ‘Cane’ (6 credit hours)

  • O&M Internship (3 credit hours, 350 supervised hours)


  • ‘Blindfold’ or ‘Cane’ (two 3 credit hour courses)

  • Beginning Internship (3 credit hours)

  • Intermediate Internship (3 credit hours)

  • Advanced internship (6 credits, 350 supervised hours)

If you already hold a VI certificate and were trained at a university, have already taken the common courses, and have worked in the field since you competed your training, 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 SFASU 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.

SFASU O&M candidates will be required to come to campus for 6 weeks of training in the summer. Room and board is provided during that time on campus. 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 (ESC)?

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 at your ESC 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 (SFASU summer courses), you must make sure that your region is participating.
  • VI programs at your regional service centers have resources that may be helpful.  These may include reference materials, journals and specialized equipment.  Some ESCs provide assistance with textbooks.
  • 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.
  • ESC personnel tend to know about TVI and O&M positions open in their region.

If you would like to find out more about regional VI services, the VI staff or other information, go to the TSBVI website and click on your region.  See a map and a link to the list of VI professionals at the regions .

Who should apply?

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 and interactive 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:


    1. Use the Texas Common Application found at . There is a $50 application fee.
    1. SFASU accepts students into the VI program in the spring of each year to be eligible for grant awards. New students typically take all of their courses as a group, starting in the summer of 2016 and are referred to as a “cohort”. The deadline for application to the 2016-17 cohort is March 16, 2016, the third Monday in March. Students who want to join the program at other times will be considered but may not be eligible for grant monies.  For more information on the TVI/O&M program and how to apply for the competitive grant funding visit


    1. Go to TTU Graduate School 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 for certification or Master's Programs any longer.
    2. If 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” write in “Visual Impairment” or “Orientation & Mobility”.
    3. 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 Ashley Penner at 806-834-7568 or Anita Page at 806-834-1515 in the College of Education for help.
    1. You need to go to Masters of Education in Special Education and complete an additional application.
    1. Download the application. The application for a competitive stipend award for tuition assistance for certification courses only needs to be printed out and faxed to 806-742-2326 or mailed to the Sowell Center address at the bottom of the page of the application.  

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 choice 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 in Texas.   

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 permit?

Teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI):

It is possible to get an emergency permit to work as a TVI. In order to serve as a TVI in a district before completing the TVI program, a district can apply to TEA for an emergency permit for an individual with the agreement that he or she will then complete the remainder of the courses required for full certification as a TVI. To be eligible for the emergency permit in order to teach students with visual impairments, you must be currently certified in elementary, secondary, or special education and have satisfied the following requirements: (a) completed six semester credit hours directly related to teaching students with visual impairments and (b) have one creditable year of classroom teaching experience. In addition, you must have demonstrated competency in literary braille and basic Nemeth Code by passing the TExES Braille exam, holding certification as a literary Braille transcriber by the Library of Congress, or completing one university course in braille. The University Program will provide the hiring district a Deficiency Plan noting the remaining courses needed by the person being hired. Both the Braille and VI TExES exams must also be passed before becoming fully certified.

Contact SFASU or TTU for information about how to obtain a VI Emergency Permit.
There are no emergency permits available for O&M specialists.

How will the lecture portions of the courses be taught?

The courses are a blend of lecture and skill-based learning.  The lecture 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 your first two summer classes only. ONLY SFASU uses the ITV system for their TVI summer courses (not needed for O&M coursework). You should contact your service center prior to sending your application to SFASU.  For the ITV portion of the instruction, you will sit in a room with other students in your cohort 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.  After the summer, the other courses will be delivered over the internet.


The Internet is used throughout the programs; either for part or 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 is not an independent study course.  It will be very important for you to develop and stick to a schedule. 

SFASU 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.  SFASU 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.  SFASU has no internet-only classes


TTU offers 1 course each semester during the year on 7 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.

Basic O&M

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.

Cane Courses

O&M specialists take a total of 6 credit hours of instruction on how to use the cane while under blindfold.  Both SFASU and TTU offer 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 SFASU campuses.  Pending availability of funds, students who attend these courses on-campus may be provided with a stipend to cover some or all of their tuition, housing and/or assistance for 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.

Academic Methods

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.  Typically, 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 their area or even Texas.

               O&M internship

In O&M, the field experiences (internship and practicum) are completed under the supervision of an Academy for the Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (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.

               VI practicum/internship

Teachers of students with visual impairments (TVI) complete a practicum/internship.  It will be supervised by university faculty or an by an university designee.  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. For those students already working as a TVI with an emergency permit, their internship can be done with their existing caseload of students.

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 State University admits new students in the summer semesters. Other students may be admitted on a case-by-case basis.  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:


TTU:  (NOTE: if you have trouble with the website, please contact Rita Smith at 806-834-2593 or . TVI specific info: and O&M Specific info:

Master’s degree students

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 SFASU and TTU.  Each university has different requirements.  You will be able to complete the extra coursework required for the Masters via on-line courses.

In order to help you make that decision, you should contact each university to discuss its application and acceptance policies.  If possible it is preferred that you declare whether or not you are seeking a degree during the first semester.

Do I learn braille?

All teachers of students with visual impairments must learn braille in order to be fully certified and to have access to an emergency permit.  You will be required to take the TExES Braille exam.  You must take and pass the TExES Braille exam prior to being certified.  The Braille TExES exam is offered two times a year, and you will be able to take the exam following the completion of the course.

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.

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 SFASU 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 to the Reach Across Texas Program at TTU or Project Vision as SFASU, 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 SFASU 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, 2016 for the Summer semester, June 1, 2016 for the Fall semester or November 1, 2016 for the Spring 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 may need to find some of your own resources for tuition and fees. Many students start the TVI program in the summer, taking braille and the foundation course so that they can start a job as a TVI in the fall with an emergency permit. Once accepted, you must register for the designated courses.   For more information visit: (NOTE: if you have trouble with the website, please contact Rita Smith at 806-834-2593)

Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU)

At SFASU 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 2016 and start courses the first summer session.  You must apply no later than March 21, 2016 the third Monday in March. Once you have applied to the SFASU graduate school, you can then apply for acceptance and funding.

For more information visit:        



  • SFASU – Deadline for admission to the 2016 VI & O&M Cohorts:  March 21, 2016
  • TTU – Deadline for admission for SUMMER 2016 – MAY 1, 2016
  • TTU – Deadline for admission for FALL 2016 – JUNE 1, 2016
  • TTU – Deadline for admission for SPRING 2017 –November 1, 2016

Will I need to get my transcripts?

Yes. You will need to arrange for an official copy of all of your transcripts to be sent to the Graduate School at the university of your choice.   The holder of your transcripts (all previously attended universities) will send them directly to SFASU or TTU.  Since it may take time for your request to be processed, you are strongly advised to start this process as soon as possibleDo not wait!  You might miss a deadline! 

Will I have a mentor?

In Texas, all participants are paired with a trained, experienced professional.  Mentors are assigned when you have a caseload either when you start working as a TVI or COMS or during the internship phase of your program.  Any TVI working on an emergency permit is assigned a mentor right away. To the degree possible, the mentor will be from your home region. 

All participants in either the TTU or SFASU VI programs are invited to attend a Mentor Center (free of charge) during their training (and up to a year after completion) at TSBVI where you are able to observe TVIs and COMS working with students at TSBVI and in the local school district.

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 State University

Summer I

  • Cane I & II (TTU campus in Lubbock)
  • Braille (6 weeks) (Internet)
  • Basic O&M (internet + on-campus weekend)
  • O&M Internship (off campus; sites vary)

Summer II

  • Foundations (internet)
  • O&M Internship (Off campus; sites vary)


  • Eye Anatomy (Internet + on-campus weekend)
  • Foundations (Internet)
  • Braille (Internet)
  • Basic O&M  (Internet + on-campus weekend)
  • Academic Methods (face-to-face at TSBVI in Austin)
  • Visual and Multiple Impairments Methods (internet)
  • Intermediate O&M Seminar (Internet)
  • O&M Internship (Off campus; sites vary)
  • VI Internship (Off campus; sites vary) 


  • Braille (Internet)
  • Foundations (face-to-face on weekends at TSBVI in Austin )
  • Eye Anatomy (Internet + on-campus weekend)
  • Visual and Multiple Impairments Methods (Internet)
  • Advanced O&M Seminar (Internet)
  • VI Internship (Off campus; sites vary)
  • O&M Internship (Off campus; sites vary


  • Anatomy
  • Braille
  • Clinical Practicum in O&M (6 hours)
  • Practicum in O&M (3 to 6 hours)


  • Foundations
  • Methods in visual and multiple impairments
  • VI Practicum
  • Intermediate Practicum in O&M (3 hours) 


  • Basic O&M
  • Academic Methods
  • Practicum in VI
  • Advanced Clinical Practicum in O&M (3 hours)
  • Low Vision

Let’s review your action steps:

  • Read the Typical Roles and Responsibilities of VI Professionals.
  • Determine which university program fits best with your lifestyle and learning style, and other factors.
    Contact each university for more information.
  • Order an OFFICIAL copy of your transcript(s) to be sent to the Graduate School at the university of your choice. 
    You may choose to have the transcripts sent directly to the university.
  • Apply to 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 members listed below.
  • Register for the first course.
    • TTU students: Your advisor will help you to understand what course to take and the procedures for completing this step on-line.
    • SFASU 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:

Mary Shore, COMS (General information)
TSBVI Outreach

Nora Griffin-Shirley, Ph.D. (O&M)
*Contact for all TTU Programs Spring 2016
Texas Tech University

Rona Pogrund, Ph.D. (TVI, O&M, Dual Sensory)
*On Sabbatical Spring 2016
Texas Tech University (Housed at TSBVI in Austin)
806-252-8026 or 512-206-9213

Debbie (Cricket) Cady (TVI)
Stephen F. Austin State University

Tracy Hallak (O&M & TVI)
Stephen F. Austin State University

Michael Munro (TVI)
Stephen F. Austin State University

Heather Munro (TVI / O&M)
Stephen F. Austin State University

Dr. Phoebe Okungu (TVI)
Stephen F. Austin State University

DJ Dean (O&M/COMS)
Stephen F. Austin State University