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O & M Around the World

By Rhonda Adams, COMS, Education Service Center Region 12

This summer I had the opportunity to attend the ninth International Mobility Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This was truly one of the greatest experiences of my professional career! It was awesome and amazing to sit and talk with other O&M Specialists from all over the world, to see where their needs are, the research they are developing, and the difficulties they face.

During the pre-conference, at any point in time, I would find myself sitting next to O & M specialists from Uganda, Botswana, Denmark, Bahran, Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Australia, Israel, Poland, South Africa, Fiji, Mexico, Spain, Japan, China, Canada, and other places. It was nice to see that many of the problems I face in the USA are the same problems O & M Specialists face the world over. I found it very heart wrenching to listen to international O & M Specialists discuss their case loads. In Alberta, Canada there are three O & M Specialists, and each has a caseload of ninety. There is no O & M in the country of Botswana. That country is trying to start a training program for O & M, but is having difficulty finding a sponsor. In Uganda there are an estimated five-hundred-thousand individuals with visual impairments. Only fifty of these individuals have received O & M services, and that thanks to training sponsored by Norway.

I was also struck by the amounts of research other countries are doing. There was research presented by the USA, but not nearly as much as is being done in other countries. Germany is finishing up research on infant and toddler O & M training. They are also designing an assessment based on their findings. This research is not yet available in English.

I also had the opportunity to visit with vendors from all over the world. I saw the ultimate in travel canes. It is manufactured in Germany and costs approximately $220 dollars (U.S.). It seems that the socialized medical system allows for higher prices. I also saw firsthand the advancements in cane tip manufacturing, new and more flexible canes (color coded), and the advancements in audible street signals.

I came away from this conference with a new and refreshed view of O &M and the impact our profession has on the consumers of our services. The next International Mobility Conference will be in the summer of 2000 in Warwick, England. It looks like it will be very affordable! Start making plans now to attend. I promise it's worth it!

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Go to Fall 1998 Table of Contents.