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Resources and information for your orientation and mobility questions

Orientation and Mobility Issues

O&M specialists and administrators working together to meet challenges

Orientation and Mobility…

  1. “[S]ervices provided to blind or visually impaired children by qualified personnel to enable those students to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home, and community;”
  2. Sec. 300.34(c)(7)(i) of IDEA

O&M Summarized from IDEA

Includes teaching students the following:

  • Use of existing vision
  • Develop & use spatial and environmental concepts to establish, maintain, or regain orientation and line of travel;
  • Use of the long cane (or other travel devices, including wheelchairs) for safe travel
  • Use of distance low vision devices; and
  • Other concepts, techniques, and tools.

Sec. 300.34(c)(7)

O&M Evaluation in IDEA 2004

According to state rule and federal regulations it is the responsibility of the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee to make decisions regarding evaluation (including orientation and mobility), eligibility and services for a student with a suspected or known disability.[(CFR 300.304 - 300.306; TAC 89.1040), TEA, June 2008]

Let’s Do the Numbers…

Sec. 300.34(c)(7)(i)


Sec. 300.34(c)(7)(ii)

Instructional content

Sec. 300.302

Screening is not an evaluation

Sec. 300.304(a)

Must notify parents of any evaluation

Sec. 300.304(b) (1)(2)

Assess using multiple and relevant functional and developmental abilities

Sec. 300.304(b)(3)

Use of valid, technically sound instruments

Sec. 300.304(c)(1)(iii)

Assessment materials technical sound

Sec. 300.304(c)(1)(iv)

Assessment by trained, qualified personnel

Sec. 300.304(c)(3)

Assesses skills and abilities, not sensory impairment

Sec. 300.304(c)(4)

Assesses all areas of suspected disabilities

Sec. 300.304(c)(6)

Assessment identifies all educational and related service needs

Sec. 300.304(c)(7)

Tools and strategies are relevant

Qualified Assessors

Only certified O&M specialists are qualified to perform O&M evaluations

  • ACVREP-certified O&M specialists (COMS)
  • Interns practicing under an ACVREP-certified O&M specialists
  • There is no emergency, partial, probationary, or provisional certification in O&M.
  • The VI teacher can complete a screening, not an O&M evaluation.

Who Needs O&M?

Students with visual impairments are at-risk for needing O&M regardless of their:

  • Age, including birth-3
  • Degree of low vision
  • Physical ability
  • Additional disabilities
  • Familiarity with school and/or home

Status of O&M Services

Chart: 50% no evaluation, 50% evaluation, 31% received O&M

With only 50% receiving evaluations it is difficult to know the true need in Texas

O&M Is Needed When Students Experience Changes in …

  • Vision
  • Visual demand
  • Lighting conditions change
  • such as a darkened lecture room, hall, or auditorium; or
  • outdoors, such as dusk or night
  • Visually complex environments
  • lots of details in maps or graphics
  • environment is cluttered

Other Changes

Functional environments/transitions

  • New building(s)
  • New buildings on same campus
  • Moving from elementary to middle school, etc.
  • Community-based work or school settings

Services May Be Intermittent

Not all students need O&M at all times

Students need O&M when:

  • They have trouble in new environments
  • They have trouble on dark days, in bright light or bright days, or when the sun is setting
  • Their travel needs change:
    • New school
    • New environment within school
  • They have changes in other sensory systems:
    • Hearing impairment
    • Motor issues

How O&M Specialists Interact to Support Student Progress

O&M specialist interact with the following:

  • Parents
  • Classroom Staff
  • TVI
  • Adapted P.E.
  • PT
  • OT
  • Peers

O&M Specialists Work:

  • In isolation with students
  • In home, school, and community environments
  • Non-traditional hours
  • Travel between students
  • With limited supervision
  • Administrators need to know about O&M services.

Limit Your Liability

Students who receive O&M:

  • Learn safe stair techniques, thereby limiting the school’s liability.
  • Are able to play on the playground with less chance for injury, thereby limiting the school’s liability.
  • Are able to travel with greater independence to and from the bus stop, thereby limiting the school’s liability.

Efficient Use of Staff

Students who receive O&M are more likely to …

  • Transition between classes without assistance
  • Navigate the cafeteria without assistance
  • Participate in community-based instruction, field trips, and/or vocational placements with less staff involvement
  • Ride the regular school bus

O&M Assists in Transition

Students who receive O&M are more likely to…

  • Be prepared for post-secondary education
  • Be employable upon graduation
  • Live at a higher level of independence
  • Have skills necessary to access to transportation options
  • O&M services support meeting
    • SPP indicators 13 & 14

Students who receive O&M…

  • Have concrete, authentic experiences in natural settings, developing a language base for literacy.
  • O&M instruction prepares students for statewide assessments, supporting:
    • Map skills
    • Math skills
    • Social skills
    • Problem solving
    • Time and money concepts
    • Science and social studies

O&M Specialists are Grown in Texas

  • Two training programs in Texas
  • Tuition stipends available
  • About 2 years for completion (less for existing TVIs)
  • Post-certification support:
  • ESCs
  • VI mentor program
  • TSBVI Outreach

Recruitment Timelines

  1. Awareness:
    • Time: 2-5 years
    • Activities: basic informational, exposure.
  2. Consideration:
    • Time: 2-5 years
    • Activities: Additional information sought/received. Exposure to visual impairments
  3. Action:
    • Time: Up to 18 months
    • Activities: actively explores options; applies to program
  4. Training:
    • Time: 12 – 24 months (possibly more for O&M internship)
    • Activities: attends program, may work as VI professional
  5. Mature VI Professional
    • Time: Typically 3 years after training


  • O&M Evaluations are a legal obligation
  • O&M services address safety and liability
  • O&M promotes skills necessary for transition
  • Recruiting and training resources are available
  • And finally
  • Knowledgeable administrators are better able to recruit & supervise O&M specialists

For More Information Contact:

Your Education Service Center (ESC)

Stephen F. Austin State University

Texas Tech University

Outreach Program at TSBVI