Orientation and Mobility: The Forgotten Art of Traveling

What is Orientation and Mobility?  Why is it considered a form of traveling?  Who uses this form of travel? and What benefit does it have to those that use it? 

Orientation is defined as the knowledge of oneís distance and direction relative to things observed or remembered in the surroundings and keeping track of these spatial relationships as they change during locomotion.  Basically when you are driving somewhere you may need a map to tell you where to go.  If you donít know where you are going, you will not be able to get there.  Your orientation is your map of where you need to go to reach your destination.

Mobility is defined as the act or ability to move from oneís present position to oneís desired position in another part of the environment safely, gracefully, and comfortably.  Which can basically be understood as your car.  It takes you from one destination to another safely and in a graceful manner.  When you put Orientation and Mobility together you create a sense of totality when accomplishing the task of getting to a new location from your present one.  Using your mobility (car) and your orientation (maps) together allows you to reach the goals of traveling to various destinations.  One cannot be achieved without the other.

To persons who are blind or visually Impaired, this concept of orientation and mobility becomes there primary method of being able to travel.  Sighted people take for granted that they can jump in their car and use it to take them exactly where they want to go and if need be they can search around a certain area for a street name or address they are looking for.  Persons who are blind or visually impaired do not have this luxury at their disposal at all times so they need to learn alternative methods and skills to function in the environment safely, gracefully, and most importantly, they need to do it independently.

The practice of orientation and mobility allows a certified professional, Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist, to teach persons who are blind or visually impaired various skills pertaining to their independent travel.  Some of the things taught include use of the long white cane, skills to use with dog guides, sighted guide techniques, various types of street crossings, finding addresses, and other skills which will allow them to find their existing place in the environment and move to their desired destination.  Various already existing objects or concepts in the environment can become something so significant in a route for a blind or visually impaired person once it is pointed out to them and they learn how to look for it.   By learning this level of skills it enables blind or visually impaired persons to gain a sense of independence and a sense of equality.  They strive to learn these skills so they can live their life in a manner they wish to live it in.  Getting to work, going to the grocery store, or shopping at the mall on a Saturday are all things that sighted persons do regularly, and with a good positive attitude and a O&M Specialist these are things a blind or visually impaired can be taken for granted as well.  

The definitions were derived from Foundations of Orientation and Mobility by, Blasch, Weiner, and Welsh.  

If you have any questions please feel free to call Blindness Support Services at (909) 341-8025.  Or, e-mail the Orientation and Mobility Department at BSSmobile@aol.com  

If you are blind or visually impaired and feel trapped at home or too dependent on your family and friends look into Orientation and Mobility classes.  The skills taught will help you to gain a level of independence that will allow you to feel free and in charge of your own life!  

The Travel Training program is a program to teach blind/visually impaired and the disabled how to be independent.  By learning to utilize the fixed route, you learn to go just about anywhere without having to be dependent on a loved one, family member, friend or anyone else.  You learn special techniques to get you where you would want to go. 

You are taught how to get to a particular place individually with the instructor or group manner depending if there is more than one student going to the same particular place, how the students feel about working together and if they all can correlate a schedule together.

The instructor will arrange an intake/interview and then set up a day to work on the fixed route buses.  It can be the same day of the intake or at the studentsí conveniences.  The instructor will work around your schedule!  Schedules are made Monday through Friday 8am-4:30pm.  Classes are held Monday through Thursday 8am-4pm.

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