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Facts From NLTS2: Orientation and Mobility Skills of Secondary School Students With Visual Impairments
NCSER 2008-3007
November 2007

Orientation and Mobility Training

Orientation has traditionally been defined as the process of using the senses to establish one's position and relationship to other objects in the environment, whereas mobility refers to the capacity, readiness, and ability to move about in the environment (Hill 1986). Orientation and mobility training helps a person with a visual impairment know where he or she is in space and where he or she wants to go (orientation) and how to carry out a plan to get there (mobility). Orientation and mobility services are among the related services provided to eligible students as part of their individual education programs (IEP), with their focus being determined on the basis of an evaluation of the child by an orientation and mobility specialist. Because children exhibit a range of visual functioning, orientation and mobility instruction can encompass a range of content. Wall-Emerson and Corn (2006) found that experts differed regarding essential orientation and mobility skills for students with low vision compared with those for students who are blind.

A key feature of orientation and mobility training is that it takes place in natural environments, both inside and outside the school context (Allison and Sanspree 2006; Pierangelo and Giuliani 2004; Smith and Levack 1996). Mobility specialists typically place students in a real-world context and give them practical and age-appropriate problems to solve. Younger students may be asked to find their way to and around their school building, whereas older students may be taught to access community services, shop, arrange for and use public transportation, and find their way around their neighborhoods and business areas. Acquiring these kinds of "fundamental and enabling life skill(s)" (Huebner and Wiener 2005, p. 579), "like the acquisition of…academic and social skills, is of great importance to the social and economic independence of blind and visually impaired persons" (U.S. Department of Education 2000, p. 36590).