‘Orientation’ refers to our understanding of where we are currently located in the environment, in relation to where we have travelled from and where we would like to travel. We use our senses to gather information from around us and combine this information with our knowledge of where we have come from and where we plan to go.
‘Mobility’ relates to our ability to move safely and confidently through the environment. This will often incorporate the use of mobility aids, including sighted assistance, a white cane, or a guide dog.
Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training equips people who are vision impaired to move safely, independently, efficiently and confidently in the environments through which they wish to travel. It is so much more than simply learning to use a white cane or to cross roads.
A person with a vision impairment who has experienced the following challenges may benefit from Orientation and Mobility training:
Individuals may have recently experienced a loss or reduction in vision. Alternatively, they may have experienced vision impairment for some time and want assistance to achieve new goals, such as going to university or moving to a different workplace or home environment.
Mobility programs are often conducted in conjunction with a Life Skills program.
Guide Dog information and assessment by a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor is available as part of any Orientation and Mobility program, if appropriate. If Guide Dog Mobility is a long term goal, many people may first need extensive O&M training to become safe, confident and independent travellers.
To find out more about our Guide Dogs, refer to our information on Guide Dog Services.
A range of mobility aids are available to aid safe travel. O&M Specialists assess an individual’s need for a mobility aid and can then provide appropriate training in the correct use of the aids. These may include white canes, support canes, or electronic aids such as mini-guides or GPS.
An orientation program involves learning to get from point A to point B independently in the safest and most effective way. Clues such as ground texture changes, smells, sounds and objects perceived with the use of remaining vision may all assist in identifying their location and assisting people with mentally mapping out their environment.
Many clients have some remaining vision and our training is structured to encourage them to use this and their other senses to their optimal level. We can develop strategies for minimising the impact of glare, and will consider lighting and contrast in the home or workplace.
A white cane signifies that a person has some degree of vision impairment. A white cane detects obstacles, changes in surface levels, and provides vital feedback for a person when they are unable to use their vision to travel safely. Training in the use of a cane is conducted in the home, community, on public transport or wherever the client needs to travel.
Training may involve increasing the use of remaining vision and refining listening skills in order to focus on traffic flow and audible signals to make safe road crossing decisions. People may also wish to learn a specific bus route or to be able to independently navigate the public transport system. O&M Specialists can assist with applications for public transport and disabled parking concessions (for use when travelling with family or friends).