Orientation and Mobility is about knowing where you are so that you can get where you want to go and travel there safely.
O&M specialists work with people of all ages, who are blind or have low vision. We offer training in the use of mobility aids, orientation to the environment, realistic assessment of limitations, vision education and development of sensory awareness.
We equip clients with the skills and concepts they need to move safely and confidently through their environment, be it moving from the bed to the toilet during the night, getting to school, catching a train and a bus to get to work, going bushwalking or taking a world tour.
Who do we work with?
Two clients of the same age, with the same degree of vision impairment will function quite differently. Why? Because their upbringing, life experiences, attitudes to change, level of support, confidence, fears, interests and motivation are different. There is no reason why they should be the same. This is why O&M training is tailored to suit the needs of the individual client.
A congenitally blind client is likely to need more frequent and more intensive O&M intervention throughout their childhood to grasp the concepts necessary for independent travel, which they cannot learn by observation. Yet once they can walk, many children who are blind are surprisingly confident in moving around familiar areas, even without a mobility aid. Clients who lose vision later (adventitiously) tend to have less difficulty with spatial concepts because their visual memory is intact. However their ability to move confidently through their environment varies enormously.
In addition to vision impairment, some O&M clients also live with a complex range of issues such as spasticity, hemiplegia, impaired balance, hearing loss, autism, learning delays or communication difficulties. These issues may have been present since birth, or they may be due to disease or brain injury.
Acquired Brain Injury
ABI can be caused by stroke, car accident, disease, hypoxia or substance abuse and frequently results in visual changes. Neurological (or cortico-spatial) vision impairment may involve visual field loss, but it can also involve changes in perception. While a straightforward field loss can be compensated for with scanning techniques (low vision training), perceptual changes are more complex. Acquired brain injury can impact on other functions too, such as memory, balance, insight, stamina, thinking, planning, decision-making, understanding of spatial information, communication and hearing. Neuro O&M Specialists have undertaken further study into the anatomy and function of the brain and the cognitive, emotional and perceptual changes which commonly result from brain injury.
The O&M Specialist may be available to work intensively with clients with additional impairments, one to one. However, if it takes a long time to develop rapport with the client, the O&M may act as a consultant to the teachers, family, therapists or support staff who know the client well and can work with them on the concepts and skills necessary for mobility.