PSU nets $1.2 million grant for orientation and mobility training

COMETThe US Department of Education awarded the PSU Graduate School of Education a $1,247,470 grant to develop a new certificate program to train orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists. This program will be linked to the existing PSU Visually Impaired Learner (VIL) program.

Over the next five years, Project COMET, Certified Orientation and Mobility Educators in Training, will prepare 38 fully trained and highly qualified O&M specialists to help individuals who are blind or visually impaired to develop the skills necessary for independent and safe travel within their homes, workplaces, and communities.

The project is led by Drs. Holly Lawson and Kathryn Botsford, faculty in the Special Education Department. The project is highly collaborative and involves partnerships from state liaisons and O&M professionals within the Pacific & Northwest Consortium for Vision Education (PNWCVE), which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Hawaii.

O&M specialists train individuals on the concepts, skills, and techniques needed to move from one place to another safely and independently. O&M specialists work with individuals at all levels, birth to adult. O&M specialists cover environmental, spatial, sensory skills, interpersonal, and decision-making skills. Individuals trained in O&M techniques learn how and when to ask for help. O&M skills are reinforced by teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs), parents, and supporters of students who are blind or visually impaired, but this training is the specific purview of the certified O&M specialist.

“This program will help fill a huge gap in providing additional O&M specialists,” said Lawson, who is the director of the PSU VIL program. “Currently, no O&M training program exists in the Pacific Northwest. We are excited about supporting regional capacity to better meet the needs of those with vision loss.”

Project COMET offers an add-on endorsement for currently trained TVIs, a single O&M certificate, and dual TVI/O&M training tracks. Courses are primarily delivered online. The PSU VIL program pioneered online course delivery in the field to serve students across the region and in rural areas where the need is critical.

The components of the O&M program include coursework focused on the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP) national standards, scope of practice, and body of knowledge. Classes address research, instructional methods, assessment, Unified English braille, integration of assistive technology, professionalism, and collaboration. A total of 450 hours of supervised experience is required for program completion. To measure effectiveness the program will undergo research-focused and objectives-based evaluation that incorporates qualitative and quantitative data measures with support of an evaluation team.

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