History of Orientation and Mobility

Historyphoto books in library

 

photo of long cane

Historically, independent travel for individuals who were blind was not widely achieved or expected. Prior to World War II, no formal training of specialists in the field of Orientation and Mobility(O & M) existed and few agencies and schools provided more than rudimentary instruction in independent travel for individuals with visual impairments. Early orientation and mobility training was typically limited to the environment of the particular facility. 

During World War II, methods were developed to enhance the rehabilitation of blinded veterans. The Veterans Administration's highly successful efforts and the high level of performance of rehabilitated veterans resulted in a surge of interest in independent orientation and mobility for individuals with visual impairments. The first university training program in the area of orientation and mobility was started in 1960 and the positive performance of the graduate trained instructors and the blind students with whom they worked resulted in a growing demand for services and an expanding need for instructors. 

Since the 1960's, orientation and mobility has been consistently identified as a key service area for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. The majority of Orientation and Mobility Training Programs are offered at the graduate level, but the number of specialized programs (graduate and undergraduate) available within the United States ranges between 15 -18. Some Orientation and Mobility Training Programs are housed within Special Education Programs while others are offered through Programs in Rehabilitation.