There is a recognized national shortage of Orientation and Mobility specialists. In response to shortages of personnel in the rehabilitation and education fields specific to vision impairment, the Department of CARE offers a master of arts degree and a certificate program in Orientation and Mobility. The programs are available online through part-time study, including some face-to-face classes provided in Little Rock and, in special instances, in other states.
The Master of Arts in Rehabilitation of the Blind: Orientation and Mobility program develops skills in teaching both congenitally and adventitiously blind and low-vision persons in a wide range of education and rehabilitation agencies nationwide. The program offers an emphasis in orientation and mobility instruction. The program is open to both full-time and part-time students. Many of the courses are offered in a web-based format. Students may expect to enroll in one to three online courses each semester (two courses is the recommended maximum).
Due to several significant budget cuts and the forthcoming retirement of the only faculty member in the Rehabilitation Teaching/Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Program, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) is suspending admissions to the RT/VRT. The Orientation & Mobility and Rehabilitation Counseling Programs will continue.
This emphasis teaches a reliable system for establishing and maintaining awareness of one’s position in the environment (orientation) and fostering freedom and spontaneity of movement (mobility). It enables blind and low-vision persons to overcome the severe problems of mobility by teaching them to travel safely, efficiently, and confidently.
The online Master of Arts degree program in Orientation and Mobility prepares professionals to provide orientation and mobility services to people who are blind or visually impaired. Orientation & Mobility specialists provide consumers with skills to maximize environmental information and to process and utilize it to make judgments and decisions for independent travel while using their remaining vision, long canes or dog guides. The program provides the course work and supervised fieldwork experiences required for certification by the Academy for the Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).
Students must commit to coming to Little Rock for two consecutive summers to enroll in the blindfold simulation classes and student teaching. Summer classes usually run for the last three weeks in June, and students receive free room and some meals either at the Arkansas School for the Blind or at World Services for the Blind, where classes are held. In exchange for the living accommodations, students must agree to assist in light recreational duties (or student teaching responsibilities) with the children at the school. Internships may be arranged in the student’s home community under the supervision of a certified O&M instructor. Students adhering to a prescribed program of study may be able to complete the degree in 2.5-3 years. For more specific information, visit the O&M program website. Sequential instruction in sensory and movement skills is based on a thorough evaluation of needs and abilities related to the functional use of the existing senses and requirements of a prosthetic travel aid. Instruction is provided in the use of adaptive equipment such as canes, telescopes, and electronic travel aids. For more specific information, visit the O&M program website.
- Completed application to the UALR Graduate School
- Baccalaureate degree from a recognized accredited institution with a cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.75 (4.0 scale) or 3.0 in the last 60 hours (official transcripts required) or a master’s degree or higher from an accredited institution of higher education
- Interview with program coordinator
- A personally written essay of no more than 500 words describing the applicant’s background, experiences, and goals for choosing a career in Orientation and Mobility. There is no specific form or format that is required. Applicant’s name, address, telephone number, email, major, and semester to begin the program are to be included on the essay. The essay is to be sent to the program coordinator: orientation & mobility.
- Personal characteristics considered in the admission process include leadership potential, emotional and social maturity, innovation, and potential for success in the chosen emphasis area. All orientation and mobility instruction students must possess good health as well as communication skills such that they can monitor their blind clients’ safety at a distance beyond their reach.
If applicants do not meet the admission standards outlined above, they may be considered for conditional admission with an undergraduate GPA of 2.5 or above and documented evidence of their ability to succeed in graduate-level work. This documentation may include official transcripts from all universities attended, successful graduate coursework from an accredited university, examples of academic and professional work, test scores from the GRE and/or MAT, and letters of reference. The program admissions committee will evaluate the documentation. Students must move from conditional to regular status after the completion of 12 semester hours in the program. They must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 for the 12 credit hours of coursework and a grade of B or greater in designated program courses.
Students may extend their programs and complete a second master’s degree in a related area or a master’s degree and course work leading to certification eligibility in a second area. A minimum of 60 credit hours is required for two master’s degrees. Students electing one of these options must be fully admitted into both program emphases areas and be advised by the program coordinator.
Graduates qualify to apply for national certification by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals. The Academy has established standard competencies that orientation and mobility graduates must meet for national certification.