Striving to provide innovative orientation and mobility services in times of diminishing resources.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Medical personnel (Practice)
Authors: Barrella, Kristi
Besden, Cheryl
Crow, Nita
Greenberg, Maya Delgado
Shrieves, Gary
Smith, Katie A.
Vickroy, Marcia
Pub Date: 10/01/2011
Publication: Name: Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness Publisher: American Foundation for the Blind Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American Foundation for the Blind ISSN: 0145-482X
Issue: Date: Oct-Nov, 2011 Source Volume: 105 Source Issue: 10
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics
Product: Product Code: 8010000 Medical Personnel NAICS Code: 62 Health Care and Social Assistance
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 272077505
Full Text: Like many other states, California is facing a daunting budget deficit, reportedly about $19 billion. Delayed budgets have held up the disbursement of money, affecting school programs in districts as well as at the California School for the Blind (CSB). At CSB, we are aware of the history of "riches" we have--low staff-to-student ratios, state-of-the-art equipment, and regular professional training opportunities. We are thankful for these resources, and we recognize that we are in a position to share some of our expertise and resources with other professionals throughout our state. These resources have allowed us to develop and implement innovative programs in orientation and mobility (O&M). We have shared some of these programs via journal articles in such publications as the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness and RE:view and via presentations at local, regional, and national conferences.

The current financial constraints have had an impact on our programs. Our department of seven part- and full-time O&M instructors has made a serious attempt to continue to deliver high-quality, innovative programs during these trying fiscal times. In this article, we share some of these ideas, most of which can be adapted for use in district programs. They are programs and ideas for lessons that are implemented solely within the O&M program or in conjunction with other staff on campus, such as the classroom teacher or job coach. It should be noted that these ideas may be embedded into a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) or may be "extracurricular," a supplement or experience to augment a student's understanding of the world around him or her. It should also be noted that the ideas presented in this article are not to be viewed as "how to." We do not give the specifics of any one suggestion or a detailed outline of any of the suggestions. Instead, we intend the information to be used by O&M instructors to spark their interest and creativity, to give thought to how an idea may be implemented in an instructor's particular teaching setting, or to be a "springboard" for implementing an idea.


Cane repair

CSB has developed a cane-repair program, which was described at length by Crow (2008). Rather than giving each student a new cane when his or hers breaks, becomes difficult to fold, or is too short, some students can be taught to repair or redesign their canes using a supply of parts. A couple of students have shown particular aptitude for this work and have been "hired" to repair the canes of other students. While this practice saves money, it also supports fine motor skills, concept development, time skills, organization, and problem solving. In a school district, this type of program can be supported by a high school shop class or Regional Occupational Program that trains students in work skills.


Instructors can conduct onetime or ongoing student seminars about topics related to O&M. One example is verbal and nonverbal communication and how one's body language conveys messages that one may or may not want to send. Via the CSB web site, instructors can access the safety curriculum "Safe and Sound." Many of the lessons in this curriculum are related to O&M and can serve as rainy-day topics, seminar topics, or discussion points to supplement students' O&M programs. Find this curriculum by going to and then following the following links: Educators, Learning Resources, Personal Safety Curriculum. By serving students in small groups on occasion, instructors can free their lesson time to preview lesson sites, provide outreach services or direct services, or conduct assessments of students.

Pairing students

Many of our students will not be independent bus travelers on fixed routes but instead will use a paratransit or another door-to-door transportation service. On occasion, students can be paired for such instruction, with a more experienced student modeling a process or serving as a companion for a less experienced student. Each student gains: the one with less experience has the opportunity to see how it's done, and the more experienced student has the opportunity to gather his or her thoughts, attempt to explain a process of travel clearly, and be the expert. The concept of pairing students can be implemented in other ways as well. For example, students can be paired for campus travel, use of public transportation, or activities related to map skills. Care should be taken to indicate such pairings in a student's IEP if there is any question of whether or not the student's parents or school district may be concerned. Care also should be taken to pair students who will maintain their levels of safety and responsibility and maintain their attention to the tasks at hand.

From-a-distance sharing

CSB has embarked on a Virtual Sister School program, in which advanced O&M students will develop detailed travel instructions to places of interest in our geographic area. Each set of instructions will include what the destination has to offer and travel instructions, including the mode of travel, cost, and time constraints. Instructions will be prepared in various reading mediums and sent to a partnering school for students who are blind. Students of the two schools can meet via online live video conferencing sessions during prearranged times. We had hoped to offer a culminating activity during which the students would actually get to travel to the other school for students who are blind and be hosted by the receiving students. Instead, because of the lack of funds, an instructor at another school for students who are blind suggested that we alter the program to the virtual mode of sharing written materials and participating in live video conferencing. This program can also address social studies curricula and state standards related to writing skills. CSB students are just beginning this project. Since this program is just being launched, we hope to offer our experiences with insights into it in the future.

Tactile map resources

Advanced O&M students can learn to use a braille embosser and TMAPS (tactile map automated production) online to create a free raised-line map of any location in the United States. This first-ever web-based software can rapidly produce raised-line maps, bypassing the expense and time it takes to obtain or produce traditionally produced tactile maps. For more information, go to the web site . In addition, using a ViewPlus Tiger embosser and software, teachers can save time and resources by producing tactile graphics in numbers and can easily alter an already-created graphic to meet a particular student's need. Find out more about this technology by visiting the web site . We can also expand the application of tactile map making and concepts for a variety of students. Students who are blind or have low vision can, with any amount of assistance needed, make tactile or visual maps to augment a general education class trip.

GPS instruction

For students who have GPS (Global Positioning System) software on their BrailleNotes, the GPS curriculum "Finding Your Way," written by Jerry Kuns and Maya Delgado Greenberg, can be accessed free of charge on the CSB web site by going to and then following the links programs, Orientation and Mobility, then Finding Your Way--BrailleNote GPS curriculum. This curriculum will help O&M instructors structure lessons in an organized fashion and assist them in monitoring their students' progress.


Farmers' markets

We are always looking for interesting, educational destinations to make travel meaningful but that are also free. Local weekly farmers' markets have been visited. These markets are often held during the week in courtyards of hospitals and in governmental buildings and are open to the public. Students can reinforce their money, nutritional, and communications skills during these outings. Descriptive essays or newsletters can be created and sent home to share with family members.

American Automobile Association

If an instructor or a student's family is a member of the state AAA, traffic safety DVDs may be borrowed at no cost from a local library and the American Automobile Association (AAA). These DVDs provide food for thought, stimulate questions, and provide examples of the rules and practices that pedestrians who are not visually impaired adhere to and what drivers learn through the driver's license process.

Public libraries

Public libraries are also a good general destination for free access to large-print books, audio books, music, and research materials. They often have free lectures. Use of a library supports calendar skills, literacy, and responsibility.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

If students live in proximity to a USGS office, they can take advantage of free hands-on experiences with tactile maps. These offices generally have a knowledgeable staff person who can lecture about the development of maps and how maps help people and the natural environment in a variety of ways. If the agency requires groups of a certain size for this service, a student who is visually impaired can join another school group. The USGS also has weekend public open-house days that can be accessed by family members.

Career awareness

Students can use their public transportation skills to meet someone in the community who is doing a job or has a career of interest. This no-cost activity also reinforces communication skills and career awareness.


O&M instructors can encourage parents to take their children to town hall or city government meetings, particularly ones that are scheduled to address issues that are related to architectural barriers or traffic issues. These meetings are, of course, at no cost to the attendees. We have done so with students to address pedestrian safety issues near our campus. In addition to O&M, these experiences are related to social studies curricula.


People who enter the O&M profession (especially those who stay in the field) are recognized as being tenacious, hearty, and determined. We spend long periods in unpleasant weather, often breathing in bus fumes and putting up with remarks and stares from the public. A few years of meager or nonexistent funds should not prevent us from offering rich learning experiences to our students who are eager to soak up information about their immediate environment and their wider community. The O&M Department at CSB would like to hear from other instructors about how they are adapting their programs by finding low or no-cost experiences. We will all be richer from the process.


Crow, N. (2008). Creating an on-campus job for a student. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 102, 103-105.

Kristi Barrella, M.A., COMs, orientation and mobility instructor, California School for the Blind, 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, CA 94536; e-mail: . Cheryl Besden, M.Ed., COMs, orientation and mobility instructor, California School for the Blind; e-mail: . Nita Crow, M.A., COMs, orientation and mobility instructor, California School for the Blind; e-mail: . Maya Delgado Greenberg, M.A., COMs, orientation and mobility instructor, California School for the Blind," e-mail: . Gary Shrieves, M.A., COMs, orientation and mobility instructor, California School for the Blind; e-mail: . Katie A. Smith, M.A., COMs, orientation and mobility instructor, California School for the Blind; e-mail: . Marcia Vickroy, M.A., COMs, orientation and mobility instructor, California School for the Blind; e-mail: .
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