Session Selection

Read through the following titles and descriptions of possible O&M Symposium topics. Use the form below to choose which topics you are most interested in learning about.

Session Selection will be open until October 12, 2018.


Orientation and Mobility of Safety Skills in Schools

Presented by: Jerri Nelson and Tia Reed

It is important that as instructors of orientation and mobility, we assist students in becoming proficient in being safe as they monitor their environment and locate destinations. It is also vital to provide the skills needed to be safe in possible situations, such as fire, tornado or lock downs. We also need to educate staff and first responders in how to assist a student with visual impairments as well as the student in what they may expect to happen during these situations especially if they are not near another person or in a classroom if these conditions occur. This session will discuss a small case study with students who are visually impaired and how they viewed and dealt with possible situations at the beginning of the school year giving instructors time to train in those areas of safety. The training was reviewed with students after 3 months to determine if their safety skills had improved. It will also examine how other states have tackled this area and give resources that could assist.


Using the ARIA system with O&M students.

Presented by: Jay Whipple

Learn about using ARIA glasses and system for O&M purposes. Pros and cons of the system as well as do’s and dont’s


Collaborating for Success: Vision Professionals and American Sign Language Interpreters Working Together!

Presented by: Shannon Wright

We will start this session by identifying and defining the roles of the individuals we will be discussing during the session. We will discuss the general settings where they work and some of the jargon that is used by either group. We will discuss how the different groups are certified or qualified and resources for finding the professional that you need. We will discuss some specific examples about what the vision professionals need from sign language interpreters and what sign language interpreters need from the vision professionals and why. Lastly, we will discuss any examples from the audience of situations they have encountered and try to provide alternatives or other solutions.


O&M for People with Low Vision

Presented by: Okono Okono

Even though the O&M works with individuals with Low Vision, it appears to me there is not, among O&M's, a great awareness of Low Vision and its significant impact on a person's travel. The clearly O&M aspects of travel are understood and addressed. However, Low Vision could be easily missed and dismissed and, therefore, not dealt with at the level of seriousness it deserves. A demonstration of the effect of Low Vision on mobility and related issues would go a long way in kitting up the O&M for enhanced effectiveness.


Safe Mobility is the Key to Achieving Developmental Norms in Children with Severe Visual Impairment & Blindness

Presented by: Dr. Grace Ambrose-Zaken

Data and video evidence of the advantage consistent, tactile Next Step Warning provides to 2-year old children who were born blind will be provided. Data on wearable cane use was collected on a diverse group of learners who all have benefited from wearing their next step tactile warning. A small group (n=6), learners where were severely visually impaired and blind (aged 2 to 3 years) with no other disabilities will be reported on.
Outcomes: The learners who wore their cane ‘most of the time’ improved in number of independent steps, increased time spent engaged in free exploration at home, neighbors' homes and outside on sidewalks and playgrounds. Learners' concrete language, concepts and self-help skills were less prompt dependent and learners were seen "underfoot" in the kitchen (following mommy around and distracting her from cooking), and actively searching room to room for their family members with minimal to no prompts. The blind 2 to 3-year-old learners who wore their canes for only limited amount of time daily (an hour or so) did not show the same improvements in these measures.
The time has come to challenge two myths in early intervention for learners with severe visual impairment: Myth 1) There is no such problem of unsafe mobility for blind toddlers and Myth 2) the long cane is best tool even though it does not immediately provide blind toddlers with a safe mobility environment.
Summary: Our research suggests that unsafe mobility causes developmental delays, and providing consistent safe mobility eliminates these unnecessary delays. Fact: Bodily ‘bumps and bruises’ are not a healthy way to learn how to walk and explore the world. The wearable cane is the first attempt to solve the real problem of unsafe mobility for blind toddlers. Once the field of early intervention for learners with visual impairment accepts the fact that walking blind is unsafe, more and better solutions will be found to address this problem.


Raising Expectations using Structured Discovery

Presented by Dr. Edward Bell and Colin Wong

Structured Discovery is a consumer based model of teaching focusing on the non-visual techniques that empower students to be independent, successful, contributing members of society. It focuses on empowerment, self-efficacy , and problem solving with confidence. This presentation will go through the foundations of Structured Discovery and its history including how to obtain a National Orientation and Mobility Certification (N.O.M.C.) It will also include teaching with Structured Discovery techniques, student outcomes, and misconceptions about Structured Discovery. There will be time for questions to answer any questions that people may have.


We're All in This Together: Essential Steps for Effective Collaboration in O&M

Presented by: Dr. Rona Progrund

Do you struggle with encouraging other professionals and families to support consistent O&M skill use across environments? This presentation will offer tools, tips, and strategies for effective collaboration with other team members who interact with your O&M students. Topics to be covered in this presentation include information about professional learning communities, challenges to collaboration, types of team models, and teaming strategies to support O&M instruction. You will learn about the relationship between O&M instruction, effective collaboration, and student skill generalization.


Making the transition from white cane to guide dog: what O&M/COMS should know

Presented by: Annie Chiapetta

This presentation will review the process of transitioning from traveling with a white cane to a guide dog. The process will be presented from the perspective of a former white cane user who has been working a guide dog for over ten years. This presentation will mention many elements of the intricacies of transitioning from a white cane to a dog; most notably are the shift in the physical and psychological components. Being able to share in trusting the dog and not overcompensating will be just one element being discussed.


Twenty great ways to use the handy camera for an itinerant orientation and mobility specialist working with visually impaired children.

Presented by: Anne EVRARD

The use of the video recorder is not a new concept in rehabilitation. In the past, O&M specialists used video recording mostly for indoor assessments or filming mobility lessons. However, the equipment used at that time, was often bulky, heavy and most of the time required a third person to do the filming. Thanks to evolving technology, the equipment available now is much smaller, lighter and easier to use. Not to mention, the impressive number of applications that they have which are very helpful for an itinerant O&M specialist working with visually impaired children integrated to regular schools on a wide territory.
This presentation will describe in general, useful aspects among twenty applications where this tool can be used in relation to five different groups of people: students, parents, O&M specialist and the community.
The results of this approach would be a quicker progression of an individual O&M program for each student.
No doubt, the handy camera is indeed one of the handiest tools for an O&M specialist.


A Whole New Fleet of App Tools

Presented by: Chris Tabb

AI (Artificial Intelligence) Apps like Seeing AI and Envision, Orientation Apps like Soundscape, and Apps for facilitating communication with students with hearing loss are wonderful tools and are free, but how do we go about learning them for Orientation and Mobility purposes? Take some time to learn more about how easy it is to begin applying more of these tools in your lessons with learners across the age span. Apps will be shared for both iOS systems and Android systems.


Disaster Planning for Individuals who are Visually Impaired. What's O&M got to do with it?

Presented by: Meg Robertson

Everyday we hear of different disasters happening around the world. Although foresting has improved a great deal, we are still often unprepared, since it seems far away and won't affect my community until it does. As Vision professionals we need to be personally prepared and be able to prepare our students. Individuals with vision loss or other sensory disabilities, are often left out of in community emergency planning. As Orientation and Mobility Specialists, we are in a unique position to educate our students since we are already preparing them for other situations within their communities as they travel around.on being prepared for any situation that might happen within their communities. However we first need to be sure we are prepared ourselves and be able to advocate at a community level with and for our students. This presentation will review the general disaster planning and additional needs for individuals with vision loss. Come learn about the different disasters or emergency situation O&M Specialists need to be aware of, from school shootings, fires, hurricanes, wildfires, lava flows, blizzards, tidal waves, nuclear meltdowns, what do we need to know to be prepared, so we can teach the individuals we work with so they may be prepared and not left out of the process.


Let's take a walk, Pedestrian Enhancements with Impact Pedestrians with Vision Loss

Presented by: Meg Robertson

The pedestrian environment is getting more and more complicated. O&M Specialist need to be aware of different Pedestrian Enhancements which may impact the individuals they work with, positively or negatively. O&M Specialists need to be a part of the conversation when pedestrian changes are being made in their communities. This presentation will be a quick over view of the different enhancements traffic engineers use, pros and cons as well as some solutions in improving pedestrian access for individuals with vision loss.


Building Bridges Toward Environmental Access

Presented by: JoAnne Chalom

Orientation & Mobility professionals have the unique opportunity to collaboratively offer input to increase accessibility in the environment for pedestrians with visual impairments.
Discover our role as educators and advocates when communicating with transportation planners and traffic signal engineers. Determine how O&M professionals can have a voice in their communities.
How do we share our expertise as new ideas such as shared spaces are considered and implemented? Learn how the needs of pedestrians who are blind can be represented at the emergent stages of transportation and traffic design?
How do O&M professionals guide our clients when they express environmental access concerns such as accessible pedestrian signals, leading pedestrian intervals, shared spaces, roundabouts, and work zones? Should autonomous vehicle and other emergent topics be on our radar?
Emergent topics such as dockless shared bikes, autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles will impact pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. How can practitioners address concerns and continue to be at the forefront of evolving topics? Will the outcome of research addressing environmental access influence the strategies O&M professions use to teach their clients?
How can these topics impact practitioners in the field? Conclusions from research projects may impact your practice. Outcomes of research recommendations might address the challenges of channelized turn lanes and roundabouts. Other long term impacts in the United States have been the inclusion of detectable warning surfaces and accessible pedestrian signals in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control and Devices.


Touch Signals and Tactile Strategies for Teaching O&M to Students with Deafblindness

Presented by: Tara Brown-Ogilvie

With the loss of sight and sound, tactile strategies become an essential part of O&M training for students who are deafblind. This presentation will explore tactile techniques for teaching O&M to best accommodate students with deafblindness as well as incorporate Touch Signals for interacting with and building rapport with students.

Touch Signals include specific forms of touch to convey visual, auditory, social, and environmental information that can be used to streamline O&M instruction as well as enhance relationships. Various techniques will be discussed including an explanation on how Touch Signals vary from touch cues or sign language. O&M related vocabulary will be demonstrated, and additional resources provided.

Moving into instruction, the presenter will provide anecdotal information on how to adapt mobility techniques, instruction, and assistive technology from her experiences working as an COMS at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. Topic areas will include, but are not limited to: adaptive cane travel, communicating with the public, street crossings, guide dogs, interveners, support service providers, electronic travel aids, para-transit, transition services, and using smart devices with a refreshable braille display.

The presentation will close with Q&A. Participants are encouraged to guide the dialogue, on challenges they have experienced, general questions, or to whichever topic areas that hold the most interest among the group. Together, we can work towards improving O&M instruction for this unique population.


Help! I am a First Year COMS Teaching Physical Activity to my Student/Consumer who is Blind.

Presented by: Jeffrey Key

Discussing the challenges and successes of teaching children and adults with low vision and blindness physical acivity. Presentation includes strategies, and adapting equipment for students success. Inclusion activities and strategies for teachers, COMS, VI and PE teachers to help their students with low vision and blindness succeed in physical activities, PE and Recess.

I have been in education for 32 years , 15 years as an adapted PE teacher. I am a nationally Certified Adapted Physical Educator (CAPE). I am currently the Adapted PE and COMS for Lubbock Cooper ISD (Texas).


Using Curriculum-based mobile games to reinforce skills for visually impaired students

Presented by: Marty Schultz

You will learn about our soon to be released mobile games for practicing skills for your visually impaired students. Here's what one O&M recently told us:

“I spend between 45 minutes and 3 hours each week with a student teaching a new skill. I expect that student to practice the skill during that week - some at school, some at home. More often than not, I re-teach that same skill again the following week, instead of moving ahead. When I use one of the Blindfold Games to exercise that skill, such as Blindfold Battleship to teach grid concepts, or Blindfold Barnyard to teach cardinal directions, the student practices the skill without even realizing that they are learning it.

And I can see the student’s progress in a web-based dashboard, since the games are storing it in the cloud; now I know how much the skill was really practiced and how close they are to mastering the skill. Since each game is mapped to a student’s goals and objectives in the IEP, I can even copy & paste their progress into the progress section of an IEP. That saves me time too.”

We will discuss the first few games to be released, the cloud-based web dashboard, and other ways this will help your students.


Practical Experiences with Guide Dogs and Mobility

Presented by: Gretchen Fisher Orr

This presentation will address practical aspects of dog guides and dog guide teams and will also provide time for questions. The opportunity to work with dog guide teams varies across the country, and is less common outside of urban areas. O&M Instructors who are newer to the field may not have as much opportunity to work with teams. Questions may arise about what a dog can or cannot do for a person, as well as questions about the needs of the dog in the process of instruction. Vision professionals who have never lived with a dog may have questions about the work required to maintain a dog guide in working condition, in order to understand consumer responsibilities.

Specific topics will include who might be a good candidate for a dog guide; the options available to consumers, including types of dog guide placements and different breeds; realistic expectations of what a dog can and cannot fix, and tips on how to structure an O&M lesson with a dog.

Gretchen Fisher Orr is a Certified Guide Dog Trainer/COMS from Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. Jill Suarez is a COMS/ O&M Instructor at the Carroll Center for the Blind.


"Bridging the Gap" Best practices for O&M's working with administrators.

Presented by: Dr. Nicholas Brian Casias

Every practitioner in the field can benefit from the development of best practices in terms of advocating for services and understanding what types of information, data and approaches administrators respond best to.

Practitioners in the field will be empowered with both strategies and resources for working with administrators. This presentation will give insight into both the teacher and administrator perspective. Lastly, this presentation will facilitate a needed dialog regarding effective means of advocating for O&M services, O&M instructional resources and the unique needs of the low incidence population that we serve.


Submit your vote for your favorite presentation options.

Session Selection will be open until October 12, 2018.