The Link Between Effective Orientation and Mobility Skills and Gainful Employment for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired (And What To Do with the Knowledge)

male orientation and mobility instructor shows a woman how to use her white cane

I’m certain I won’t be alone in my excitement of Jennifer L. Cmar’s research findings. Listen to this: “Results [of her research]: Youths with high community travel scores were significantly more likely to be employed…up to six years post–high school.” This is good information (and that’s the understatement of the year).

What can we do with this knowledge?

Here’s what:

Young adults who are blind or visually impaired: Be motivated! Not only do you gain independence (and general “he’s/she’s awesome points”) from traveling in your community all by your lonesome (and when accompanying a friend…or equally as exciting, a date), but you are also setting yourself up for employment success. Take those orientation and mobility lessons seriously; gain confidence and competence as you practice…and yes, you have to practice to succeed; and know you’re investing in your future.

Parents of youth who are blind or visually impaired: I recognize it is difficult to allow your child to practice his or her community travel skills. It is inconvenient; it is time consuming; it may feel unsafe; and when it comes time to let your child go somewhere on his or her own, it can feel terrifying. Your feelings are valid, but please don’t forget to think long-term. Now is the time for your child to learn the skills in a safer, more controlled environment. Each time you insist your child practice their orientation and mobility skills (by asking them to use their cane instead of sighted guide, by having your child decide when it’s safe for the family to cross the street, by taking public transportation, and by allowing them to travel independently as they demonstrate readiness and responsibility), you are setting the trajectory of their independence and employment success.

Adults who are blind or visually impaired: I can’t help but think Cmar’s research is equally pertinent for you. If you aren’t a proficient traveler, seek orientation and mobility training from a local service provider or attend a residential program. Not only will you gain the ability to get to and from work, but you will also gain confidence and independence.

Regardless of the correlation or causation of mobility training and employment, we must take seriously the implications: orientation and mobility skills (culminating in independent community travel) are too valuable to neglect, defer, or omit out of fear or inconvenience.

You can access Cmar’s research findings in the JVIB article: Orientation and Mobility Skills and Outcome Expectations as Predictors of Employment for Young Adults with Visual Impairments.

We hope you’ve found this information helpful. JVIB is the journal of record for the field of visual impairment—it has been in continuous publication since 1907 and has been published by AFB since its inception. Please consider subscribing to JVIB, or signing up to receive free email alerts on employment and visual impairment from the American Foundation for the Blind.

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