Why Should Blind or Visually Impaired Individuals Practice Orientation and Mobility Skills?

By Neva Fairchild

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

Are you thinking, “What’s the Point? I’m not in school, and I don’t have a job. Where do I need to go, anyway?”

Has your Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instructor asked you to practice what you have learned between lessons? Do you have trouble thinking of reasons to get out or places to go? Are you reluctant to grab your cane and be adventurous? Well, there’s an important reason to build and polish your O&M skills: Good O&M skills are associated with higher rates of employment. So, how do you get good O&M skills? Practice, practice, practice. And, have fun while you practice. Here’s some ideas to get you out of your comfort zone and into the community.

What is your passion? Do you love chocolate? How about Chinese food? Do you have a friend across town that you’ve been meaning to visit? Is there a hobby you have given up since you became blind or visually impaired? Use your interests to motivate your travels.

Research chocolate shops nearby and set a goal to visit one each week to find the one with the very best malted milk balls (or whatever your favorite chocolate delight may be). Map out the route, figure out the buses you’ll need to take, consider the time of day the shop is open, and go!

Try all the Chinese buffets in town. Invite a friend or two to meet you there. Write reviews of the restaurants and share them via social media. Expand your search for the 5 Star buffet to encompass surrounding towns to try your skills at longer distances, when you are ready.

As a person with vision loss, you may have slipped into the habit of waiting for friends to come to you for a visit. Turn the tables. Make it a point to schedule time with a friend at their home or at a public place. Don’t let them talk you out of traveling there independently. They are well meaning, but if they are driving you, you are not building your skills.

What if fishing is what you love to do? Research the fishing docks in your area. Identify the transportation options, pack your pole and gear so you can find what you need; don’t forget to take lunch and a big jug of water and go drown a bucket of worms.

O&M skills are not learned in a vacuum. They are learned by living and doing and going where you want. You can’t wait until you need the skills to learn them. Learn them by doing things you want to do and by the time you start using them for things you need to do, you’ll be traveling like a pro!

Additional Orientation and Mobility Information