Visual Impairments/Orientation and Mobility

When a student is described as having a visual impairment, it means that, even with correction, the vision has an adverse affect on his/her educational performance. Students with visual impairments have unique educational needs. In order to meet those needs, students must have specialized services, books and materials in appropriate media (including braille), as well as specialized equipment and technology to assure access to the core and specialized curriculum. Certified Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) provide a wide range of services to students and school districts in compliance with local, state, and federal legislation. They participate with districts evaluation teams in qualifying students, assist in developing individual education programs, and provide direct and consultative services to ensure success in the classroom as well as the community.  VI teachers and O&M specialists belong to two different professions with two different sets of professional standards and practices. Let's take a closer look at the responsibilities of each role.

What is a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI)?

The itinerant teacher for students with visual impairments travels to the students' assigned schools to provide direct and/or consultative special education services relating to vision loss. These services facilitate learning in a variety of settings. The students range in age from birth through 21 and may have only a visual impairment or additional disabilities. Services for infants may be provided in the home or child care settings. The cognitive levels of the students range from severely impaired to gifted and talented. In addition to the working with the student, the TVI collaborates with school staff, teachers, parents, and the community. Each state has their own certification rules and regulations. 

What is an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist?

Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) teach people who are blind or visually impaired the skills and concepts needed in order to travel independently, safely and efficiently – in the home and classroom as well as in their community. O&M specialists provide services across the life span -- they teach visually impaired children in school programs and adults in rehabilitation settings.