Orientation and Mobility Career, College and Community Readiness Standards

Orientation and Mobility Standards for Career, College and Community Readiness

Editor’s Note:  Orientation and Mobility Career, College and Community Readiness (CCCR) Standards were originally designed for the state of Wisconsin, but offer guidelines to O & M specialists throughout the country.  An excerpt is published below.  View the full document (60 pages).

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction:   Action Plan for Wisconsin (Background Information)
  • Frequently Asked Questions about the O&M Career, College and Community Readiness Standards
  • Guide to the Orientation and Mobility Career, College and Community Readiness Standards
  • Key Design Considerations
  • Definitions of terms used in the Orientation and Mobility CCCR Standards
  • IEP Development
  • Alignment with Common Core State Standards and Interdisciplinary Approach
  • Children who are Deaf-blind or Adventitiously Blinded
  • What is Not Covered by the Standards
  • Guide to Appendices
  • Resources
  • Progression os Skills Strategic Framework
  • O&M CCCR Standards Progression Map
    • Standard 1:     Concept Development
    • Standard 2:     Sensory Development
    • Standard 3:     Orientation and Mapping
    • Standard 4:     Travel Techniques
    • Standard 5:     Communication, Personal Safety and Advocacy
  • Appendix 1:  Typical Components of an O&M Curriculum
  • Appendix 2:  Blooms Taxonomy Verbs
  • Appendix 3:  Sample Safety Supervision Designation Guideline
  • Appendix 4: The Role of Vision in Development (Lea Havarinen)
  • Appendix 5: Sample Skill Set: Body Concepts
  • Appendix 6: Sample Skill Set:  Spatiotemporal Concepts 
  • Appendix 7: Sample Skill Set:  Environmental Concepts
  • Appendix 8: Sample Skill Set:  Sensory Development
  • Appendix 9:  Sample Skills Sets:  Orientation and Mapping
  • Appendix 10: Concept Screening Tool: Intersections, Traffic Patterns, Lane-Usage, Traffic Controls, Compass Directions
  • Appendix 11:  Sample Skills Set: Route Navigation, Traffic Pattern Concepts, Street Crossings
  • Appendix 12:  Sample Skill Set:  Travel Techniques
  • Appendix 13:  Sample Skill Set:  Key Travel Skills by Environment
  • Appendix 14:  Sample Skill Set:   Wheelchair Travel

All children, including those who are blind or visually impaired, with or without additional disabilities, have the right to a free, appropriate, public education which includes specialized disability-specific curricula critical to“career and college readiness.” Standards for Orientation and Mobility skills aligned with the Common Core State Standards and States’ Model Academic Standards provide the structure for educational equity.

Introduction:   Action Plan for Wisconsin (Background Information)

We, as a state, have documented the barriers to providing appropriate orientation and mobility (O&M) services to children in Wisconsin time and again over the years through a variety of organizations including Wisconsin DPI, Wisconsin National Agenda and Wisconsin AER.  These same barriers have also been documented nationally.  They include: not enough service providers, issuance of emergency licenses, pressures from administrators to limit amounts and levels of service, itinerant services in large geographical regions involving hours and hours of travel; a lack of understanding of the scope and sequence of O&M instruction by IEP team members, and not enough time in a teacher’s schedule to provide appropriate services. (Tellefson, M., Koehler, W.) Vision professionals are increasingly frustrated with the lack of influence they have in assuring an appropriate level of O&M services for the children they serve.  This frustration leads to teacher turn-over and attrition which perpetuates the shortage of teachers in the field.  The ultimate loss is the continuity of appropriate services to children who are blind or visually impaired.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction under the leadership of State Superintendent Dr. Tony Evers has charged educators with the responsibility of ensuring that all children graduate with the skills and knowledge they personally need to be successful in college, career and community. “It is our collective responsibility as an education community to make certain each child receives a high-quality, challenging education designed to maximize potential, an education that reflects and stretches his or her abilities and interests.  This belief in the right of every child to learn forms the basis of equitable teaching and learning.”  (Common Core Essential Elements, Introduction p XI.)  Dr. Evers further states, “All students… deserve and have a right to a quality educational experience.  This right includes, to the maximum extent possible, the opportunity to be involved in and meet the same challenging expectations that have been established for all students.”  His vision, Every Child a Graduate is described:  “In Wisconsin, we are committed to ensuring every child a graduate who has successfully completed a rigorous, meaningful, 21st century education that will prepare him or her for careers, college and citizenship (P IX). 

Though there isn’t just one perfect action that can take remediate a problem as multi-faceted as we know this situation to be–especially in an educational landscape that keeps changing– doing nothing assures that children who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities will continue to receive inequitable services as compared to their sighted peers.  With a national unemployment rate of 60-70% for people who are blind or visually impaired, we must know for ourselves as educators, and teach others the critical role of the expanded core curriculum in ensuring that students have access to and can successfully complete an education that prepares them for career, college and community. Orientation and mobility skills play a critical and foundational role in this preparation.  

We are called by Dr. Evers to develop those educational practices and systems that align with the Common Core State Standards to facilitate progress towards the readiness expectations for all children.  This is our call to braid O&M curriculum outcomes with the Common Core State Standards and the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards so that students who are blind and visually impaired have educational access, experiences and training that increase the likelihood of succeeding in career,  higher education and a meaningful life.  Without this disability-specific instruction, children who are blind or visually impaired are at risk for not achieving the success their sighted counterparts achieve because of the inequities of access inherent in the disability. 

O & M Standards

In keeping with the models of a twenty-first-century educational system, the instructional curriculum of orientation and mobility needs its own set of rigorous and coherent age/grade level standards and a clear student “readiness” profile.  The alignment of the O&M College, Career and Community Readiness (CCCR) standards with the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice will demonstrate the relationship between vision, principles, process and content and result in a collaborative braiding of disciplines that allow all children to progress towards readiness expectations. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the O&M Career, College and Community Readiness Standards

1. Why do we need standards?  We’ve never had them before.

Standards will give additional credibility to the importance of O&M instruction. They will help guide assessment and instruction of students, training for instructors (COMS), and accountability for the field. They will give the field a core of instructional parameters upon which to base further research, which will lead to confirmation of research-based, best practices.

In addition, it is well documented that not all children who are eligible for orientation and mobility instruction are receiving the frequency and amount of instruction that leads to career, college and community readiness.  There are sparse resources and research available to help an O&M specialist justify an amount and level of instruction. Without research based, best practice recommendations from the field, O&M specialists stand on indefensible ground when advocating for an appropriate amount of O&M instruction if anyone on the IEP team poses a reason to lessen the amount. We know from research that this happens, and reasons given include not enough money, not enough staff, and caseloads that are overwhelmingly unmanageable.  Amount and levels of service are driven ONLY by appropriate assessment toward the standards.

2. Can I still use them if my district doesn’t adopt or formally accept them?

Standards for instruction will not need to be adopted by the district—they will provide research based best practices for instruction, and this is a corner stone for effective instruction.

3. What should parents know about these standards? 

Parents will need to know that O&M is an important part of the Expanded Core Curriculum, and part of that curriculum includes standards which have meaningful research to support that need and importance. A critical marker affecting successful employment for individuals with visual impairments is the ability to travel independently. For students with multiple disabilities, standards will guide instruction that can lead to less dependence in travel. In fact, the two most important variables affecting employment are O&M and literacy.   

4. What if my student is not working at age/grade level?  What should and shouldn’t I do?

An outdated premise in our field continues to portray every student with a visual impairment as always developmentally behind sighted same age peers. Research has also shown that lowered expectations for students with visual impairments continues to have a negative effect on their respective growth and development.  Standards will provide benchmarks of knowledge, skills, and behaviors that will focus instruction; and when growth does not occur within instructional periods, alternative instructional strategies must be employed.

Standards can help guide us with 4 simple questions: what do the students need to learn; how will we evaluate that learning; what do we do when they have learned; and, what will we do when they have not learned.

5. I might be in the position of not having any more time in my schedule to devote to a student who is working from a standards based educational model.  What then?

Standards in and of themselves will not increase your instructional time. They can however increase the effectiveness of your instructional time by providing sequenced and research confirmed processes for acquiring O&M skills, including meaningful evaluations of student abilities and needs.

6. What is the benefit of O&M standards for children?

Standards will give us a method of comparison of skills needed by age/grade levels. Standards based on an agreed upon set of skills, knowledge and behaviors will allow for more meaningful evaluation and instruction; these will increase and reinforce accountability for student learning.

7. What is the benefit of O&M standards for O&M instructors?

With standards for O&M instruction, COMS will have research based information supporting the need for specific instruction. Standards will help increase accountability for student learning through an organized approach, much like standards guide instruction in the known core areas of reading, math, writing, etc. With standards, pre- and in-service training can be more focused.

Along with accountability for student learning comes the question of how much instructional time a student will need to receive in order to meet his or her objectives and goals. There are many facets of teaching and of learning that play into the decision, and the decision should be based on the individual student’s learning styles and needs.  However, a 1999 study by William Koehler, “Considerations for Provision of Orientation and Mobility Instruction, used a  Delphi study to gain consensus from  O&M specialists  to determine a range of instructional time needed to teach key O&M skills.  The replication of that study, using the performance standards as the target, will allow O&M practitioners to use and show others what the field of O&M has defined as “appropriate”.  From there, it is easy to justify a lower or higher level of instruction, for the right reasons in a way that is transparent to the entire IEP team.

8. You keep talking about research-where is that research?     

There is a lack of formalized research based on common components of O&M; yes, there are articles published, however standards can and will help focus research on all aspects of O&M. 

9. My students are different and they must be treated individually because they are unique and have unique learning styles. Standards will force me into a locked set of skills that will not apply to my students.

Respected information that has been around our field for some time will emphasize that students with visual impairments have … “unique, but not dissimilar needs.” To that end, standards provide an emphasis on structured, sequential learning important for all students; these will show us the expectations for independence in travel for typically developing students and thereby giving COMS and IEP teams an organized basis for making recommendations for instruction.   

10. Why are the standards based on typically developing sighted children rather than what we know of development of blind children?

Standards are developed based in part on typical child development. They also reflect expectations in travel abilities for any child/student. If we are unaware of typical patterns of child development and travel expectations, we can, will, and HAVE lowered our own expectations based not on student abilities, but rather, based on predetermined perceptions of inability. 

In our quest in special education to create individuals who can effectively participate in the larger society, it is of utmost importance that we know (and better yet, our students know) what is expected. For example, by about 5th grade, typically developing students will have acquired a given set of skills, knowledge and behaviors. By knowing these, standards will provide the necessary guidance for comprehensive assessment and purposeful instruction for the student, and, lead to more directed in-service training for the COMS. 

11. Won’t standards make children with multiple disabilities look even less capable than their sighted peers—especially if there is no way for them to attain them?  It’s like saying, “Here’s just another thing you aren’t good at or can’t do at all. And we’ve just documented it for the world to know.”

As indicated above, standards outline a sequence of skills rather than mandatory achievement steps for students. But first consider this: many students who have been identified and eligible for services under the category of “Multi-handicapped” represent a vast and varied combination of challenges. In some states a student with a visual impairment (low vision) and a learning disability in math computation may be considered eligible for special education services under the category of “Multi-handicapped.” This student is far different than a student with significant cognitive challenges (intellectual disability), vision loss (VI), and other health impairment (OHI).

Even a student with the previous listing of eligibilities may have severe intellectual challenges or mild ones; the student may have significant vision loss or quite useable levels of low vision; and other health impairment may be neurological (seizure disorder) or ADD.

Before any pre-determination of “inability” based on category, the student needs a comprehensive evaluation/assessment with IEP goals designed to meet her/his unique needs, considering age and immediate travel expectations.

We really need to get away from any vestiges of entrenched thought that the student with a visual impairment will be all right with a “travel buddy.” This is not what is expected of non-disable peers.

12. Why do the standards start at age 2?  What about Early Intervention?

We all know that purposeful movement begins far sooner than age 2. This is why we have early intervention services. However, at age 2 considerations are being made for school based programming, all of which includes standards. By coordinating our efforts with those of general education, including specific levels of accountability, we can better match instruction to specific student needs.

Additionally, in working with parents of infants/toddlers, it is important for parents to see the longer term process of developing O&M skills and how critical their contributions and advocacy for Early Intervention is!

13. I already have checklists that I use.  Do the standards come with a checklist?  Can I use the appendices as a checklist of sorts?

Standards will provide the basis for a systematic, comprehensive evaluation in O&M. Too often we place reliance on “pieces and parts of a variety of assessment tools” which we can now see leads to students demonstrating “splinter skills”, or those skills taught in isolation with varied levels of importance depending on the particular instructor.       

Standards will give a common basis of skill, knowledges, and behaviors that will follow the student’s progress rather than a fragmented approach based on numerous lists.

14. These standards can provide administrative guidelines for higher levels of accountability for the COMS. That feels scary.

Accountability is real for everyone-students accountable for learning; teachers accountable for teaching; and administrators accountable for developing and reinforcing an environment that assures learning. Research shows 70+% of individuals with visual impairments as being unemployed or under-employed. Two major factors in the 70%: lack of literacy, and, O&M skills. That is also scary.

15. I have been teaching O&M for years and do not need any other outside source of measurement of my teaching. This looks like “big brother” will be watching my every move. Isn’t there such a thing as too much accountability?    

We are already accountable through outcomes and lack of performance that currently exist, and frankly stand to be evaluated by others who have no idea what O&M is. Consumer groups, parent groups, and schools have expectations for accountability by service providers. Standards will give the field a higher level of accountability which can support individual instructors. Accountability lends credibility to the work we do.

Profile of Student Readiness


Students who are blind or visually impaired  who are career, college and community ready…

1.     Travel safely, efficiently and independently in familiar and unfamiliar environments.

2.     Use tools and skills strategically to maintain orientation during travel.

3.     Apply specific skills sets to variables in the environment .

4.     Solve problems of accessibility and safety.

5.     Use appropriate tools strategically.

6.     Use independent and interdependent strategies to accomplish a goal.

7.     Make use of environmental patterns and apply positional and relational knowledge to new environments.

8.     Plan routes and construct cognitive maps using a range of media, tools and information gathering techniques.

9.     Communicate and advocate clearly and effectively.

10.  Access community information, resources, social venues and services including public and private transportation.