Who are Independent Options for Mobility? And why are we blogging?

So who are we? And why are we writing a blog? I imagine if you’re reading this page, you have already looked at some of the website, so you have some idea of who we are.  But maybe you’re not really sure about what we do? Or maybe you’re looking for further information or resources on orientation and mobility (O&M) or travel training or disability. That’s where I hope the blog comes in, as a way of communicating with the community, stimulating discussion, answering questions, and generally just getting information and ideas out there.

As this is our first blog post, it seems appropriate to explain a little more about ourselves and what Independent Options for Mobility, or IOM, is all about. Both Dean and I have come from backgrounds in orientation and mobility (O&M), a profession that is not well known in Australia. That seems like a good place to start….

O&M as a profession began in the United States as a rehabilitation service for blinded soldiers returning home from World War II. Dona Sauerburger, an O&M specialist in the United States, has written a great summary of the history of the profession in the US that you can read about here.  Although the guide dog movement began in Western Australia in 1951, the profession of O&M was launched in Melbourne in 1971 at the National Guide Dog Training Centre in Kew.

An early picture of the National Guide Dog Training Centre in Kew
An early picture of the National Guide Dog Training Centre in Kew

Photo source:  https://www.guidedogsvictoria.com.au/about-us/history/

Over the years, the profession has expanded from working primarily with adults with acquired blindness to a broader group of individuals including very young children and those with additional physical and/or cognitive disabilities. The population of people with low vision is growing, and the advent of technological advances including GPS and smart phone apps are adding another dimension to independent mobility. Additionally, there have been dramatic changes in the physical environment since the profession began, including large increases in vehicle numbers on our roads.

The purpose of O&M intervention is to provide specialised instruction to enable individuals to acquire the orientation and mobility techniques and skills necessary for independent travel. Although the profession primarily works with those with vision loss, O&M strategies and skills are relevant for other populations without vision loss who may be experiencing difficulties with independent mobility. More about that in upcoming blog posts!

In the next post, Dean and I will talk a little about our own backgrounds and interests, and why we decided to work together as IOM.

More information on the profession of O&M can be found in these sources. Unfortunately, some journal articles are not available freely online so we can’t provide you with article directly. Links will be provided to resources where they are available.

Bledsoe, C. W. (2010). The originators of orientation and mobility training. In W. R. Weiner, R. L. Welsh, & B. Blasch (Eds.), Foundations of orientation and mobility (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 434–487). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Branson, V. M., & Rutt, W. B. C. (1982). Lead with a watchful eye.  The silver jubilee of Guide Dogs in Australia. Melbourne, Australia: The Royal Guide Dogs for the Blind Associations of Australia.

Deverell, L., & Scott, B. (2014). Orientation and mobility in Australia and New Zealand: situational analysis and census. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness108(1), 77-82.

Ford, B. (1971). The rehabilitation of blind people. Melbourne: Royal Guide Dogs for the Blind Associations of Australia.

Hoover, R. (1950). The cane as a travel aid. In P. Zahl (Ed.), Blindness: Modern approaches to the unseen environment. New York and London: Hafner Publishing Company.

Sauerburger, D. (1996) O&M living history – where did our O&M techniques come from? Retrieved from http://www.sauerburger.org/dona/omhistory.htm