By Maggie Winn, COMS
As a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), I know the demands of our field, the constant need for recruitment, and the caseloads and territories that can be simply unmanageable. At Leader Dogs for the Blind we talk to COMS and clients alike who know that O&M services should be offered with more frequency but, due to various restraints, it is just not possible. We hear stories of clients on waiting lists for years or who don’t qualify for services based on their vocational aspirations. The Leader Dog mission is to empower people who are blind or visually impaired with lifelong skills for safe and independent daily travel—this includes O&M skills. We want to collaborate with COMS across the U.S. and Canada to provide the most comprehensive O&M experiences possible for their clients.
We know that proper O&M training in a client’s home, school or work environment is essential, but we also know the importance of learning correct cane techniques before bad habits are formed. In the ever more present itinerant model, it can be hard for clients to get continuity of training. When a COMS can only provide services once a month due to their coverage area and caseload, it is possible that their client will start to adopt bad habits out of necessity of travel. At Leader Dog, our O&M Training supports COMS who are overwhelmed with large caseloads, and even larger territories. If you are constantly pressured to close cases but feel your client needs further O&M instruction, we may have the solution you need.
Our Orientation and Mobility Training is a one-week, one-on-one program that either introduces a client to the long cane and how to use it in a wide variety of environments, or lets a current cane or guide dog user brush up on their cane skills to be more confident long cane travelers. A client does not have to want a guide dog, a client does not need to have a vocational goal and there is no maximum age. A client simply needs to have the physical ability and motivation to learn and apply their skills.
All clients are provided with a brand new Ambutech folding cane and two cane tips of their choice. They receive five full days of O&M training, which is individualized to fit their abilities. If a client can dedicate one full week, we can get them started or support their skills so their COMS at home can help them transition their new skills into their home environment. All services are provided free of charge and airfare transportation is provided. Learn more about Orientation and Mobility Training at Leader Dog.