Stephen F. Austin State University

Orientation and Mobility


Since 1972, our SFASU Orientation and Mobility (O&M) program has been training candidates to work with persons who are blind or visually impaired. Orientation defined for our purposes means knowing where you are, in relationship to the environment around you. Mobility is the ability to get from where you are to where you want to be, in a safe and efficient manner.

SFASU is proud to offer the only undergraduate O&M training program in the United States. The program also offers O&M training at the graduate level for certification. Graduate students may elect to continue after certification and seek a Master's degree in Special Education with a specialization in Orientation & Mobility. Students who complete our O&M certification training program at the undergraduate or graduate level are equally eligible to become nationally certified by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP).

Upon certification as Orientation and Mobility Specialists, graduates from our program provide services to children and adults who have visual disabilities-services and skills that will enable these individuals to travel independently in both familiar and unfamiliar environments. Graduates from our O&M training program are eligible and prepared to successfully complete, the national certification examination from ACVREP. Once certified, our graduates are able to work in a variety of settings including state rehabilitation agencies, Lighthouses for the Blind, residential/state schools for the blind, Veterans Administration training centers, and school districts throughout the state of Texas and across the United States.

If you are interested in more information on the Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training program, please contact any of our faculty or staff.


It is the mission of the SFASU Orientation and Mobility program to train candidates to become Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) who are practically and pragmatically prepared to meet the needs of persons with visual impairments across the state of Texas and across the nation as a whole. Through their training in our program, we believe graduates are prepared to successfully complete the ACVREP national O&M certification examination. We believe graduates from our program are trained to effectively deliver services which provide opportunities for students and clients who are blind or visually impaired to be more independent, lead lives to their fullest potential, and participate to a greater extent in society at large. In order to meet these goals, we believe it is our responsibility to mentor and educate our candidates to recognize and remove environmental and societal barriers, raise expectations, provide solutions, and exhibit compassionate approaches to teaching O&M skills and techniques, valuing the worth of all individuals regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or level of disability.


Candidates at the undergraduate level are required to have a major and a minor in another area of study. Though no specific area is required, most of our undergraduate candidates complete their Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation Services. In order to add a concentration in O&M, undergraduate candidates are required to complete the following courses:

Completion of the above courses and graduation with a bachelor's degree are required by ACVREP in order for a candidate to be eligible for certification. Candidates may apply for and take the certification examination during final internship placement.


Candidates who have previously earned a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university are eligible to apply for admission to the SFASU O&M program at the graduate level. Admission typically occurs once per year, with initial coursework beginning in the first summer term. Some students may be accepted into the program at other times, however course options may be limited due to prerequisites (e.g., summer coursework SPE 500 and SPE 516). Students in the graduate O&M program are required to come to the SFASU campus for approximately six weeks to receive intensive, hands-on training in basic orientation and mobility (SPE 500). Housing and meals are provided through grant funding while students reside on our campus. Following completion of SPE 500 and SPE 516, candidates are typically able to finish the remainder of training from their home location. Required coursework includes:

Completion of the above courses is required in order to become eligible for certification through our national certifying body, ACVREP. Candidates may apply for and take the national certification examination during internship placement.

Grant funding is available for graduate students in the O&M training program, allocated on a competitive basis. Applications for grant funds are due the third Monday of March each year.

Course Sequence

Faculty & Staff

Deborah "Cricket" Cady, CTVI/COMS

Darst, Shannon, Ph.D.

Donna "DJ" Dean, CTVI/COMS

Heather Munro, CTVI/COMS

Michael Munro, Ph.D., CTVI


Jennifer Perry, COMS/CVRT

Donna Wood
Program/Grant Specialist

Additional Information and VIP Program Handbook for O&M & TVI

Orientation & Mobility Handbook

For additional information click on the following link for a Q&A and links to the applications needed:

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) do?

If you are thinking of pursuing a career working with students who have visual impairments, you might like to know a little more about the roles and responsibilities of a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI). Unfortunately, students often have a skewed notion of what "blind teachers" do. They may have seen plays or movies about persons who have visual impairments, and they assume that most of us are like Helen Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan.

Of course, that's not an accurate look at the types of jobs a modern TVI performs. The duties we DO perform, however, have been outlined very comprehensively in a position paper developed by our professional organization, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation (AER) of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The paper was actually written by Dr. Susan Spungin, who works for the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), and Dr. Kay Ferrell from the University of Northern Colorado.

Simply CLICK HERE to read the paper.

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

The following is a brief summary of the roles and responsibilities of orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists that are unique among the professionals who provide services to children, adults, and older persons who are blind or visually impaired. The complete listing of the competencies required of O&M specialists is available from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) and can be obtained by requesting the document entitled, the Academic and Clinical Competencies for O&M Specialists. A full description of the roles and responsibilities of professionals who provide O&M services, also available from ACVREP as well as the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), is set forth in the document, A Professional Standard for the Practice of Orientation and Mobility.

Roles and Responsibilities

The ultimate goal of O&M service is for people who are blind or visually impaired to acquire the skills needed to move about their daily environments safely, as independently as possible, and with purpose. To do this, O&M specialists provide children and adults who are blind or visually impaired with the skills needed to establish and maintain orientation within an environment and move through it safely and efficiently. In addition to developing skills and techniques for safe and purposeful movement, the O&M specialist provides the services necessary to use these skills for carrying out activities in the environments that people use daily, including home, school, work, and community settings.

This is accomplished by interventions that develop skills and techniques to:

gain information about the environment, and their movement through it, with their remaining senses including kinesthetic, proprioceptive, auditory (including localizing, echolocation, and use of sound shadows), visual, tactile, haptic, vestibular and olfactory senses;

• reliably negotiate obstacles, drop-offs and other hazards in the path of travel through the correct use of the human guide technique, indoor and outdoor self-protective techniques, cane techniques, and effective use of visual, auditory, and other sensory information.

establish orientation to an environment, plan movement through the environment to reach desired destinations, and maintain orientation while moving through environments.

understand concepts of the body and its position, movements and direction, and of the environment, including the relationships between objects and within spatial systems (particularly for those whose visually impairment is congenital);

problem-solve, reorient when lost, procure assistance, and deal with the public;

negotiate complex indoor and outdoor environments that include streets and intersections, commercial retail settings, and public transit vehicles and facilities.

Essential responsibilities unique to the O&M specialist include:

evaluating present and future travel needs, current orientation and travel abilities, and goals;

evaluating environments for travel demands;

developing goals and objectives for O&M service;

providing intervention and experiences for independent movement in daily environments at home, school, work, and in the community, including, as appropriate, mass transportation.


Academic knowledge and competencies required to provide orientation and mobility services:

Medical aspects of visual impairments and their effects on visual functioning;

• Sensory motor functioning including the development, use, and assessment of sensory systems and motor skills for using indoor and outdoor O&M skills and techniques in a range of environments;

• Psycho-social aspects of blindness and visual impairments, including adjustment processes which may accompany visual impairment and concomitant disabilities;

• Human growth and development over the lifespan, including how they are affected by visual impairments, and interventions that can facilitate growth and development of visually impaired children and adults in relation to their movement and orientation;

• Concept development of people who are visually impaired;

Multiple disabilities of visually impaired children and adults and implications for orientation and mobility;

• Systems of orientation and mobility including the long cane and adapted canes and mobility devices, electronic travel aids, dog guides, and optical and non-optical devices as well as the use of ambulatory aids by people who are visually impaired;

• Orientation and mobility skills and techniques including guide techniques; protective and orientation techniques; techniques for using canes and adaptive devices; use of landmarks, clues and cues, and search patterns; soliciting and declining assistance; analysis of intersections and traffic patterns; street-crossing techniques; and use of public transportation;

• Instructional methods, strategies and assessment of orientation and mobility;

• Philosophy of orientation and mobility including code of ethics, certification standards, and empowerment and advocacy issues;

• Professional information, including sources of current literature, research, resources and professional organizations, and environmental accessibility standards;

• Development, administration and supervision of O&M programs.

Clinical practice competencies required to provide orientation and mobility service:

The clinical O&M competencies address the skills that O&M specialists are required to demonstrate for the development of the O&M skills and techniques.

The clinical competencies that are unique to the practice of O&M fall into the following categories:

• evaluate and maximize the use of functional vision in travel environments;

evaluate and maximize the use of auditory, kinesthetic, tactual, and other sensory information;

modify or adapt instruction in situations that affect O&M lessons such as adverse weather, noise, emotional upset, fatigue, etc.;

maintain an appropriate distance between student and O&M specialist to provide for effective instruction and safety, and provide discretion in the timing of interventions according to students need for support and opportunities to achieve independence;

• teach sidewalk travel including negotiating driveways, and corner detection and negotiation.

This paper was developed by the Orientation and Mobility Division of the primary professional organization in Visual Impairment, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) has developed the standards for the roles and responsibilities of COMS. The most important mission of the O&M program is to educate students to fulfill these important roles.

Approved by O&M Division membership through mail ballot Spring 2004
(Approval percentage: 99%)

What is the TVI program like?

Please visit the following links to see the course requirements for each degree:

Masters in Special Education with Visual Impairment Certification

Graduate Level Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
(TVI - Certificate Only)

Masters in Special Education with dual Certification
(as a TVI and Orientation & Mobility Specialist)

What is the O&M Program like?

Click on the following links to see the course requirements for each degree:

Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation with an emphasis in Orientation and Mobility

Masters in Special Education with Orientation and Mobility Certification

Graduate Program in Orientation and Mobility (Certificate Only)

Masters in Special Education with Dual Certification

Can I get a degree and/or certificate for both TVI and O&M?


See the Required Courses for a Master's in Special Education with Dual Certificate in Orientation and Mobility and Visual Impairment

Is there any financial aid available?
Program Costs and Financial Assistance

The VIP (Visual Impairment Program) Program has been awarded a grant to help support students who pursue training in visual impairment or orientation and mobility at the graduate level. This grant is provided from he State of Texas. We will, therefore, be able to offer full stipends to students seeking a master's degree on a competitive basis. This grant is not available to students pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Orientation and Mobility. These stipends will be sufficient to cover tuition and fees to the university. Books and supplies are the responsibility of the student. Stipends will be paid to students who are working on initial endorsements in either visual impairment or orientation and mobility. Extra classes needed for dual certifications or the master's program must be paid for by the student as the grant can only pay for initial certification.

Because stipends are paid by a grant, you need to know that there is a MANDATORY PAYBACK OF FUNDS if the student does not either:

- complete the program, or

- serve in a capacity covered by the grant (working with students who have visual impairments) after the program is completed. Students must work two years for every one year stipends are paid.

This means that a typically student in the VIP Program will receive stipends for 12-18 months and will be expected to work with students who have visual impairments for 2-3 years, 2 years for each 1 year of stipends.

Please visit the following links to find more information on VI/O&M grant funding and payback information:

Grant Payback Video (coming soon)

Grant Payback Test (coming soon - required)

Additional Financial Aid

Financial Aid is also available to students in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study, and/or student loans.

Find out more on the Financial Aid website:

What are the eligibilty requirements for the program?
Program Eligibility

In order to be eligible for any of the graduate level programs, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university
  • You must have a minimum overall Grade Point Average of 2.5 (based on a 4.0 system), and at least a 2.8 GPA on the last 60 hours of your college work. That can include either undergraduate or graduate level course work.
  • You must demonstrate a proficiency in both reading and writing
  • You must have computer and internet access, and be able to demonstrate proficient computer literacy skills

If you are applying for the TVI or Dual Certification program, you must also have a valid Texas teaching certification.

How will courses be delivered?
Course Delivery Information

Our undergraduate program in Orientation & Mobility is offered traditionally with face-to-face classes meeting here at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Our graduate level courses, however, have a different approach to the classroom experience.

One of the reasons that it has been so difficult to obtain graduate level training in becoming a TVI or a COMS has to do with the scarcity of programs and the requirement that students leave their homes for extended periods of time or travel long distances to participate in training programs. The VIP Program is dedicated to providing high quality instruction for the student with a minimum amount of time away from home through the use of distance education techniques. Our goal is to provide the maximum amount of student support possible through a variety of technologies. Basically, you can expect your graining to be provide in the following ways:

    In ITV classes, the students will gather at their Education Service Cneter. The instructor will be a Stephen F. Austin or at some location in one of the ESC sites. The instructor will be able to see and talk with the students and vice versa. This platform is used primarily for class discussions, project sharing, and question and answer sessions. ITV is used for our two summer class offering - SPE 516, Eye Anatomy and SPE 517, Braille.
    Collaborate is an online learning platform used to share presentation and facilitate classroom discussion between and among faculty and students. Through the use of a computer and microphone, class members meet together to discuss topics, share ideas, and develop knowledge.
    You will receive much information that once came in the form of lectures from what are called Web Instructional Activities, Web Lessons, or Modules. You will access these lessons on your own computer, at your own home or office, wherever you choose to work on the class. Many of your assignments and tests will also be administered over the internet.
    We, as a class, might also use computer chats or discussions. In general, chats are used either to review for exams or to discuss material which is covered on assignments.
How do I apply to the program?
Information on the Application Process

Please visit the following links to get more information on the application and enrollment process for each degree:


CLICK HERE for information on enrolling at Stephen F. Austin State University at the undergraduate level as a freshman.


CLICK HERE for information on enrolling at Stephen F. Austin State University at the undergraduate level as a transfer student.


CLICK HERE for information on enrolling in the VIP Program at the graduate level.

How will applications into the graduate program be evaluated?
Graduate Program Application Review Process

Once your application is received by the staff at SFASU's VIP Program, an application folder will be created for you. During the two weeks following the application deadline, your folder will be disseminated to our Admissions Committee. The materials in your folder will be reviewed by several faculty members, some of whom may be from departments outside of the VI Department.

We will ONLY consider those applications which are COMPLETE. This means they MUST have:

  1. a copy of your Graduate School application;
  2. a completed VIP Program application;
  3. a recommendation from the person who is currently your immediate supervisor;
  4. a copy of your application essay
  5. official transcripts showing degree

We will ask members of the Admissions Committee to evaluate the following factors on a scale of from 1 to 5 (low to high) on the following factors:

  • Amount and quality of experience working with children. The maximum number of points will be given for extensive work experience with children in public school settings. Minimal numbers of points may be added for work with children in volunteer (eg. church, Girl Scouts, etc.) settings.
  • Amount and quality of experience in working with children who have special needs. Again, the maximum number of points will be given for extensive work experience with students who have special needs in public school settings.
  • Stability of work history. Committee members will be asked to give a high score to applicants who have a relatively stable work history (i.e. they have stayed in positions for more than one year and can show a consistent work history without significant gaps).

In addition, Committee members will be asked to evaluate the recommendation provided by your immediate supervisor. Recommendations will be rated on a scale of 1 to 10. The more enthusiastic, positive, and complimentary the recommendation is, the more points you can expect to receive. Other factors which may be involved in assessment include (1) how long you have worked for this person, and (2) the position that the person holds (e.g. a Special Education Director as opposed to a Diagnostician.

Application essays are worth a maximum of 15 points, and will be rated on the following factors:

  • Degree to which the applicant demonstrates an understanding of realistic expectations for students with visual impairments,
  • Motivation/reason for pursuing the program,
  • Ability to write clearly and concisely, and
  • Spelling and grammar.

It is possible to obtain a total of 40 points in the evaluation of your application materials. If you can provide us with a letter which states that you have a guaranteed job as a VI Teacher for the Fall, you will be given an additional 10 points.

Because of our funding constraints, there are a limited number of slots available for students in our program. SLOTS ARE ALLOCATED ON A COMPETITIVE BASIS, and not everyone who applies will be accepted into the program. A letter from the Graduate School at SFASU stating that the applicant has been accepted into the Graduate School does NOT constitute acceptance into the VIP Program. Applicants who are accepted will be notified in a letter from VIP Program Staff.

Job Board for O&M and VI Professionals

Please send us new information so we can stay updated!

SFA Job Board can be located with the following link:

Rehabiliation Service Agency Grant Payback informatoin for O&M Candidates
Materials for RSA Grant Receipts

Certification and Evaluation Information for TVI and O&M Candidates
Professional Certification and Evaluation

COMS Certification

ACVREP Website - O&M Application and steps for national certification

TVI Certification

Process for obtaining Emergency Certification (TVI)

Process for applying for Supplemental Certification as TVI from TEA

Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS)


Introduction to COMS Companion

T-TESS addendum for O&M


Introduction to T-TESS (Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System) for TVI

T-TESS Companion for TVI

T-TESS Pre-Conference for TVI

Can I get a copy of the handbook?

Visual Impairment/Orientation & Mobility Program Handbook

Orientation & Mobility Internship Handbook

What program are available if I'm interested in becoming an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist?

Click on the following links to see the course requirements for each degree.

Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation with an emphasis in Orientation and Mobility

Masters in Special Education with Orientation and Mobility Certification

Graduate Program in Orientation and Mobility (Certificate Only)

Masters in Special Education with Dual Certification