Orientation & Mobility Immersion Program
Do you have a goal of working with a guide dog for mobility, but need additional orientation & mobility training in order to qualify? We can help.
Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) is pleased to offer a free Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Immersion Program for people interested in learning orientation and mobility tactics for safe, independent travel, including the skills that are most relevant to guide dog mobility.
Our week-long O&M Immersion courses are held throughout the year. All courses start on a Sunday afternoon and conclude the following Saturday. The classes are conducted by O&M specialists on location at either one of our campuses (San Rafael, California or Boring, Oregon), or at one of our partner organization facilities (see below). Each partner O&M specialist has undergone training with Guide Dogs for the Blind to prepare them to instruct clients who have a guide dog mobility goal.
O&M Immersion Program Details
Traveling independently with a guide dog involves less tactile input than cane travel, therefore Guide Dogs for the Blind’s O&M Immersion course places a major emphasis on developing non-tactile travel skills by:
- Increasing awareness of the environmental information available to a guide dog traveler.
- Developing an understanding of how to use auditory information like traffic sounds to remain oriented and to achieve correct alignment during general travel and street crossings.
- Using auditory information to analyze different types of intersections to determine the best time to initiate street crossings.
- Developing the ability to estimate the distance walked relative to the time taken (time-distance estimation).
- Participating in an exercise that simulates travel with a guide dog (known as the Juno exercise), and learning to apply sensory awareness and travel skills in a practical way.
- Walking a route with a guide dog and guide dog mobility instructor (available to clients who have never had a guide dog).
- Learning proper scanning techniques, and how residual vision can impact guide dog travel. (Clients who have useful residual vision will be offered and may benefit from instruction using visual occlusion to assist with learning auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic information.)
The O&M Immersion Program is open to current Guide Dogs for the Blind applicants or graduates, or people referred for consideration by a GDB partner organization or other O&M/rehabilitation agency. Individuals can self-refer as well. It is preferable that applicants have received some basic O&M training in the past, and/or are currently using a long cane, but those with a guide dog mobility goal with little or no O&M services available to them will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The program is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. In addition, applicants must:
- Have independent living skills.
- Be able to live away from home without requiring direct assistance.
- Function well in group settings, in an adult-learning environment.
- Meet current Guide Dogs for the Blind medical and mental health requirements.
- Satisfy other Guide Dogs for the Blind admissions requirements in regard to legal blindness, felony convictions, substance abuse, diabetes, seizure management, etc.
Please note: Clients of other guide dog schools can be considered, but they must have open applications on file for admissions to Guide Dogs for the Blind. Minor applicants are not eligible.
All aspects of Guide Dogs for the Blind’s O&M Immersion Program are provided free of charge to eligible clients, including:
- Transportation to and from one of our campuses or partner organizations where the training is conducted.
- Lodging and all meals.
- 25 hours of individualized O&M instruction.
- Assistive technology training (optional).
- Other services such as low vision assessments, psychology services, and independent living skills training are also available and can be arranged at specific partner organizations.
Please watch our YouTube video, Developing Travel Skills for Guide Dog Mobility, to learn about the O&M skills that are taught in the Orientation & Mobility Immersion Program.
For more information about the program, or if you're an O&M professional and would like to refer a client, please contact:
Video: Meet O&M Immersion Program Client, Eric Metzler
Meet Eric Metzler, speaking about GDB's Orientation and Mobility Immersion Program.
My name is Eric Metzler, and I'm from Beaverton, Oregon.
Eric sits in a breezeway on GDB's Oregon campus
I would strongly recommend the Orientation and Mobility Immersion Program to anybody, and I'm glad that I heard about it from my orientation and mobility instructor at the Oregon Commission for the Blind. And, they instructed me that if I wanted to move further in my orientation and mobility training, that this is the place to come to.
Eric walks on various paths using his white cane alongside his orientation and mobility instructor.
I'm 51 years old, and I'd just gone blind 2-1/2 years ago, and this has given me a new lease on life. I have learned more here in four days than I have learned over the past 2-1/2 years being totally blind.
The skills that I've learned here at Guide Dogs for the Blind has given me full confidence in being able to navigate my surroundings in a safe manner...
Eric practices different travel skills with his white cane.
...and to go outside and explore, which I was never able to do.
Today was my first walk with a guide dog - which I was not expecting whatsoever. It was a very strong feeling of safety, and confidence, and security, knowing that you have this animal that its trained - and its sole purpose is to protect you, and make sure that you are safe.
Photos of Eric with a guide dog.
I would like to spend maybe a year moving forward with my orientation and mobility skills, and when I feel I'm ready and have mastered those skills, I will be ready to come back to Guide Dogs for the Blind and, uh, hope to receive my own guide dog.
Here at Guide Dogs for the Blind, you feel like there's someone out there that - or a, a, a group that's there for YOU. To make sure that you're moving forward, and safe, and independent. And I'm just feeling a lot of warmth in the community, and I'm very proud to be a part of this now.
Photo of Eric and his GDB classmates.
I, I don't have words for how, uh, generous all you donors are. Uh, I would be - uh, never be able to perform, um, where I'm at and where I'm going to be going, without having these people, and this school, and the donors backing all of this.
So now that I've gone through this program, it's put the, the final nail down to say that I can do anything that I want to do. And do it in an independent, safe manner.
Eric dances while triumphantly raising his white cane in the air.
And I'm truly blessed for that.
Photos of Eric with a joyful smile.
For more information about Guide Dogs for the Blind, please visit our website at guidedogs.com, or call us at 800.295.4050.
Submit your online application for our O&M Immersion Program.
O&M Immersion Program forms and documents available to download.