The main objective of GDB's Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Immersion Program is to assist people wanting to work with a guide dog to develop those O&M skills most relevant to guide dog mobility. In this exciting program, GDB partners with agencies and O&M professionals to offer the Immersion Program. Our debut partner is The Lighthouse in San Francisco.
During the six-day course, based at The Lighthouse’s residential facility, clients receive an average of 25 instructional hours in O&M skills with a 1:1 student/O&M instructor ratio. Each O&M specialist has undergone training with Guide Dogs for the Blind to prepare them to instruct students who have a guide dog mobility goal.
Since the skills taught during the course are aimed to assist clients to travel independently with a guide dog, they involve less tactile input than cane travel. The skills covered in the course include:
- Increasing awareness of environmental information
- 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
- Teaching how to use auditory information to analyze different types of intersections and determine the best time to initiate street crossings
- Developing the ability to estimate the distance walked relative to the time taken (time-distance estimation)
- Maximizing the use of residual vision (if applicable) through proper scanning techniques and developing an understanding of how residual vision can impact guide dog travel
Students then have the opportunity to apply their sensory awareness and travel skills in a practical way via simulated guide dog walks (also known as “Juno” walks). In addition, for those students who are new to GDB, they will have the opportunity to visit our California campus and complete a Juno route with a guide dog instructor in downtown San Rafael. This is followed by a walk with a trained guide dog on the same route, which provides an opportunity for the student to not only apply their acquired O&M skills, but understand first-hand the nature of guide dog travel.
The course, including transportation costs, is completely FREE to the students with funding coming from State Departments of Rehabilitation (based on student eligibility), or from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Students are accommodated at the Lighthouse headquarters at 1155 Market Street in downtown San Francisco, and receive their training in and around the facility. Students have their own room with shared bathrooms, and meals are provided in a communal kitchen.
The Immersion Program is open to current GDB applicants or graduates, or people who are referred for consideration by a GDB partner organization or other O&M/rehabilitation agency. Students must have received some basic O&M training in the past, and/or currently be using a long cane. They must have independent living skills, and be able to live away from home without requiring direct assistance; they also must meet current GDB medical and mental health requirements. In addition, they need to satisfy other GDB admissions requirements in regard to legal blindness, felony convictions, substance abuse, diabetes, seizure management, etc. Students must be able to function in group settings, in an adult-learning environment. Minor applicants are not eligible.
For more information about the program or to refer a client, please contact Orientation and Mobility Services Manager Marc Gillard at email@example.com or 800.295.4050, ext. 4061.