Guide Dogs for the Blind is now offering an Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Immersion Program! The main objective is to develop those O&M skills most relevant to guide dog mobility. Traveling independently with a guide dog involves less tactile input than cane travel therefore the program 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.
- 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).
Students with useful residual vision will learn proper scanning techniques, how vision can impact guide dog travel and may benefit from occlusion training to assist them with learning auditory, tactile and kinesthetic information.
The student will participate in an exercise to help simulate travel with a guide dog (Juno exercise) and learn to apply their sensory awareness and travel skills in a practical way. First time students will get to participate in the Juno exercise with a guide dog instructor followed by an experience walk with a guide dog on the same route.
Beginning on a Sunday afternoon and concluding the following Friday around noon, students will work with O&M specialists at one of our partner organizations. Each partner 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.
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 if you're an O&M professional and would like to refer a client, please contact Outreach and O&M Services Program Coordinator Danielle Velken at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.295.4050, ext. 4121.