About orientation and mobility specialists

An orientation and mobility specialist (OMS) is a university-trained professional who works with people who have vision impairment. This might be blindness or low vision. OMSs also work with people, including children, who have limited mobility or multiple disabilities – for example, vision impairment caused by cerebral palsy, stroke or other brain injury.

OMSs teach people to use their other senses (sound, touch, smell, hearing and the feeling of body movement) to work out where they are (orientation), move around safely (mobility) and interact with and respond to their environment.

OMSs can advise people about different mobility aids – for example, white canes or electronic devices. OMSs also help people learn how to use aids to move around obstacles and work out where they are in the environment. This is important for moving safely in areas like traffic crossings, streets and shopping centres.

Orientation and mobility services are available free of charge throughout Australia from charities for people with low vision or blindness. Some state and territory education departments offer orientation and mobility services.

Why your child might see an orientation and mobility specialist

If your child is blind or has low vision or limited mobility, he might work with an OMS to build the skills he needs to understand where his body is in space and move around his environment.

Your child might see an OMS in the team of health professionals who are helping her. This team might also include occupational therapists, physiotherapists, optometrists, orthoptists, doctors or teachers.

An OMS can generally give you ideas about activities that will encourage your child’s independence and learning. And after assessing your child, the OMS will make a plan – with your help – for the aids and/or program that will best support your child’s specific needs.

Before going to an orientation and mobility specialist

If your child needs orientation and mobility services, you can contact a service provider directly. You don’t need a referral from your GP or another health professional. The intake process will look at whether your child is eligible for the service.

It’s a good idea to think about the following things when you’re talking with a service provider:

  • Why you’re going to the orientation and mobility specialist: what goals do you have for your child? What do you hope for in the short term and the long term?
  • When to start: it’s never too early to start working with an OMS. The best orientation and mobility support comes from a healthy partnership between parents, OMSs, schools and other people involved in your child’s life.
  • Waiting list: how long will you have to wait to see the OMS? Will this affect your goals? Could the waiting time impact on other things? For example, if your child is about to start or change school, or needs new mobility challenges, he might need to see an OMS sooner if he can.
  • Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to find your nearest service provider and make an appointment.
  • Costs: are there any costs involved in using an OMS?
  • Location: most OMSs will come to your home or your child’s school for the first appointment.