Orientation & Mobility is one of four departments of South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind. It was established in 1974 to provide people with visual impairments with an alternative to a Guide Dog, namely long cane. The long cane is an extremely useful mobility aid that can become an extension of a person’s sense of touch.

Freedom and independence mean different things to different people. To a person who is visually impaired it may mean the ability to go to the bank, visit friends, go shopping unaided or travel to work safely. This means the need to be able to know where they are and to move around safely. These skills are called Orientation and Mobility.

The Orientation & Mobility Department plays two main roles in assisting people who are visually impaired:

  • Training Orientation and Mobility Practitioners who teach people with visual impairment cane skills and skills of daily living.
  • Orientation and Mobility Support – our Orientation and Mobility Practitioners provide long cane, visual skills and daily living skills training to children and adults with visual impairment, at no cost.

Orientation and Mobility Support

We employ Orientation and Mobility Practitioners who provide support to people who are visually impaired.

The aim of any training is to give the person a greater level of independence in their daily lives.

Any person who is blind or partially sighted, is eligible for this free service.

We cover the Pretoria and greater Johannesburg areas.

The services include teaching personal management skills such as ironing, cleaning, money identification, pouring hot and cold drinks, cutting and peeling vegetables and cooking. Mobility skills taught include human guide, room orientation, long cane use, and routes needed.

An Orientation and Mobility Practitioner is able to give the family members of people with visual impairment many practical tips that they can use to assist their loved one.

Our practitioners provide these services in the person’s home after a comprehensive evaluation of their requirements has been undertaken.

Our practitioners are also trained to work with children and can offer advice to parents and care givers.

Any donations towards the provision of assistive devices for our clients would be greatly appreciated. Liquid level indicators, money sticks and long canes are all commonly used assistive devices.

Visual Impairment Awareness Training

The College also provides workshops and short course training on a variety of visual impairment and Orientation and Mobility related topics.  

Our clients include the nursing and teaching professions, care-givers as well as employers and colleagues of people with visual impairment.

As our area of expertise is visual impairment, our awareness workshops enable others to gain insight into the world of the visually impaired.

Training Orientation and Mobility Practitioners

The College of Orientation & Mobility presents a two year, NQF level 5, ETDP Seta accredited Diploma in Orientation and Mobility Practice. This qualification includes theoretical and practical components.

Students learn how to teach the use of the long cane and teach skills of daily living, for example cooking, cleaning and identifying money.

Much of the training takes place while under blindfold and includes a wide variety of training situations. Other modules include advocacy, counselling, medical conditions of the eye and child development.

Lectures take place at the College and practical experience involves teaching people with visual impairments within the community.

This is a scarce skill as there are only approximately 50 to 60 qualified Orientation and Mobility Practitioners employed throughout the country.

It is estimated that in South Africa, there are approximately 388 000 individuals who are blind, and approximately 1 300 000 individuals who are partially sighted (formulas taken from the 2010 WHO statistics).

One qualified Orientation and Mobility Practitioner can train between 40 to 45 people who are visually impaired, per year.

Our students are from a previously disadvantaged background and the services that they provide are mostly within the urban township environments.

Some of our students are sponsored by their employers to receive this training, others are sponsored by South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind. Your donations help us cover the cost of student tuition, accommodation, subsistence stipend, travel and training materials.