Providing Travel Skills to Help People with Low Vision

Tags: Adult, Education & Skills, Instruction, Orientation and Mobility

Knowing where you are in space is important for mobility, especially with blindness or low vision.

Katarina Eller, VisionCorps’ Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), provides travel skill services to adult clients who are blind or have low vision. Eller also received services from VisionCorps as a youth and later interned there.

“Orientation and Mobility is a field within vision loss rehabilitation and education services that helps people know where they are in space and how to get to where they want to go,” said Eller.

Eller teaches people to move safely, efficiently, and gracefully through space using a technique called human guide and training them on the use of a long white cane. These strategies and tools can enhance her clients’ confidence and independence on their travels.

Her instruction for adult clients is goal-oriented.

“I work with people to meet their individual goals,” she said. “It might be how to get to a specific destination such as a walking route or taking public transit or learning strategies to move through a new location such as a workplace or a public place.

“For example, I might help a client learn a new route around where they work or go to the gym,” said Eller.

The learning strategies Eller teaches are designed to help people feel more independent and comfortable. Her instruction mainly takes place in clients’ homes or in environments that they want to navigate.

“I can also teach people how to use a GPS app on their phone. You can use Google or Apple maps to find directions for walking or to track your location when you are riding on a bus,” said Eller.

Eller has an undergraduate degree in Modern Languages from Elizabethtown College and used her language skills to study abroad in both Germany and Mexico. She later lived and worked in Germany for two years. She went to the University of Pittsburgh for the two-year certification in Orientation and Mobility.

Eller also helps lead virtual education and support groups for clients. She works with three virtual support and education groups. In each, there is a presentation and time for questions and discussions:

·      Mobility motivation group – meets monthly on the second Thursday.

·      Dog guide group – meets quarterly and is for people who have dog guides or are interested in applying for one.

·      Sin Limites (Without Limits), Spanish-language group, – meets approximately bi- monthly on the third Tuesday.

“I want to teach people with blindness or low vision how to go places they want, whenever they want to, and feel confident doing it on their own,” said Eller.