Previously Submitted Questions (most recent first)

Are there orientation and mobility specialists who have had specialized training in working with hard of hearing/visually impaired students?

Are there orientation and mobility specialists who have had specialized training in working with hard of hearing/visually impaired students? How do they teach deaf and hard of hearing students with visual impairments to cross streets?

Maurice Belote, CDBS Project Coordinator responds:

Yes, there are O&M specialists who have had training in working with children who are deaf-blind and/or experience with this population. When teaching skills such as street crossings, O&M specialists will carefully consider everything that is unique to a specific student and his or her environment. This would likely include the degree to which vision and hearing are reduced, distorted or unavailable, the physical environment and the challenges of navigating through that environment, and the student’s ability to communicate with others in the community. Many other issues would also be considered to ensure that the student has the skills to navigate as safely as possible. 

Travel training with children and youth who are deaf-blind raises interesting questions about independence and interdependence. Individuals who are deaf-blind may, for example, rely on others for traveling certain routes or locations. This could take the form of using support service providers (SSPs) or human guides (who, in the past, have been called sighted guides). Human guides might be traveling companions or they might be helpful strangers following the same routes. While this might look like dependence, learning to be an effective use of the services of others is an important skill that students should learn. I believe that most of us are much less independent that we think we are. Interdependence—the idea of helping each other—seems to be a much more realistic way to think about how we function successfully throughout life. 

There are two resources that I would recommend that have excellent information about O&M, specific to individuals who are deaf-blind: 

Hand in Hand: Essentials of Communication and Orientation and Mobility for Your Students Who Are Deaf-Blind, edited by Kathleen Mary Huebner Ph.D., Elga Joffee, Jeanne Glidden Prickett, and Therese Rafalowski Welch. 

Independence Without Sight or Sound: Suggestions for Practitioners Working with Deaf-Blind Adults, by Dona Sauerburger. 

Both of these resources are published by the American Foundation for the Blind Press.
Their website is: 

Once on that website, you can search the AFB store by title or author.  The staff of CDBS is available to facilitate linkages between O&M specialists if people would like to problem-solve with colleagues throughout the state. In addition, the CDBS professional reference library has both of these resources available for short-term loan if you’d like to preview them prior to purchase. I hope this is helpful. Good luck!


Are photographic representations meaningful to people with cortical vision impairment and mental retardation (or other cognitive impairments)?

Question: My experience is that photographic representations are not meaningful to people with cortical vision impairment and mental retardation (or other cognitive impairments). What is your view on this? What research is there on this subject? Thank you so much.

David Brown, CDBS Educational Specialist responds:

I think that the best, most comprehensive, and most accessible information about Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) is now the book that the American Foundation for the Blind published in 2008:

‘Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention’ by Christine Roman-Lantzy (ISBN 978-0-89128-829-9)

 Dr Roman explains that CVI is not a static condition, it tends to improve or get worse depending upon the kinds of visual experiences and visual environments that the child is exposed to. She describes ten characteristic behaviors of people with CVI, and she offers ways to assess and measure the degree of CVI demonstrated in each of these behaviors on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means the degree of CVI is severe, and 10 means that the problems with CVI are minimal or might even have been resolved completely (she calls this the CVI Range). One of the ten characteristic behaviors that Dr Roman talks about concerns the difficulties that people with CVI face in dealing with visual complexity; she suggests (see pages 135 and 136 in her book) that photographs, and other kinds of two-dimensional materials, are not really a good idea until the child has scored at least a 6 on the CVI Range. If the child has other disabilities in addition to CVI then it might mean that they need to score even higher on the CVI Range before photographs could be expected to become a feasible and meaningful thing to use with them. Obviously there are many other considerations too – the quality and clarity and size of the photographs, the way that they are used and presented to the child, how quickly the child is actually exposed to the thing being represented in the photograph, and whether or not the photographs are accompanied by some kind of color-coding to assist recognition and understanding. The main thing is to be aware that photographs might be a very advanced challenge for the child, so other ideas should be tried out first. I would strongly recommend that anyone involved with a child with CVI should have a look at this book.