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Improving Education for Individuals with Visual Impairments.

JVIB Book Review

JVIB News & Features
Book Review

O&M for Independent Living: Strategies for Teaching Orientation and Mobility to Older Adults. Nora Griffin-Shirley and Laura Bozeman, Editors. New York: AFB Press, 2016, 286 pp.

Paperback, $39.95; e-book (ePUB or Kindle), $27.95; online, $23.95; or by online chapter, $10.95 each.

Reviewed by Kevin Hollinger

I was honored when AFB Press asked me to review O&M for Independent Living: Strate­ gies for Teaching Orientation and Mobility to Older Adults, edited by Nora Griffin-Shirley and Laura Bozeman. In my current roles as a board member for the Academy for Certifi­ cation of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP), past-chair of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) O&M Division, and member of the AER Uni­ versity Executive Panel, I immediately recog­ nized the potential impact this book will have on our profession and in the lives of the aging population living with blindness or low vi­ sion. As two of the leading professionals in O&M university personnel preparation pro­ grams, Drs. Griffin-Shirley and Bozeman deliver a stellar resource through their re­ cruitment and collaboration with other forward-thinking contributors. This book will make an immediate and lasting impact on the profession of O&M and will likely influence university personnel preparation programs internationally.


Throughout every chapter of the book, the authors demonstrate a deep passion for pro­ moting efficient, independent travel, as well as advancing problem-solving skills. There is no doubt that each O&M professional is being challenged by this book to pursue and maintain high expectations for their teach­ ing, collaboration,  professional  develop­ ment, and contributions to the field. This book offers insights and research-based im­ plications for practitioners in the areas of sensory changes that are common in aging; ways to modify instructional techniques for older people; a thorough review of mobility tools; environmental adaptations and mod­ ifications; the   importance  of  exercise, health, and wellness; and the vital need for collaboration among related professionals. O&M  for  Independent  Living  repeatedly offers specific implications and strategies for O&M professionals. I gained tremendous in­ sight from the numerous sidebars sprinkled throughout the book. All of the contributing authors committed themselves to providing practical implications for teaching and collab­ oration. For Example, James Scott Crawford provides  “Sidebar  4.4,  Training  Clients  to Use Distance Devices,” to offer strategies for utilizing  monocular  telescopes,  binoculars, and bioptics, and he includes added implica­ tions for the aging population within his nar­rative. Another example is the full spectrum of mobility tools that practitioners can con­ sider to improve client-focused travel needs, including a fair balance of identified advan­ tages and disadvantages of various orientation tools and mobility systems.


The editors did well to ensure each contrib­uting author focused on the promotion of problem solving and creative thinking cou­ pled with the assessment of environmental adaptation and modification. The themes pre­ sented by this book will challenge university professors and internship supervisors to pro­ vide opportunities for their students to con­ sider how clients use self-examination to identify current or future needs or both based on prior experiences. In addition, discussions of the implications of accessibility and uni­ versal design will surely occur between stu­ dents and supervisors. The students will then likely utilize strategies to identify and combat environmental barriers, obstacles, and haz­ ards in regard to promoting efficient, indepen­ dent travel skills. Ultimately, the editors pro­ vide practitioners an opportunity to reflect upon their own personal strengths and chal­ lenges in the areas of evaluation, instruction, and collaboration.

The way in which the editors and con­ tributing authors promoted the importance of family is also commendable. They re­ peatedly encourage practitioners to provide client-driven initiatives while including the family by identifying family values and considering the client’s quality of life and how to maximize re-engagement and self- confidence. I appreciate the authors’ recog­ nizing that not every service-delivery team functions in the same way while also ex­ pecting every team to achieve meaningful, self-identified goals. They charge practitio­ ners to make practical recommendations through collaboration, role-release, and “joint problem solving” by evaluating var­ ious team models while explaining many inherent barriers that may contribute to challenges in service delivery. The impor­ tance of family also extends to a brilliant chapter appendix by John Clare, a teacher of students with visual impairments and an O&M specialist who works in Alaska. His contribution, “Appendix 3A, O&M for Older Individuals with Visual Impairment in Rural Areas: Reflections from an O&M Specialist in Alaska,” discusses respecting life choices and their influence on the lives of individuals while also helping clients internalize their capability of learning to become a better traveler. Every O&M spe­ cialist needs to consider Mr. Clare’s wisdom regarding the impact of local geography and climate as well as community values in their own instructional planning and collaboration.


Finally, Dr. Griffin-Shirley’s thought-provoking “Epilogue, Current and Emerg ing Issues for O&M Service Provision,” is a must read for every blindness professional. In it, Dr. Griffin-Shirley provides “Table 9.1, Response to Challenges to the Provi­sion of O&M Services for Older Adults with Vision Loss,” a call to action for the field of visual impairment in which she discusses the need for increased research and best practices, exploration of funding sources, curriculum development, advocacy and empowerment, public education, and fostering a push for the certification of more O&M specialists. As a former board member for AER and a current board member for ACVREP, I agree implicitly with Dr. Griffin-Shirley’s desire to see proactive strategies and initiatives emerge from all leaders in our field — consumers, consumer groups, researchers, practitioners, agencies, certification bodies, and membership orga­ nizations.  Each  of  us  must  contribute  by doing our own part for the growth and sus­ tainability of our profession! This book will surely become a go-to resource for O&M specialists who work with the aging popula­ tion. Those who work with children, however, will also glean many practical insights from this text, and these practitioners should be encour­ aged to read this book, as well.

Available from AFB Press. Order now from 1-800-232-3044

Kevin Hollinger, M.A., M.Ed., COMS, NBCT, teacher of students with visual impairments and orientation and mobility specialist, Francis Howell School District, 4545 Central School Road, St. Charles, MO 63304; and Lighthouse for the Blind– St. Louis, 10440 Trenton Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132; and consultant, and director, Hollinger Con­sulting, 1280 Stephenridge Drive, St. Charles, MO, 63304; e-mail: <>.

Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, March-April 2016 ©2016 AFB, All Rights Reserved

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