In looking to address transportation needs of clients with visual impairments – including those with complete blindness, it is important to consider the role of Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) in training clients on the use of transportation systems and adaptive equipment used for mobility purposes.
Often overlooked as a profession dedicated to the rehabilitation needs – specifically those that involve the use of travel - of clients who are visually impaired, COMSs are professionally trained and certified through the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP) to work with individuals who have vision loss in the area of orientation and mobility (O&M). (https://www.acvrep.org/ascerteon/control/index)
As a COMS who is currently pursuing a PhD in the area of low incidence sensory disability – with a focus on O&M, I have an interest in the improvement of personal mobility and accessible transportation options for individuals with disabilities – specifically those who are visually impaired.
In looking to develop these new technologies, consultation with COMS professionals and the clients they serve should be considered.
Citing an article by Crudden and McBroom, (1999):
"Of those who responded to the question, "What was the biggest problem your visual disability caused in getting a job?" 41% cited the attitudes of employers; 17%, transportation; 14%, reading print; 9%, obtaining adaptive equipment and accommodations; 7%, limited job opportunities owing to visual impairments; 4%, personal fears and uncertainties; 2%, recognizing faces; and 6%, a combination of other factors. The participants who had "quite a bit" of vision had more problems with transportation (80%) than did those with "no vision" (61%), whereas the participants with "no vision" had more problems with the skills or attitudes of rehabilitation counselors or placement staff (48%) than did those with either "very little" (25%) or "quite a bit" of (28%) vision."
Citing this same article (1999), the following issues are recommended for further exploration:
1. Rehabilitation providers' views on their successes and failures in assisting consumers to overcome barriers to employment;
2. the potential impact of policies and services geared toward a community approach (on the local, regional, and national levels) to changing the attitudes of employers and the general public toward persons with visual impairments;
3. the potential impact of policies and services directed toward improving transportation services for persons with visual impairments, as well as those with other disabilities;
4. the development of stronger formal and informal peer-support and mentoring programs for both young people and people of working age;
5. the identification and dissemination of the strategies and techniques of rehabilitation professionals who are successful in serving as advocates for consumers and who are effective in educating employers about the abilities of persons with visual impairments; and
6. the identification and use of techniques for assessing the motivation to work and methods to increase such motivation among persons with visual impairments.
I love that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S.Department of Transportation's Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) are providing the opportunity for online dialogue to focus on gathering insight and ideas for the future generation of accessible transportation solutions, including connected and automated vehicles, to further develop and enhance transportation options as an effective employment support for people with disabilities.
As an O&M professional in the field of Blind Rehabilitation, I am interested in further collaborations to ensure that the unique needs of individuals with visual impairments are considered when planning for transportation needs.
Crudden, A. & McBroom, L. (1999). Barriers to employment: A survey of employed persons who are visually impaired. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 93(6), 341-350.