In September 2022, during the ENVITER annual Blue-Sky Meeting, questions about the lack of Orientation and Mobility instructors in some European countries were address:
- Representatives from different countries asked for help, also from outside ENVITER;
- Asked for O&M curricula, possibilities for education and instructors;
- Many countries or regions are missing instructors;
- There is a gap between VI peoples’ needs and qualified O&M service providers;
- Long waiting lists to learn O&M for several reasons.
A working group was established, with representatives from 4 different countries (Denmark, Germany, Hungary and Italy) to decide how can this problem be better known, and a survey was made amongst all ENVITER members to collect specific information about the subject.
As a result, we collected information from 16 different European countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Serbia) and found that almost 70% of the organizations that participated feel that there is a lack of O&M instructors in their country, presenting several reasons for this, like:
- “Lack of certification and recognition (is not even considered a profession), reduced time of instruction included in the training of VI teachers, difficult access to bibliography, little collaborative work.”
- “If one of our Instructors quits, there is no one to replace them. The same issue is in all age categories.”
- “No training available”
- “We don´t have any academic program or professional training.”
- “Apart from big cities, throughout the whole country”
- “Lack of instructors specializing in O&M for children”
- “In all sectors.”
- “In private sector as well as in institutions.”
- No new (young) instructors to replace the „old” ones
- The existing course is too expensive (for the student or the employer to pay)
75% of the participating organizations said “Yes”, when asked if they would be interested in an O&M course, if the working language were to be in English.
The ENVITER Working Group was also interested in finding information about this problem “outside” of the range of its members, so we participated in the 18th International Mobility Conference (IMC18), held in Poland, from 22 to 26 May 2023, organized by the Chance for the Blind Foundation together with Polish universities and other organizations working on behalf of blind and visually impaired people. The IMC takes place approximately every two to three years and is held in different countries around the world. It is attended by both academic professionals and practitioners in the broadly defined field of rehabilitation of the blind. The Scientific Program Committee gave us the chance to lead a workshop during the conference, where we could share the results of the questionnaire plus started a professional dialogue about the possible solutions in the near future. We participated with the presentation entitled “Lack of O&M instructors in Europe – searching for solutions”, asking for the feedback about some ideas to address the problem.
At this moment, as a result of all this work, there is an important development and the Budapest University is interested and involved in cooperating in the promotion of a Post-Graduate course, in English, using a B-learning method, that would allow organizations from many countries to participate.