SWOMPP offers opportunities for learning, employment


I am a graduate student in Special Education and Rehabilitation. The program I am in is SWOMPP, the Southwest Orientation and Mobility Preparation Program. We are training to work with people who are blind and visually impaired. Our training has taken place around Tucson, on the University of Arizona campus, and in various class buildings. During our blindfold training, many students have been curious about what we are doing.

While we are in training, it is difficult to answer many questions, or respond to all the queries we get. I would like to take the opportunity now to share some information about what the program is all about.

The Orientation and Mobility Program was established in 1991 through a grant from the Department of Education. It is one of 16 graduate training programs throughout the country, and is the only one in the southwestern U.S.

The program lasts 14 months, and includes coursework in working with people that are blind or visually impaired, multi-disabled, and deaf/blind. One semester is spent training under the blindfold. This enables students to experience what blindness is like and to develop the confidence in the techniques that they are learning. The next semester involves a practicum, a half-time student teaching placement. The final phase is a fulltime internship during the summer.

Graduates of the program can find jobs anywhere in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. O&M specialists are in great demand, especially with the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Previous experience working with people with visual impairments is a plus, but not required. Any experience or coursework in Adaptive PE, Childhood Development, Motor Development or Kinesthiology is recommended.

So the next time you see a blindfolded student with a white cane struggling to get through crowds, don't bother him or her with questions. And don't feel bad if your offer for help is rejected. The students need to learn to be able to function on their own, and be able to convey that sense of confidence to their students in the real world.

Information about the Orientation and Mobility Program is available in the Special Education Office. Tuition waivers and stipend money are available to qualified candidates.

By Milo Borich (letter)
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 28, 1997

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