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The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Orientation and Mobility Department (O&M) consists of Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) who provide individualized travel training programs in one’s own home, workplace and community. A COMS is a vision professional, usually having earned a master’s degree or a certification in orientation and mobility. As a relatively new employee at MCB, I was thrilled to learn more and join Orientation and Mobility Specialist Charlene Sanderson on a Mobility Lesson.

Here’s how it went:

On a chilly day in early February, Charlene and I met her client “Tim” (not his real name) on his college campus in downtown Boston.  Tim is a long cane user, which is used as an O&M device for independent travel.  Tim had previously participated O&M long cane instruction and training during his high school experience, and was gaining even more independence on the campus. Tim, like all of us, wants his daily coffee and doughnut, so he’s working with Charlene to ensure that he can get there independently.

Tim and Charlene had been working together over the past few weeks to learn his routine on campus each morning, and after a recent assessment, Charlene planned an indoor mobility lesson with Tim at a public food court. The lesson started off with Charlene asking Tim to navigate from inside an academic building down an outdoor walkway and into the food court building, something they had worked on together when they last met. Tim replied, “that’s easy,”  and led Charlene and I followed to the food court. As he had claimed, Tim had no issues getting into the doorway of the public cafeteria building.

I noticed that he stayed along the side of the building, sweeping his white cane back and forth, to hit the tip of it against the exterior of the brick building. We have all walked the old Bostonian streets of cobblestones. As a person with vision, I have difficulty walking on these without tripping or turning an ankle. With each step on those uneven cobblestones, my admiration of Tim grew. His determination to continue on his way, even with a slight stumble now and again, is amazing to witness.

Once inside the much warmer building, Charlene planned a goal for the lesson to map out a fixed route for Tim to navigate the busy food court and locate Dunkin Donuts. As we stood in the doorway, people were buzzing all around us. Some offered to hold the door for Tim, others avoided us and chose to use another door.

After the lesson, Charlene and I walked back to the office together. I commended her for her confidence and professionalism during the lesson, but I wanted to know more! Charlene stressed that each client is unique; some need a lot of repetition where others may pick up a route very quickly.

She remarked, “That’s what  I love about mobility – there’s such a variety of experiences for both the consumer and the Mobility Specialist, and not only does the consumer have to problem-solve, but the COMS has to adapt to each consumer’s needs and ways of learning so each set of challenges is like a puzzle waiting to be solved.”

Charlene, and the entire O&M Staff led by Director Meg Robertson (for over 23 years) are talented professionals who enjoy providing services to MCB consumers.I learned a great deal in a short time from both the specialist and the client, Tim, and look forward to continuing to learn more about the O&M department.

For more information on Orientation & Mobility services at MCB, or to learn how to access these services, email meg.robertson@state.ma.us.

Written By:


Program Coordinator, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind

Deputy Communications Director, Office of Health and Human Services

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