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Cal State LA receives $2.5 million in grants to enhance services for children with visual impairments

February 23, 2024
Cal State LA students simulate being visually impaired
Photo: Cal State LA students simulate being visually impaired in order to learn how to teach those affected by blindness how to safely navigate their environment. (Credit: Brenda Naimy/Cal State LA)

Cal State LA receives $2.5 million in grants to enhance services for children with visual impairments

February 23, 2024
Cal State LA students simulate being visually impaired
Photo: Cal State LA students simulate being visually impaired in order to learn how to teach those affected by blindness how to safely navigate their environment. (Credit: Brenda Naimy/Cal State LA)

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Cal State LA a total of $2.5 million in grant funding to help prepare professionals to teach orientation and mobility to school-aged children with visual impairments.

Two personnel preparation grants were awarded through the department’s Office of Special Education Programs, which is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21.

“The priorities of the grants are focused on addressing the critical needs of visually-impaired students and promoting diversity and cultural responsiveness in orientation and mobility services,” said Nicholas Casias, the grant’s principal investigator and a faculty member from the Division of Special Education and Counseling in the College of Education at Cal State LA.

The five-year grants will enable the university’s College of Education to prepare orientation and mobility specialists at the master’s degree level to provide culturally-responsive services to a diverse population of students with visual impairments.

“Orientation and mobility specialists play a vital role in teaching independent travel skills and concepts to infants, children, and adults who are blind or visually impaired,” said Casias.

The master’s program includes extensive hands-on training and fieldwork experiences, covering coursework in visual impairment, theory, and effective teaching practices.

During the first term, Cal State LA students in the program participate in intensive simulation experiences, using sleep shades (blindfolds) and low vision simulators, in a variety of environments, such as on campus, residential neighborhoods and business environments, and using public transit. These methods will allow students to learn the foundational skills and concepts of orientation and mobility.

The following terms will include practicum teaching experiences in orientation and mobility with both school-aged students and adults with visual impairments.

In one academic year, successful candidates will earn both an M.A. degree and a credential, and be eligible to take the national certification exam in orientation and mobility. The grant funding will cover in-state tuition and professional textbooks for about 90 eligible candidates.

Visit the Cal State LA Orientation and Mobility Program website for more information.

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.