Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) Handbook Handbook, Section 5, Code of Ethics for Orientation and Mobility Specialists


Revised: June 11, 2013

Orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists recognize the significant role that independent movement plays in the overall growth and functioning of individuals with visual impairment and are dedicated to helping these individuals attain the maximum level of independence commensurate to their unique strengths, needs, abilities and preferences, and to receiving the services to which they are entitled. O&M specialists develop and utilize specialized knowledge to accomplish this goal with other professionals; the possession of specialized knowledge obligates the O&M specialist to protect the rights of the individuals served. The Code of Ethics provides guidance for ethical practice but is not intended to serve as an exhaustive list of every possible ethical or unethical behavior. The O&M specialist is responsible for identifying and implementing a sound decision-making model involving professional discussions with appropriate parties when questions arise regarding ethical practices which are difficult to answer alone. To assure the public of the O&M specialist's awareness of this obligation, the specialist commits to the Code of Ethics for Orientation and Mobility Specialists, henceforth referred to as the Code.

O&M specialists pledge themselves to standards of acceptable behavior as it relates to the following: Commitment to the Learner; Commitment to the Community; Commitment to the Profession; Commitment to Colleagues and Other Professionals; and Commitment to Professional Employment Practices.

  1. Commitment to the Learner
    1. The O&M specialist will value the worth and dignity of each individual.
    2. The O&M specialist will take all reasonable precautions and actions to provide for the physical safety of the learner from conditions that interfere with learning and protect the best interest of the learner.
    3. The O&M specialist will conduct a record review before beginning instruction with the learner. The specialist will make reasonable attempt to obtain and evaluate information about the learner that is relevant to the O&M assessment and instruction.
    4. The O&M specialist will respect the rights of the learner and legal representative to participate in decisions regarding the instructional program.
    5. The O&M specialist will make the recommendation for the continuing or discontinuing of services with the learner and/or their legal representative and will base that recommendation upon an evaluation of the learner's needs, abilities, and skills. There commendation will be made in the learner's best interest, independent of personal or agency convenience.
    6. The O&M specialist will provide information regarding the various types of O&M devices and strategies, and will explore with the learner which device(s) and strategies will best meet the specific assessed needs of the learner. The O&M specialist will not dispense or supply O&M equipment unless it is in the best interest of the learner.
    7. The O&M specialist will seek the support and involvement of the family and/or legal representative to promote the learner's instructional goals and in advancing his or her continued success. For example, the specialist will share information as appropriate with the learner's permission with the family that will facilitate the learner's welfare and independence, but will not communicate information that violates the principles of confidentiality.
    8. The O&M specialist will seek the advice and counsel of colleagues whenever such consultation is in the best interest of the learner and does not serve to jeopardize learner confidentiality.
    9. The O&M specialist will respect the privacy and confidentiality of all information pertaining to the learner obtained through or stored in any medium (i.e., hard copy, cellular phone conversations, electronic mail, facsimile, texting, video, audio-visual). He or she will not divulge confidential information about any learner to any individual not authorized by the learner to receive such information unless required by law or institutional policies, or unless withholding such information would endanger the safety of the learner or the public.
    10. The O&M specialist will obtain permission from the learner or legal representative before inviting others to observe a lesson or before recording the voice or image of the learner.
    11. The O&M specialist will obtain full informed, written permission from the learner or legal representative before releasing information to a requesting agency or individual.
    12. The O&M specialist will make all reports objective and will present only data relevant to the purposes of the evaluation and instruction. When appropriate, the specialist will share this information with the learner and/or the family and/or legal representative.
    13. The O&M specialist will endeavor to disseminate information to service providers involved with the learner as it relates to O&M knowledge, instruction, and experiences so as to facilitate the goals of the learner, provided such information does not jeopardize learner confidentiality.
    14. The O&M specialist will not allow undue consideration of personal comfort or convenience to interfere with the design and implementation of necessary travel lessons.
    15. The O&M specialist will endeavor to establish and maintain a trusting relationship with the learner, maintain ethical standards of behavior and manage conflicts of interest by full disclosure.
    16. The O&M specialist will avoid accepting a referral for services of a learner with whom he or she has a current or has had a prior relationship which may compromise the integrity of the instruction. If, because of the unavailability of other competent professionals this is not possible, the nature of such a relationship will be made known to the O&M specialist's supervisor(s) or contracting authority issuing contract for orientation and mobility services for the learner's protection and to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
    17. The O&M specialist will be responsible for services to learners who are referred and who are accepted as a learner and will provide ongoing supervision when any portion of the service is assigned to interns or student teachers who are enrolled in O&M university programs, with the understanding that each individual will function under strict supervision.
  2. Commitment to the Community
    1. The O&M specialist will not discriminate or knowingly engage in behavior that is harassing or demeaning based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or on any other basis prohibited by law.
    2. The O&M specialist will not engage in sexual harassment.
    3. The O&M specialist will demonstrate in his or her practice an appreciation of the need to provide necessary accommodations, including full participation in program access, accessible facilities and services.
    4. The O&M specialist will not engage in any activity that results in the exploitation of the learner. Exaggeration, sensationalism, superficiality, and other misleading activities are to be avoided.
  3. Commitment to the Profession
    1. he O&M specialist will exercise professional judgment related to the practice of orientation and mobility services.
    2. The O&M specialist who is conducting research, will seek informed consent and provide information to include (1) description of the research, (2) the purpose of the research, (3) the participant's right to withdraw from the research even after participation has begun; (4) the potential risks, discomfort, or adverse effects that could occur; (5) the potential research benefits; (6) the plan for confidentiality; (7) incentives for participation; and (8) whom to contact for further information.??
    3. The O&M specialist will interpret and use the writing and research of others with integrity. In writing, making presentations, or conducting research, the O&M specialist will be familiar with and give recognition to previous work on the topic.
    4. The O&M specialist will not engage in fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. If the specialist discovers significant errors in his or her published data, he or she will take reasonable steps to correct such errors via correction, retraction, erratum, or other appropriate publication means.
    5. The O&M specialist will give credit through joint authorship, acknowledgment, footnote statements, or other appropriate means to those who have contributed significantly to research or concept development in accordance with such contributions.
    6. The O&M specialist reviewing material submitted for presentation, publication, grant, or research proposal will respect and guard the confidentiality of and the proprietary rights in such information of those who submitted it.
    7. The O&M specialist will conduct investigations in a manner that takes into consideration the welfare of the subject(s), and report research in a way as to lessen the possibility that the findings will be misleading.
    8. The O&M specialist will not accept gratuities or gifts of significance over and above the predetermined salary, fee, and/or expense for professional service.
    9. The O&M specialist will not engage in commercial activities that result in a conflict of interest between these activities and professional objectives with the learner.
    10. The O&M specialist involved in development or promotion of O&M devices, books or other products will present such products in a professional and factual manner and fully disclosing personal involvement.
    11. The O&M specialist will report suspected or known negligence, illegal, or unethical behavior in the practice of the profession to appropriate authorities.
    12. The O&M specialist will not misrepresent his or her credentials.
    13. The O&M specialist will not train any person to provide O&M services as an O&M specialist outside of the O&M university programs.
  4. Commitment to Colleagues and Other Professionals
    1. The O&M specialist will engage in professional relationships on a mature level and will not become involved in personal disparagement.
    2. The O&M specialist will not knowingly make false, deceptive, or fraudulent public statement concerning his or her practice or other work activities; nor that of persons or organizations with which he or she is affiliated.
    3. The O&M specialist will not knowingly offer professional services to a person receiving O&M instruction from another O&M specialist, except by agreement with the other specialist or after the other specialist has ended instruction with the learner.
    4. The O&M specialist will not assume responsibilities outside the Scope of Practice that are better provided by other professionals who are available to the learner.
    5. The O&M specialist who is a member of an interdisciplinary service delivery team will participate in and contribute to decisions that affect the well-being of learners by drawing on the perspectives, values, and experiences of his or her profession. Professional and ethical obligations of the interdisciplinary service delivery team as a whole and of its individual members will be clearly established.
    6. The O&M specialist will seek to facilitate and enhance team efforts with other professionals. In such situations where team decisions are made, the specialist will contribute information from his or her own perspective derived from specialized knowledge of blindness and visual impairment, and will abide by the team decision unless the team decision requires that he or she act in violation of the Code.
    7. The O&M specialist who is responsible for education and professional preparation programs will take reasonable steps to ensure that the programs are designed to provide the appropriate knowledge and proper experiences for students enrolled in such programs, and to meet the requirements for licensure, certification, or other goals for which claims are made by the program.
    8. The O&M specialist who functions as an onsite supervisor for university students will perform direct supervision sufficient to ensure that services provided to learners are adequate and do not cause harm.
  5. Commitment to Professional Employment Practices
    1. The O&M specialist will not accept a position of employment where ethical principles of O&M practice are compromised or abandoned, unless the position is accepted with the intention of amending or modifying the questionable practices and providing that he or she does not participate in the behavior which violates the Code.
    2. The O&M specialist will not accept remuneration for professional instruction from a learner who is entitled to such instruction through an agency or school, unless the learner, when fully informed of the services available, elects to contract privately with the specialist.
    3. The O&M specialist will ensure the honest and accurate reporting of the nature of the service provided, the fees and charges.