Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) Handbook, Section 4, History of Orientation and Mobility Certification

Professional certification of O&M specialists has existed for over 30 years. In that time, certification procedures and standards have evolved and changed as the profession has continued to grow.

The first O&M professional certification program was initiated in 1968 by AAWB and included two levels of certification, provisional and permanent, depending upon experience. In an effort to emphasize the need for ongoing professional development by O&M specialists, these levels were changed to Initial Professional and Renewable Professional just over a decade later. O&M specialists were eligible to apply for initial professional certification immediately upon earning a degree (with an emphasis in O&M) from an Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) approved university program. Upon expiration of an initial five-year certification period, those specialists who had demonstrated sufficient professional experience and participation in continuing education and professional development activities were eligible to apply for renewable professional certification that they would then renew every five years. If a person were to let his or her renewable professional certification expire for more than five years, he or she would have to apply for initial professional certification. The professional activities approach to recertification that AER adopted was consistent with standards set by most other professions.

Over the years, a growing number of professionals serving children and adults with visual impairments did so in jobs that required multiple credentials. In recognition of this, the certification standards were revised in 1990 to allow those who already possessed a degree in an O&M-related field (e.g., teacher of the visually impaired, rehabilitation teacher of the blind) to become eligible for AER certification in O&M by completing an O&M core curricula without earning another degree. This opened the door for what came to be known as certification-only options at universities that also offer graduate or undergraduate degree programs with an emphasis in O&M.

In the 1990's, AER responded to a need to separate professional certification responsibilities from those of a professional membership organization. This was done to eliminate any potential conflict of interest in certification that can arise by having a professional membership organization set up, administer, and make standards for certifying their own members. As a result, the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP) was formed in 2000. The role of ACVREP is to assume responsibility for professional certification of rehabilitation and education professionals in the area of visual impairment. In establishing ACVREP, the certification programs were also revised to meet nationally recognized standards for voluntary certification organizations as supported by the National Organization for Competency Assurance.