Dec 08, 2022  
Graduate Catalog 2012-13 
Graduate Catalog 2012-13 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Blindness and Low Vision Studies

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James Leja, Chair
Main Office:  4464 CHHS Bldg.
Telephone:  (269) 387-3868
Fax:  (269) 387-3567

David Guth
Dae S. Kim
Helen Lee
Richard Long
Doris Ravotas
Robert Wall Emerson
Jennipher Wiebold

The Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies offers four master’s degree programs. The programs in Orientation and Mobility, and in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy, and Teaching Children Who Are Visually Impaired/Orientation and Mobility for Children (see Special Education and Literacy Studies) are approved by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. The Council on Rehabilitation Education accredits the program in Rehabilitation Counseling.

It is our vision to strengthen our leadership positions in pre-service instruction and research in the field of visual impairment to enhance the seamless integration of individuals with visual impairments into their desired roles in society and to facilitate their socio-economic and vocational equality.

The Mission of the Western Michigan University Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies is to offer instruction, research, and service in an effort to prepare professionals to serve persons with visual impairments. We are dedicated to the utilization of best practices, to the responsible use of human and economic resources, to the advancement of people with disabilities in society, and to playing a significant global role.

We are commit ed to excellence in pre-service education in order to facilitate dignity, independence, and respect among individuals who are blind or have low vision. To that end, we base our academic programs on the following assumptions:

  • Support of self worth and self-determination are essential in rehabilitation and education.
  • Individualized assessment and instruction are essential for success in rehabilitation and education.
  • Individuals with impairments have to potential to achieve the same quality of life as all individuals.
  • Specialized training among blindness and low vision professionals is superior to generalized training.

The programs are designed to prepare individuals for entry-level positions in Orientation and Mobility, Vision Rehabilitation Therapy, Rehabilitation Counseling/Teaching, and Teaching Children with Visual Impairments/Orientation and Mobility in public and private blindness agencies, in schools, and in rehabilitation facilities. The Orientation and Mobility and the Vision Rehabilitation Therapy programs require 37 and 39 semester hours of course work respectively. The Rehabilitation Counseling/Teaching program requires 76 semester hours of course work. Teaching Children Who Are Visually Impaired/Orientation and Mobility for Children program requires 58 semester hours. Curriculum guides for the four programs are available from the department office.

The professional preparation for students entering any of the four degree programs described below includes academic study on campus, simulated disability experiences, a research project, field practice or comprehensive examination, and an off-campus supervised clinical field experience. Federal grants from the United States Department of Education and RSA may be available to help provide students enrolled in most masters’ programs with tuition assistance and stipend awards. In addition, scholarships are available on a competitive basis.

Admission Requirements

Admission to a Master of Arts program in the department is based upon undergraduate academic record, appropriate goals, related experience, interpersonal and communication skills, emotional maturity, and functional independence. Prior to consideration by the M.A. Admissions Committee, applicants are required to complete a departmental application obtained from the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies and a Graduate Self-Managed Application obtained from the Office of Admissions. Upon admission, an applicant is assigned an advisor who will assist in preparing a Program of Study.

Not every applicant who meets minimum admission requirements can be admitted; the department reserves discretion in admission of the most highly qualified applicants.

The department strives to create an atmosphere conducive to the concerns of diverse populations, and to integrate these concerns into programs and course offerings.

Admission Procedures

  1. Complete the “Graduate Admission Application” available from WMU Admissions or online at
  2. Complete the “Blindness and Low Vision Studies Department Application” available online at or by contacting the department.
  3. Submit Departmental Recommendation Forms completed by three professionals knowledgeable of the applicant’s academic and/or the applicant’s professional experience.
  4. Submit a current resume.
  5. Submit a two-page biographical essay that includes reasons for pursuing a degree in blindness and low vision studies, your professional goals, an assessment of personal assets and liabilities, and one’s life experiences that might be useful in work as a helping professional.
  6. WMU Graduate Admissions requires a copy of all university transcripts to the Graduate College. Minimum grade point average for regular admission is a 3.00 in the last 60 credit hours of undergraduate study. 

Distance Education

The department offers the opportunity for pursuing some of its degrees via distance education format. Currently, the programs in Teaching Children with Visual Impairments, Orientation and Mobility, and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy are available. Most didactic lecture-based courses are presented in an online format, while the experiential skills courses are compressed into one or two summertime sessions. All distance education offerings require off-campus clinical field experience. Admission requirements for students pursuing distance education include providing assurances of agency or school support. Contact the respective program advisor for details.

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