James Leja, Chair
Main Office: 4464 CHHS Bldg.
Telephone: (269) 387-3455
Fax: (269) 387-3567
Dae S. Kim
Robert Wall Emerson
The Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies offers four master’s degree programs (the master’s degree program in Teaching Children Who Are Visually Impaired is taught in the department but officially offered by Special Education and Literacy Studies). The programs in Orientation and Mobility for Adults, Vision Rehabilitation Therapy, orientation and Mobility for Children, and Teaching Children Who Are Visually Impaired are approved by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program 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 committed to excellence in pre-service personnel preparation 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 the 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 (specializing in adults or children), 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. Each of the Orientation and Mobility and the Vision Rehabilitation Therapy programs require 39 semester hours of course work. The Rehabilitation Counseling/Teaching program requires 76 semester hours of course work. The program in Teaching Children Who Are Visually Impaired requires 44 semester hours of coursework and the program in Orientation and Mobility for Children requires 37 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 (plus the TCVI program officially offered in Special Education and Literacy Studies) 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 Rehabilitation Services Administration 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 and Procedures
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.
The following link will take you to the Blindness and Low Vision Studies Department Application available online at www.wmich.edu/visionstudies/academics/apply. This page provides links to the programs offered through the department and program admissions requirements. The “Start or Continue your Application” button appears at the end of each program page. For specific questions or assistance completing the application, please contact: Office of Admissions at (269) 387-2000 - for domestic application changes or International Admissions at (269) 387-5865 for international application changes. . The rehabilitation counseling and rehabilitation counseling/teaching programs are offered jointly between the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies and The Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology. The following link will take you to the rehabilitation counseling program application: wmich.edu/grad/admissions/single.php?id=29.
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.
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 for Adults, Orientation and Mobility for Children, and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy are available. The distance education program is designed for individuals who are currently working in the field (or related field) seeking an advanced degree. Most didactic lecture-based courses are presented in an online format, while the experiential skills courses are compressed into one or two summertime sessions requiring students to undertake coursework on WMU’s main campus. All distance education offerings require off-campus clinical field experience. Contact the respective program advisor for details.