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NCAVI welcomes new orientation and mobility specialist

Students in four-county region could benefit from services, says director

Anne Wittmann, at right, has joined the North Country Association for the Visually Impaired as an orientation and mobility specialist. Wittmann is joined, at left, by NCAVI executive director Donna M. Abair, who holds a white cane, one of the assistive tools for the visually-impaired available through the organization.

Anne Wittmann, at right, has joined the North Country Association for the Visually Impaired as an orientation and mobility specialist. Wittmann is joined, at left, by NCAVI executive director Donna M. Abair, who holds a white cane, one of the assistive tools for the visually-impaired available through the organization. Photo by Jeremiah S. Papineau.

— The North Country Association for the Visually Impaired has a new resource in schools for students who are visually-challenged.

Donna M. Abair, executive director of NCAVI, said the nonprofit organization has welcomed Anne Wittmann, the newest member to its staff. Through NCAVI, Wittmann, provides orientation and mobility services to blind, legally-blind and visually-impaired children in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties.

“[Wittmann’s] role in the schools is to assess each individual child’s needs, based on their vision and perhaps other impairments,” said Abair, “and recommend what orientation and mobility instruction will best help the student meet their needs to be independent and safe in their school and community environment.”

Orientation and mobility professionals, explained Abair, help the visually-impaired learn to navigate safely and comfortably in various environments and, in Wittmann’s case, in a school setting.

“Services are extremely vital in making sure children are safe in their different environments, school, community, home,” said Abair. “These services make children independent in these respective areas, therefore, making them much more active as they grow up and become contributing members of society.”

The services Wittmann provides to students are free of charge when provided through a school district, said Abair, and are available by requesting them through their child’s school. Students have a right to services, she added, and parents may request them on their child’s individual education plan, also known as an IEP.

“Parents and teachers need to be strong advocates for making sure their children get these services,” said Abair, adding a simple assessment will first be done to evaluate a student’s orientation and mobility needs.

Having Wittmann on staff as an orientation and mobility specialist is a major asset to NCAVI, said Abair.

“The North Country has been without an orientation and mobility instructor for a long time,” said Abair. “By hiring Anne and offering these services to children in our community, we are filling a need that fosters community intervention and personal independence for these children. This allows them to continue on to college and into professional careers.”

Wittmann said she is proud to be part of the NCAVI staff, and encourages parents to access her services if they feel their child is in need of orientation and mobility assistance.

“It is very satisfying to be able to provide skills to students that aide in their independence, watch them grow with new found confidence and see how these services impact the students’ future and future opportunities,” said Wittmann.

For more information, contact NCAVI at 562-2330 or by e-mail at ncavi2001@yahoo.com. The NCAVI office is located at 22 U.S. Oval, Suite B-15.

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