Should I Become a Vision Rehabilitation Specialist?
Vision rehabilitation specialists or therapists (VRTs), help people who are blind or who have other vision impairments in living independently. This can include instructing clients in the use of optical and non-optical aids, such as text-to-speech readers and computer magnifiers, as well as teaching them ways to maintain their hygiene, prepare meals, complete home repairs, and manage their finances. These specialists might work with individuals in their homes or with small groups at rehabilitation centers, requiring significant travel between sites. PayScale.com reported the median annual salary for rehabilitation specialists was $36,041 in 2016.
|Degree Level||Master's degree|
|Degree Field||Vision rehabilitation therapy, occupational therapy, or a related field|
|Licensure/Certification||Some employers require licensure as an occupational therapist; voluntary certification is available|
|Key Skills||Strong communication skills, ability to choose and employ appropriate learning strategies; ability to use specialty software, such as Ai Squared ZoomText and American Printing House for the Blind's Talking Typer and Learn Keys; able to use vision cards and/or charts, Braille devices, magnifiers, and other assistive technology|
Sources: Online job postings, O*Net, Payscale.com''
Steps to Become a Vision Specialist
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Though no particular major is required for entrance to most master's programs in vision rehabilitation therapy or occupational therapy, you might consider a program in rehabilitation studies, education, psychology, social work, or a related field. A bachelor's program in rehabilitation studies might include courses in case management, counseling, psychology and sociology. You also might examine physical and psychosocial aspects of disabilities and learn about employment options for disabled people. You'll usually complete a practicum as well.
Take a standardized graduate school admissions exam. Admission to most graduate programs in vision rehabilitation therapy or occupational therapy requires scores from a standardized exam, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT). Some VRT master's programs also accept scores from the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).
Volunteer at an occupational therapy clinic. Students who plan to pursue an occupational therapy master's program might need to submit proof that they've spent time interacting with an occupational therapist (OT) in a clinical setting. This can include observing the OT or volunteering under his or her supervision.
Step 2: Complete a Master's Program
Though some VRT positions are available with a bachelor's degree, most employers prefer job candidates who have completed a master's program in vision rehabilitation therapy, occupational therapy, or a related field. Master's programs in vision rehabilitation therapy typically cover principles of rehabilitation and services available for blind and low-vision patients.
You also might study anatomy and physiology of the eye and explore various methods of assessing low vision. Additionally, you might learn to teach Braille and use of various forms of assistive technology. These programs usually incorporate fieldwork experiences, and some programs include an internship.
Step 3: Obtain Licensure
Some employers mandate that vision rehabilitation therapists hold state licensure as an occupational therapist. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally include completion of an accredited degree program and passage of the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists certification exam.
Step 4: Earn VRT Certification
Though technically voluntary, certification - or eligibility for certification - is sometimes required by employers of vision rehabilitation specialists. Certification is available through the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals, which offers the Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT) designation.
To qualify for the certification exam, you must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree with an emphasis in vision rehabilitation therapy from an accredited school. You also must provide proof of a minimum of 350 hours of supervised practice, accompanied by a clinical competency evaluation form signed by the supervisor.
Renew certification. CVRTs must renew their certification every five years. To qualify for recertification, you must earn continuing education credits and take part in professional development activities.
To become a vision rehabilitation specialist, you'll need a master's degree and may need to be licensed or certified.