Special Education: Visual Disabilities Program (M.S.Ed).

visual-disabilities-program

People who are blind or have visual impairments are able to manage the world around them, learn and participate in school and perform everyday activities. However, they need someone to teach them to harness their potential. Our B.S.Ed. and M.S.Ed. in Special Education (Visual Disabilities Program) prepares you to become that person. We offer one of the nation's preeminent programs for preparing professionals to provide educational and rehabilitation services for persons of all ages with visual impairments. Three specializations are available: Orientation and Mobility, Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and Visual Impairments. We are the first university in the United States to offer a certificate of graduate study in the area of Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist for People with Visual Impairments. Our program is approved by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Council for Exceptional Children and the Illinois State Board of Education.

Choose Your Specialization

Orientation and Mobility instructors teach techniques for safe, independent travel – white canes, for example – to individuals who are blind or have visual impairments. You'll prepare students to travel in a variety of environments, from self-contained residential programs to fully independent travel in unfamiliar environments. You'll obtain national certification from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.

Coursework
  • SEVI 510 Anatomy, Pathology and Functioning of the Eye (3 credits)
  • SEVI 520 Literary Braille (3 credits)
  • SEVI 530 Basic Orientation and Mobility for Teachers of Persons with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 541 Instl. Systems for Utilization of Low Vision (3 credits)
  • SEVI 552 Collaboration Principles and Skills for Professionals Working with Persons with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 570 Advanced Orientation and Mobility (3-6 credits)
  • SEVI 571 Principles of Orientation and Mobility Techniques for Learners with Visual and Multiple Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 585C Internship in Orientation and Mobility Instruction of Persons w/Visual Impairments (1-12 credits)You must take six semester hours in this course.

Note: Prerequisites may be required for some courses.

You do not need any previous experience working with people who are blind or have low vision to pursue this teaching degree. As you learn methods and strategies to teach independent living skills to individuals with visual impairments, you'll obtain national certification as a vision rehabilitation therapist from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.

Coursework
  • FCNS 640 Family, Consumer, and Nutrition Sciences for Educators of the Visually Impaired (3 credits)
  • SEVI 510 Anatomy, Pathology, and Functioning of the Eye (3 credits)
  • SEVI 520 Literary Braille (3)
  • SEVI 530 Basic Orientation and Mobility for Teachers of Persons with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 540 Communication Systems Used By Persons with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 541 Instructional Systems for Utilization of Low Vision (3 credits)
  • SEVI 543 Teaching Activities of Daily Living to Persons with Visual and Multiple Disabilities (3 credits)
  • SEVI 552 Collaboration Principles and Skills for Professionals Working with Persons with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 560 Rehabilitation of Adults with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 585B Internship in Rehabilitation Teaching of Persons with Visual Impairments (1-12 credits)

You must take six semester hours in this course. One graduate level course in research, such as: SESE 792 or ETR 520 or approved by advisor. Elective coursework with advisor's approval.

Note: Prerequisites may be required for some courses.

While in the process of obtaining an Illinois teacher license with an endorsement in visual impairments, you'll learn how to teach students who have blindness and low vision, use assistive technologies and include students with vision issues into schools and communities. You'll also learn effective ways to incorporate common core standards and curriculum into individual education plans.

Coursework
  • SEVI 500 Education of Students with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 510 Anatomy, Pathology, and Functioning of the Eye (3 credits)
  • SEVI 520 Literary Braille (3 credits)
  • SEVI 521 Advanced Braille (3 credits)
  • SEVI 530 Basic Orientation and Mobility for Teachers of Persons with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 540 Communication Systems Used By Persons with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 541 Instructional Systems for Utilization of Low Vision (3 credits)
  • SEVI 552 Collaboration Principles and Skills for Professionals Working with Persons with Visual Impairments (3 credits)
  • SEVI 581 Student Teaching in Elementary Special Education: Vision Impairments (3-6 credits)
  • SEVI 582 Student Teaching in Secondary Special Education: Vision Impairments (3-6 credits)
  • SEVI 586 Topical Seminar in Teaching Students with Visual Impairments (3 credits)

One graduate level course in research, such as SESE 792 or ETR 520, or approved by advisor. Elective course work with advisor's approval. You also might be required to complete prerequisite courses prior to enrolling in specific graduate courses.

Note: Prerequisites may be required for some courses.


You'll need to submit:

  • Your application to the Graduate School.
  • Your official transcripts (our faculty select those applicants who are most qualified, typically requiring a GPA of 3.0 or higher for the last two years of your undergraduate work) and test scores.
  • Two letters of recommendation from your employers, supervisors or professors.
  • Your personal statement of why you're applying and your goals for a career in special education.
Apply Online

Finanical Support

For students studying at the graduate level for their master's degrees, we have very generous financial support, including:

  • All tuition (in-state or out-of-state).
  • All fees.
  • Full health insurance.
  • Yearly stipend of $5,244 ($437/month).

Eligibility

In order to be eligible, you must be:

  • Fully admitted to the NIU Graduate School.
  • American citizen.
  • Willing to commit to working with children and/or adults who are blind or visually impaired anywhere in the U.S. for twice as long as you receive financial support.
  • Willing to work as half-time as a graduate assistant.

Graduate Assistantship

You are required to pay for their books and supplies and living expenses, but you do not pay anything to NIU. This is not a loan, but rather a graduate assistantship. The only stipulation is that if you do not fulfill their obligations to work with visually disabled children and/or adults for the amount of time required by the federal government (twice as long as youreceive funding),  you are obligated to pay back to the federal government the amount of funds they received in this program. The funds emanate from federal grants H325K090232 and H129P090006.

For more information about the grant funding that is currently available, contact Stacy Kelly, Ed.D., Grant Project Director, at skelly@niu.edu or 815-753-4103.


The prospects for now and the foreseeable future are excellent, particularly if you're willing to relocate. At the current rate of graduation of specialists in our field, we will not be able to keep up with the needs of individuals with visual impairments. In fact, many of our graduates are recruited by the personnel at the sites where they student teach or complete their internship – and many find at least three job offers on the table at graduation.


Is the program accredited?

Our vision program is nationally accredited by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), both of which advance excellence in educator preparation by assuring academic quality and supporting continuous improvement. The vision program is led by faculty who are Certified Teachers of the Blind/Visually Impaired (TVI) and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) and collectively have 50 years of experience working with individuals with visual impairments.

What does an Orientation and Mobility instructor do?

Orientation and Mobility instructors teach techniques for safe, independent travel, often using a white cane, to individuals who are blind and visually impaired. They prepare their learners to travel in a variety of environments, from self-contained residential programs to fully independent travel in unfamiliar environments including urban areas.

What does a Rehabilitation Teacher (RT) do?

RTs teach techniques for safe, independent self-care, home management, adaptive kitchen skills and communication skills (including braille) to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. They teach life skills in people's homes as well as in center-based rehabilitation programs.

What does a teacher of children who are visually impaired (TVI) do?

TVIs instruct and provide support services to enable children who are blind or visually impaired to participate in the least restrictive environment (often mainstream classrooms) in which they are capable of learning. They work not only with children who are visually impaired and their families but also with school personnel, most often as itinerant or resource room teachers.

Can I be certified in more than one area of specialization?

Yes, it is possible to be licensed to teach students with visual impairments, or certified for Orientation and Mobility or Rehabilitation Teacher, in any or all of our concentrations.

When and where are classes offered?

Classes are offered during fall, spring and summer semesters at our DeKalb campus. Many courses are offered in the evening to accommodate students’ work schedules. Students are usually enrolled in a cohort; however, you may take courses at your own pace so long as you complete degree requirements specified in the graduate catalog.

What are the job prospects in this field?

The prospects for now and the foreseeable future are excellent, particularly if graduates are willing to relocate. Research has shown that, at the current rate of graduation of specialists in the field, we will not be able to keep up with the needs of visually impaired individuals. In fact, many of our graduates are recruited by the personnel at the sites where they are student-teachers or interns.

How high must my GPA be?

The current Graduate School requirement is a minimum GPA of 2.8 on a 4-point scale. The Department of Special and Early Education (SEED) has a minimum requirement of 3.0 on a 4-point scale.

What happens if I am accepted into the program?

Upon acceptance, M.S.Ed. students will be assigned to a staff advisor, and Ed.D students will be assigned a faculty advisor. They will be notified of who their advisor is in a letter from the SEED Department. You should reach out to your advisor before enrolling in classes as a degree-seeking student in the program. The advisor will provide important information about course requirements and planning. They will also discuss creating a program of study, which is required in order for you to graduate.

What are the application deadlines? School year dates?

Most students begin their coursework in the fall semester, but under certain circumstances, you might be encouraged to begin in the summer session. Deadlines for receipt of all application materials can be found at the undergraduate admission or graduate admissons webpages.

How do I apply?


Stacy Kelly, Associate Professor

William Penrod, Associate Professor

Gaylen Kapperman, Professor Emeritus