Whilst people who find walking difficult – whether due to a disability or advancing years – are able to retain a great degree of independence thanks to mobility scooters and other equipment, getting around can be much harder for those who are living with a visual impairment or complete sight loss.
Fortunately, however, recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of people training as dedicated Rehabilitation Workers, whose job it is to help people with vision loss – and other life-limiting conditions – lead as independent an existence as possible.
If you think you may be interested in becoming a Rehabilitation Worker, the below guide will tell you all you need to know about the various steps you can take to get involved in this most rewarding of professions.
Unlike teaching someone how to use mobility scooters, people who wish to become professional Rehabilitation Workers need to go through an extensive education programme and gain plenty of practical experience before they become fully qualified to deliver the skills they have acquired.
Currently, only one institution – Birmingham City University – offers the course in question, the official title of which is ‘Rehabilitation Work (Visual Impairment) – FdSc’. A full-time course which can be completed in two academic years, it provides successful graduates with a qualification that is equivalent to a foundation degree or BTEC Professional Diploma.
Whilst having to study in Birmingham may not be convenient for those who do not live close to the city, the temporary relocation that may be required would certainly be worth it for anyone who is intent on forging a career in this profession. Based at the university’s South Campus, the FdSc boasts an enviable 100% student satisfaction record for each of the last four years (based on feedback collected in the National Student Survey) and features a comprehensive training programme that should instantly make a host of enviable job opportunities available upon its completion.
In 2018, it was announced that a new, specialist apprenticeship would be launched – also to be based at Birmingham City University – which would allow employers to submit applications on behalf of their workforce so that they could become qualified Rehabilitation Workers.
In practice, this means that the government could provide employers with at least a portion of the funding needed to upskill their employee(s) with some vitally important public health knowledge and experience. The biggest potential benefit for the employers who choose to become involved in this scheme would be having access to workers who are fully qualified in the field of helping visually impaired service users achieve independence.
There are many kinds of relevant organisations which may consider putting forward one or more of their employees for this apprenticeship, but some examples include local authorities, public or private health bodies, and even retailers of disability-friendly products such as mobility scooters.
Top-up degree – Working with children and young people
Once someone has become a fully qualified Rehabilitation Worker, they may wish to further their career prospects by upgrading their education to undergraduate degree level. There are two options for doing this – again, both are currently only available at Birmingham City University – with one of them focusing on working with children and young adults.
This ‘top-up’ degree course has been running for over 20 years and would be the ideal choice for any Rehabilitation Workers who find helping young people with sight problems excel the most rewarding part of their job and would like to specialise in this role going forward.
As with teaching someone how to operate mobility scooters and other adaptive aids, graduates of this course will not technically be dealing in ‘rehabilitation’, because the patients they go on to help will not be relearning skills they once had under different conditions but will instead be learning them for the first time. This distinction is referenced in the degree’s title, which is ‘Habilitation Work – Working with Children and Young People’.
Top-up degree – Specialist complex needs
The alternative ‘top-up’ degree available for those who have already completed the Rehabilitation Work foundation degree allows students to specialise in helping adults who, as well as vision impairment, have one or more of a wide range of additional health conditions. These conditions could include, but are not limited to, dementia, deafblindness, learning difficulties and mental health issues.
A challenging yet hugely rewarding career path, working with people who have complex health needs and sight loss is certainly something which requires specialist education, and this BSc (Hons) course is widely recognised for the invaluable vocational skills it imparts.
The course providers recognise the fact that most of their participants will already be busy Rehabilitation Workers and, as such, offer a range of flexible study options designed to fit around even the fullest of schedules. The degree can either be completed full time over one year, part time over two years or, if preferred, students can simply choose to take one or more relevant modules as part of a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme.
Introductory online training
Finally, for organisations who provide services in the health and social care sectors and want their employees to have a good understanding of what Rehabilitation Workers do without necessarily requiring them to become fully qualified practitioners, the final course we will discuss may be of interest.
The healthcare consultancy Provision Solutions offers a short, online-based training programme called ‘An Introduction to Rehabilitation Studies’ that can be accessed completely free of charge and is made up of four units:
- Visual impairment
- Holistic assessment of people with a visual impairment
- Activities of daily living for people with a visual impairment
- Orientation and Mobility for people with a visual impairment
On their website, Provision Solutions explain that people working in the charity sector, social workers and occupational therapists are among those who could benefit most from undertaking their training. However, employees of companies that provide disability-related products like mobility scooters may also find that having a greater understanding of visual impairment will be a useful tool in helping them to appreciate the challenges that some of their customers face every day.
It is worth noting that this course can also be taken by individuals – i.e. students do not need to be put forward by their employers. This means that anyone who thinks they may want to pursue a career as a Rehabilitation Worker can register for this programme, the content of which should be enough to help the student decide whether this career would be right for them.