Freedom and Independence mean different things to different people, but to a person with a visual impairment, it can mean the ability to function in their own home independently, go where he/she likes when he/she likes, be able to continue to work and travel there and back safely on a daily basis, go shopping unaided, visit friends, and go to church. This means the need to adapt or develop new skills to function at home; to learn new skills to know where you are; to know how to get to a desired destination; as well as to be able to move about safely within your own home and further afield independently.
In 1969, the S A Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind became aware of the need for this type of service as a complementary service to Guide Dogs. In 1974, the Orientation & Mobility school was established to train sighted Orientation & Mobility Practitioners, from all over southern Africa, who would in turn train people who were visually impaired. The school became a college in 2006, after becoming an accredited training provider in 2005. There is now a two-year, SAQA-accredited diploma training course run by the College of Orientation & Mobility.
The college was honoured on 25 July 2014, when the COM building was renamed in honour of the late Ken Lord, past Executive Director of the S A Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind.
Presently it is estimated that in South Africa, there are approximately 388 000 individuals who are blind, and approximately 1 300 000 individuals who are partially sighted (formulas taken from the 2010 WHO statistics), and there is a need for professionally-trained practitioners to assist these individuals on an ongoing basis.