O&M Student Making a Big Impact in Her Home Country
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O&M Student Making a Big Impact in Her Home Country

When Suha Almusa ‘22 O&M was 12 years old, she read a novel about Helen Keller, American author, disability rights advocate, political activist and lecturer, who had lost her sight and hearing from an illness when she was just 19 months.

Suha headshot1The story of Anne Sullivan, Keller’s instructor and lifelong companion, inspired Almusa to specialize in visual impairment, but that option wasn’t immediately available to her in her home country of Saudi Arabia. Still, Almusa’s passion for rehabilitation and supporting people with visual impairments was steadfast. And, she was intent on trailblazing her own path in Saudi Arabia.

When she graduates in the fall from the Orientation and Mobility (O&M) program at Salus University, it is believed she will be the only female certified O&M specialist in her country. 

“This makes me proud. I feel deeply committed to the cause of blindness and the quality of life for the blind,” she said.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Saudi Arabia, Almusa worked at Prince Mohamad bin Fahad Foundation for Humanitarian Development. There, she established the first club for the blind in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia in 2010, which served around 100 people, both male and female, with visual impairments.

That experience encouraged her to secure a professional degree to work with people with visual impairments, so she applied for the educational leadership program at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, where she received her first certificate in visual impairment.

Almusa then chose to continue her education at Salus because the O&M program provides the coursework and supervised fieldwork for certification by the Academy for the Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP). She also has a colleague with a Master’s of Science in Optometry, Salus alum Mohamad Al-Blowi, MSCO ‘18, who enjoyed his experience and recommended the University to her.

At this point, Almusa is in her first year in the Salus hybrid O&M master’s program and has been taking courses virtually. As part of that program, there is a residency and internship at the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, campus with supervised fieldwork experiences required by ACVREP that currently has her to the United States this summer. It isn’t her first trip to the U.S. though, as she was born in Oklahoma and has visited many states.

Suha pic2​“I have learned a lot in the first semester. We covered neurological visual impairment, which is crucial in working with children and adults whose visual impairment is because of brain damage and neurological problems,” said Almusa. “They need a good understanding of their challenges and the NVI effects on their behaviors to assess and design their rehabilitation plan.”

Her second semester has seen Almusa exposed to the clinical foundation of visual impairment, the laws and standards of low vision and vision rehabilitation services and the certifications needed for vision rehabilitation services, which will support the foundation of vision rehabilitation. In addition, she’s learning the principles of O&M and getting to know the historical background of the O&M skills.

In her spare time, Almusa likes to socialize and take breaks away from her studies to spend time with family and friends, both of which have provided her with a reliable support system as she continues her studies.

“There is a huge need for certified people in orientation and mobility in Saudi Arabia, not only for adults but also children who might face some challenges in walking and developmental delays because they cannot travel safely,” said Almusa, who is currently establishing the first rehabilitation center for people with visual impairment at King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital and hoping to train other professionals to treat people with visual impairments.

Her ultimate goal after graduating is to share her knowledge and establish an accredited O&M program in Saudi Arabia.

“Our impact is by serving others, and I am eager to help people with visual impairments,” she said. “That will be a gratifying feeling and makes a big difference in their lives to be independent.”

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