Apprenticeship Program


Individuals who wish to become certified through the National Blindness professional Certification Board (NBPCB) in the areas of cane travel, rehabilitation teaching for the blind, or access technology may become eligible in one of two ways. They can successfully matriculate through an NBPCB approved university program (Category A); or by meeting all requirements of an approved NBPCB supervised apprenticeship (Category B). This document provides information regarding this second option and outlines the qualifications and our established process.

Applicants under Category B must meet all requirements of the NBPCB-Supervised Apprenticeship, including: (1) possess a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent; (2) successfully meet and complete 480 hours of prerequisite immersion training at a NBPCB approved center within five years of starting their application, and (3) complete a minimum of an 800-hour apprenticeship under the supervision of an NBPCB-approved individual, at a different center than their immersion site. Requirements two and three are expanded in greater detail below in their respective sections.

Once all apprenticeship requirements are fulfilled, the application, examination, and recertification process to obtain and maintain the SD Professional certification do not differ from someone who has been found to be eligible by means of matriculating through a university program.

Step 1: Application

Applicants interested in applying towards an NBPCB Apprenticeship must submit all of the following items. All forms may be obtained from the NBPCB office. Documents should be submitted as separate electronic Microsoft Word documents to

  1. Application form
  2. Personal essay explaining interest in becoming a SD instructor
  3. Resume
  4. Two letters of support from persons who can speak to character, motivation, potential teaching ability, fitness, and suitability for the profession
  5. Verification of Immersion form (submitted directly by the training center supervisor, Once completed)
  6. Signed apprenticeship code of conduct and Structured Discovery Professional Code of Conduct
  7. Application fee ($150)
  8. Verification of teaching competency (Completed by apprenticeship site director after apprenticeship completion and not included in initial application)

* Note: Immersion and apprenticeship locations must be at two different NBPCB Approved sites.

No application will be processed without all supporting documentation and paid application fee. The individual seeking to participate in a SD apprenticeship is responsible for any and all fees pertaining to the application including but not limited to the following: immersion, apprenticeship training, travel expenses, living expenses, and certification. No monetary compensation is guaranteed to apprentices from either the training facility or the NBPCB. Lack of communication with the NBPCB appointed individual/the apprenticeship coordinator during the application process or a lack of demonstrable progress made towards beginning one’s immersion or apprenticeship within six months of approval will result in the file being closed. Subsequently, a new application must be submitted, including the application fee, before the approval process can be reinitiated.

Background Check

Once all documents have been received by NBPCB a background check will be conducted including the use of the National Sex Offender Public Website and other background checking sources. If any issues are flagged, an NBPCB board member(s) or apprenticeship coordinator will follow-up with the applicant to inform the applicant of next steps or if the application was declined.

Code of Conduct

Applicants must read and sign both the Apprenticeship Code of Conduct and the SD code of conduct. Although participants are not currently certified SD professionals, they must understand that they are bound by the SD Code of Conduct by virtue of participating in our apprenticeship program. (This latter code of conduct can be found on our website and should be thoroughly reviewed.) Any violations of the standards of behavior set forth in either/both these documents may result in termination from the program.

 Step 2: Approval Process

The apprenticeship coordinator will review the application and make a determination on the application status including approving the application, place under review of an apprenticeship committee, or denied due to insufficient information. An approval status occurs when application materials are reviewed and meets the following guidelines.

  1. Applicant completed their full application
  2. Applicant’s immersion and apprenticeship sites are different than each other
  3. Applicant’s immersion and apprenticeship locations are existing NBPCB-approved training centers.
  4. Application meets internal review process without requiring further review by apprenticeship committee.

For any applications that do not meet the above guidelines, the apprenticeship coordinator will arrange A 3-member panel that will review an applicant’s completed application packet and conduct an interview with the applicant. It will then make the decision to either accept, approve with conditions, deny with conditions, or fully deny the individual as a participant in the apprenticeship program.

If the panel approves the application, the immersion/apprenticeship process may commence. If the application is denied or conditions stipulated by the committee or apprenticeship coordinator is deemed unsatisfactory by the applicant, the applicant may appeal the decision to the NBPCB Board for their review and final determination.

A current list of approved centers can be found on the NBPCB website. If an exception to the listed apprenticeship sites is being requested, the following criteria must be adhered to: (1) the site and site supervisor must be pre-approved by the NBPCB; (2) all instructional hours must be directly supervised by a certified SD Professional who is pre-approved by the NBPCB; (3) the apprenticeship must consist of a minimum of 80% direct instruction of children, adults and/or senior citizens who are blind; (4) all instruction must be based on Structured Discovery  methods and principles; and (5) a reporting plan must be pre-approved by the NBPCB office of apprenticeship coordinator that documents and details the daily, weekly, and monthly curriculum that is to be followed for/by the apprentice.

Step 3: Immersion Training

If immersion is completed, move onto step 4. Prior to beginning a formal apprenticeship, all individuals must successfully complete a minimum of 480 hours of prerequisite immersion training at an NBPCB-approved site. This will ensure the immersion experience is conducted in a training setting that includes:

  1. Nonvisual training for all students
  2. Has a core curriculum based on Structured Discovery methods and principles.
  3.  Employs a significant number of blind role models on the instructional staff.
  4. Is consumer-based in its approach to rehabilitation.
  5. Holds high expectations and includes proactive instruction for students in understanding personal and public attitudes.

The immersion requirement can be satisfied as part of someone’s adjustment to blindness training as long as it satisfies all other immersion requirements. Prerequisite immersion training must have occurred within the last five years prior to the applicant’s application.    

If immersion has not been completed at an NBPCB-approved center within the last five (5) years, you must submit a letter of appeal to the NBPCB board of directors that details your personal and professional training in nonvisual skills and how this training may meet the immersion requirement.

A Verification of Immersion Training form must be signed by the center program supervisor. This form not only documents that the individual has completed a minimum of 480 hours satisfactorily, but that the individual also possesses the skills, attitude, and disposition to be recommended for matriculation as a Structured Discovery instructor for the blind. This form may be obtained by contacting the NBPCB office. The document must be submitted directly by the training center director and not the applicant.

Step 4: Apprenticeship

It is required that the apprenticeship take place in a different center than where the immersion experience took place. Once an application is approved, the apprentice and approved training center will determine the start date and convey that information to the NBPCB or apprenticeship coordinator. The NBPCB and apprenticeship coordinator reserves the right to share the application decision, included stipulations, and maintain continued communication with the director and training center to monitor apprenticeship progress.

Prior to beginning the actual apprenticeship, all applicants must demonstrate to the supervising SD Professional that their development of nonvisual skills are adequate to participate in the program. This evaluation will be conducted while the applicant is using a blindfold and will take place in a wide variety of environments. If the applicant’s skills are assessed to be lacking, the apprenticeship training cannot proceed and NBPCB must be notified. Additional emersion training focusing on the specific skills must be obtained until sufficient levels of skills are developed. This additional training can, but does not need to, occur at the apprenticeship site. Another Verification of Immersion form will need to be completed and submitted to verify that the applicant's skills are sufficient and only then can the apprenticeship begin. Hours obtained during this additional immersion experience do not count towards the hours required for apprenticeship.

All apprenticeship participants will be supervised by both a certified SD Professional on site and by the apprenticeship coordinator or an NBPCB appointed individual. Apprenticeship participants must provide direct instruction to consumers. Hours, activities and notes must be submitted to a supervising SD professional and the NBPCB designee at the first of each month, unless another frequency is determined to be necessary. Reporting forms will be provided and consumer initials should be used for purposes of confidentiality.

Regular meetings will be held between the apprenticeship coordinator, apprenticeship site supervisor, supervising SD professional, apprentice, and any other members providing a significant influence on the apprentice’s training to monitor progress and address any concerns.

A baseline of 800 hours must include direct instruction with no more than twenty percent of the time consisting of activities such as observations, lesson planning, report writing, and attending professional development workshops. The 800 hours are a minimum requirement and the applicant’s supervisors including SD professional, center director, NBPCB board member/appointee, or apprenticeship coordinator may determine that additional instructional hours are necessary in order for the apprentice to achieve a minimum level of teaching competency. The use of a blindfold, cane, appropriate instructional tools, and Structure Discovery methods and principles must be employed throughout the duration of the apprenticeship.

Once the apprenticeship has been completed, the training center director, in consultation with the SD professional providing instruction, must submit a Verification of Teaching Competency Form which will attest to the apprentice's ability to effectively teach using SD methods and principles.

Upon satisfactory completion of the apprenticeship, participants may be considered to be eligible to sit for a certification examination. Note: an applicant may sit for the certification exam prior to completing all apprenticeship hours as long as they are in good standing in their apprenticeship, however, certification will not be granted until all program requirements have been satisfied.

Step 5: Certification Examination Process

Applicants must register, pay the appropriate fee, and take the designated exam for the area certification is being sought--cane travel, rehabilitation teaching for the Blind, or access technology.

If the individual receives a passing score on the exam, certification will be granted for a period of five years, or in the case of access technology, three years, as long as the SD Professional remains in good standing with the NBPCB Code of Conduct.

If certificants do not accrue 100 continuing education credits during the certification period, petitions may be submitted in writing to NBPCB requesting that an exception be made. Please note, however, that the 10-hour requirement in ethics cannot be waived.

Contact the NBPCB Office 

For any questions not addressed here, or to request necessary forms, please contact the apprenticeship coordinator or the NBPCB office below:

NBPCB Office