Join Guide Dogs as a Habilitation Specialist

We’re here to support people with sight loss, starting right from their early years. As the largest single employer of Habilitation Specialists in the UK, we work with hundreds of children and young people, with a vision impairment, every year - helping them build their skills and confidence to explore the world.

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What is a Habilitation Specialist?

A Habilitation Specialist supports vision-impaired children and young people, aged from birth up to 25 years, to become as independent as possible in their day-to-day lives.

This involves teaching them how to move around safely and confidently, as well as independent living skills to use at home, school or in the wider world. This ranges from supporting physical development in their early years to navigating streets safely, preparing food, handling money, using technology and managing their self-care routines as they grow older.

The training is always personalised to meet the needs of the individual child and can take place on a one-to-one basis or in groups.

At Guide Dogs, all our Habilitation Specialists are either qualified or working towards becoming Qualified Habilitation Specialists (QHS), meaning they're trained to national standards.

What do Habilitation Specialists do?

This is a role where no two days are the same. You’ll be working with children and young people across a wide range of ages. Some might also have additional needs as well as a vision impairment.

Meet Kim

Meet Kim, who’s in her dream job as a Habilitation Specialist. Kim adapts her lessons so they're fun and engaging for children at different ages and stages.

What skills and experience are needed?

We don’t just recruit Habilitation Specialists who are already qualified. We take on trainees who learn on-the-job while studying for their Habilitation Specialist qualification.

To apply as a trainee, you need to have a mixture of professional qualifications and experience in a similar role:

  • Degree educated or equivalent (QCF Level 4/SVQ Level 7) plus relevant work experience specifically related to Children and Young People (CYP) within the age range 0-25 years.
  • Current relevant and verifiable experience of working with CYP and their families in an education or training environment, youth work or social care setting.

Both a degree or equivalent and relevant experience are needed to apply.

Trainees will then complete the habilitation course at UCL, which is funded by Guide Dogs. The teaching blocks equate to 160 hours of training each year, which take place in London. If you’re based in a team outside of London, we also cover the cost of travel, subsistence, and accommodation.

Alternatively, you can apply if you have a Vision Rehabilitation Specialist (VRS) qualification with previous CYP experience. This allows you to complete a 'top-up' course, rather than doing the full habilitation course.

Trainee Habilitation Specialist

Our trainees come from all walks of life, with previous roles ranging from teaching and nursing, to occupational therapy.

The key attributes we look for are:

  1. A demonstrable knowledge of the different stages of child development and their impact on a child’s ability to learn.
  2. An understanding of the legislation relating to children and disability.
  3. Knowledge and understanding of child protection issues.
  4. Proven ability to establish effective working relationships with a variety of people.
  5. Effective communication skills, both verbal and written.
  6. Good organisational and administrative skills and able to identify problems and either manage or escalate them.
  7. Supportive of their team and colleagues, and a conscientious, trustworthy and considerate colleague.

If you’re looking to gain work experience before applying, jobs or volunteer opportunities working with children who have a sensory impairment, in community care or with groups (youth groups, Scouts, Girl guiding etc.) are all helpful starting points.

We take a person-centred approach when working with children, so we find out what that young person wants to be able to do, and we help them to do it. A young man once asked me to help him shave – which definitely involved me having to do some research and ask my male colleagues for advice. But we got there!
Kate, Habilitation Specialist

What opportunities for development are there?

We offer lots of opportunities for continuous professional development, and encourage all our Habilitation Specialists to get involved in improving our processes.

There’s always space to grow and develop, whether that’s taking on more responsibility in your current department, such as becoming a Senior Habilitation Specialist, or moving sideways within the charity. Your habilitation team are always there to support and supervise you.

Guide Dogs supported me with gaining a Habilitation Specialist qualification, and continue to provide a wide range of opportunities for my continuous professional development. Over time, my career has developed to a Senior Habilitation Specialist role, and I'm now in a lead role for the habilitation service.
Peter Lock, National Habilitation Lead

How to apply

All Guide Dogs vacancies are advertised on our jobs board when they're available. You can also set up job alerts for specific roles or locations, to make sure you hear about any new opportunities as soon as they're available.

An online application can then be completed for the advertised role. For trainees who are successful, you also then need to apply for a place at UCL. The start date will typically be towards the end of August with the first university block week in September. Guide Dogs recruitment for 2024 typically begins in early Spring.

For further information, please contact


Senior Habilitation Specialist, Kate, works with children with a vision impairment to help them develop their independence skills.