Quarterly Connections: News from the NRTC
Linking Blindness and Low Vision Research to Practice
State of the Science Conference is Almost Here!
The NRTC's State of the Science (SoS) Conference is only a few weeks away. It will be held in conjunction with NCSAB's Annual Spring Conference on April 9th and 10th, 2014 at the Bethesda Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, MD. The purpose for the SoS Conference is to present the latest research regarding employment for people who are blind or visually impaired. This will include results from the NRTC's six NIDRR-funded research projects which focus on improving employment outcomes for people who are blind or visually impaired. The sessions will be interactive in nature, allowing for audience participation through the use of clicker devices and clicker questions asked during the presentations. In addition, panels will discuss ways that the research results are applicable to practice after each presentation. Panel members will be comprised of experts and VR specialists in each respective topic area.
Guest speakers for the SoS Conference include Janet LaBreck, RSA Commissioner, Matthew Brault, U.S. Census Bureau, and John Lui, Executive Director of the RRTC on Evidence-Based Practice at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The NRTC's Advisory Council and expert consultants will also be in attendance.
The NRTC is eager to share its research with you and receive your feedback. Registration fees to attend the SoS Conference are included for those already registered to attend NCSAB's Annual Spring Conference. If you are interested in attending the SoS Conference only, the registration fee is $175. More information about the conference, the agenda, and a registration link are available at http://blind.msstate.edu/training/state-of-the-science/.
Current RRTC Research Highlights: Accessibility in the Modern Workplace Revisited
One of the barriers to employment for blind and visually impaired people is the accessibility of standard office equipment such as copiers and phone systems. In the past, copiers and phone systems had simple interfaces which were easily modified to accommodate people with visual impairments. However, with the advancement of technology and the introduction of multifunctional document centers (MDCs) and voice over internet phones (VoIP) systems, the interfaces have become increasingly complex and the digital displays small and intricate. This poses a significant accessibility problem for people with blindness or low vision. Many major companies have begun making their MDCs and VoIP systems accessible but have used different product design architecture to do so. This study evaluates these different products and accessibility technologies to determine their effectiveness. The overall objective of this project is to increase knowledge about the accessibility of MDCs and VoIP systems for people who are blind or visually impaired. The project is broken into two subprojects: the first involves evaluating MDCs and the second involves evaluating VoIP systems.
The MDC project is complete, and the results indicate that both Lexmark and Canon have developed useful solutions for accommodating people in the workplace who are blind or visually impaired. Ricoh and Xerox produced solutions that were also evaluated, but they did not provide a similar level of accessibility and are no longer supported or available.
The Lexmark Accessibility Solution is a completely accessible web interface that can be accessed through the browser on a Windows or Mac desktop computer, a mobile phone or tablet, or an assistive technology notetaker such as a BrailleNote or Pac Mate. The copy, fax, e-mail or scan job can be configured on a browser, choosing such things as the number of copies, the size of the output, or whether the output should to be grouped or collated. When the job is submitted from the browser, a code is provided, and once that code is entered on the tactile keypad on the MDC, the job is completed. One bonus of the Lexmark system is that it works with braille displays, so a person who is deaf-blind can also use it independently. The Lexmark Accessibility Solution costs $499.
Canon's solution is called the Voice Operation Kit, and takes a built-in approach, loading software and attaching a speaker and microphone on the MDC machine itself. The individual interacts directly with the machine, using the tactile keypad along with clear speech output to navigate through and set the various parameters for your copy, scan, fax, or e-mail job. You can also use your voice to set the various parameters for your job, but that can be more time consuming than using the keypad. The Canon solution costs $1,800.
Currently, the VoIP project is in the evaluation phase. The first component to this subproject involved evaluating VoIP systems through surveying visually impaired and blind consumers who use these products to learn the nature and extent of the problems they experience with VoIP systems. The survey was completed by 50 blind and 26 low vision users of VoIP systems. The findings from the survey are now being analyzed.
The second phase of the subproject was to identify VoIP market leaders and the accessibility solutions available and conduct a heuristic analysis on those systems. That work is still in its beginning stages, but a handful of access solutions have been identified and initial testing begun. Tenacity's Accessaphone software provides a high level of accessibility through a Windows PC interface for Cisco's VoIP system, but at a cost of $1500 per phone. IP Blue's VTGo-508 software also provides access for Cisco's VoIP system, at a lower cost of $750 per phone. Several other software products for accessing VoIP systems via a Mac computer, iOS or Android mobile device have also been identified, and initial testing has shown mixed results.
Once the heuristic analyses are completed, the most accessible software solutions will be used in the third phase of the subproject. This third phase will involve a usability study with 10 individuals who are blind or visually impaired who will assess the systems and evaluate each for the quality of its accessibility and usability. The results of these projects have been presented at several national conferences over the past year, with additional presentations scheduled for upcoming conferences. Results of each project will also be published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness.
In the Works: Training and TA
Teaching Students with Visual Impairments: School Responsibilities Workshop for Administrators
This workshop is co-sponsored by the NRTC and the Mississippi Department of Education and will be held in May 2014. The purpose is to increase awareness in Mississippi of the importance of accurate identification of students who are blind or who have low vision, the necessity of appropriate services, the need for specialized personnel, and linkage to certified TVI and O&M Specialist for appropriate individual assessment and planning. More information about this workshop will be available soon at http://www.blind.msstate.edu/training/training/.
The NRTC Short Courses for Continuing Education
The NRTC has recently revamped its series of Continuing Education short courses. These are free on-line courses that can supply CRC credits and CEUs. The courses are appropriate for both professionals and persons who are visually impaired or blind and their families. There are currently 12 short courses that focus on the basics of vision loss including an overview of different eye conditions, adjustment strategies, and the basics of how to read an eye report. Over the next year, a number of additional courses will be added focusing on the results of the Center's NIDRR-funded research projects on increasing employment outcomes for people who are blind or visually impaired. These courses will be presented in a user-friendly format and will provide practical applications of research findings for professionals in the field. All courses can be found at the NRTC's National Technical Assistance Center (NTAC-BVI) website under Continuing Education at http://ntac.blind.msstate.edu/courses/.
Other NRTC News:
Retirement of Dr. Brenda Cavenaugh
Dr. Brenda Cavenaugh, Research Professor, will retire in April after 22 years of service at the NRTC and Mississippi State University. She originally came to the Center as the Anne Sullivan-Macy Fellow and since has held many roles, including the Center's Interim Director for three years. She has greatly contributed to the work at the NRTC and in the field of blindness and low vision as a whole. She boasts an impressive professional record with more than 100 presentations, 70 publications, and 50 funded grants in blindness rehabilitation and education. One of her notable contributions to the field includes her research on combined and separate VR agencies for serving individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Her findings have been and still are used as a key factor in determining which structure state VR agencies adopt. Before joining the NRTC, Dr. Cavenaugh worked in the blindness and low vision field for over 20 years, holding a variety of positions including rehabilitation teacher, rehabilitation counselor, educational vision consultant and itinerant teacher, and administrator in a private rehabilitation agency.
Throughout her years at the NRTC, Dr. Cavenaugh has contributed significantly to the important and innovative research conducted at the Center. She has been an instrumental person in providing leadership and mentorship to coworkers and colleagues, as well as creating lots of laughter, friendships, and fond memories. We wish her the best as she embarks on retired life to further pursue competitive water skiing, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
NRTC Research Utilization Award
It's that time of year again to submit your application for the NRTC's Research Utilization Award! We encourage service providers to implement NRTC research findings into their own practice or research activities, and now is the time to honor those who have done so successfully. Applications for the NRTC Research Utilization Award must be submitted by May 31, 2014 to be considered for this year's award. One award of $500 will be granted. Entries are judged by which applicant utilized the Center's research or training in practice, service delivery, or research projects to deliver the most substantial or widest impact on the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. To learn more about the criteria and how to apply, visit http://blind.msstate.edu/research/nrtc-training-award/.
Welcome Our New Research and Training Associate
The NRTC is delighted to announce the addition of a new member of the training team, Mrs. Kendra Farrow, CVRT. Kendra moved from Lancaster, PA to join the NRTC's team in January 2014. She is a graduate from Western Michigan University Rehabilitation Teaching Program and has been working for the last 14 years at the Susquehanna Association for the Blind and Vision Impaired in Lancaster. Her primary role at the NRTC will be to help with training, dissemination, and knowledge translation for the various projects and activities at the Center. We are excited to welcome Kendra to the NRTC staff!
Facebook Page Reaches 200 Fans!
The NRTC's Facebook page has recently reached more than 200 "Likes!" To everyone who has visited and liked our page, we appreciate your support and interest in our Center! For those of you who have not checked out our page, visit https://www.facebook.com/msu.nrtc to read about current happenings at the NRTC as well as the latest news and interest stories relating to blindness and low vision. Become a fan today!
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Recent Publications/Publications in Press:
Burton, D. (2014, April). Accessibility in the Modern Workplace. NRTC State of the Science Conference. Bethesda, MD.
Giesen, J.M. & Cavenaugh, B.S. (2014, April). Predictors of Outcomes for SSDI Recipients. NRTC State of the Science Conference. Bethesda, MD.
Bybee, J., Smith, T., & Cavenaugh, B.S. (2014, April). Best Practices in the Randolph-Sheppard Program. NRTC State of the Science Conference. Bethesda, MD.
Crudden, A. (2014, April). A Customized Transportation Intervention. NRTC State of the Science Conference. Bethesda, MD.
O'Mally, J. (2014, April). Mentoring and Employment Preparation for College Students. NRTC State of the Science Conference. Bethesda, MD.
LeJeune, B.J. & Farrow, K. (2014, April). Knowledge Translation Activities. NRTC State of the Science Conference. Bethesda, MD.
For Additional NRTC News and Activities:
Visit our website at http://www.blind.msstate.edu/.
This newsletter was supported in part by grant #H133B10022 from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). Newsletter contents do not represent policies of NIDRR or the Department of Education and viewers should not assume endorsement by the federal government. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to interested parties.
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