Quarterly Connections: News from the NRTC
Linking Blindness and Low Vision Research to Practice
RRTC Advisory Council Visits
The NRTC hosted its Advisory Council on Mississippi State University's campus on April 4th and 5th. This was the Council's second meeting for the Center's NIDRR-funded Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment Outcomes for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired grant. During the two-day meeting, NRTC research staff and AFB Tech project consultants, Mark Uslan and Darren Burton, updated the Council on the progress and current status of the six major research projects funded under the grant. The Council provided feedback and suggestions regarding current research activities and future dissemination activities for the projects. The Council also provided feedback on the Center's newly developed NTAC-BVI website and its upcoming State of the Science Conference.
The Advisory Council consists of 10 members, plus 3 ex-officio members, and includes professionals from blind consumer groups, private organizations, and other stakeholders in the field of blindness and low vision. Advisory council members include Ron Brown (National Federation of the Blind), Mike Gandy (Ex-Officio), Angela Hartley (National Industries for the Blind), Ray Hopkins (National Council of State Agencies for the Blind), Brett Humphrey (Employer), Roxann Mayros (Private Agencies for the Blind), H.S. (Butch) McMillan (Ex-Officio), Nancy O'Donnell (Helen Keller National Center), Mitch Pomerantz (American Council of the Blind), Donna Smith (Easter Seals), Jennipher Wiebold (Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired), Dorothy Young (Ex-Officio), and Tom Zampieri (Blinded Veterans Association). External evaluator Richard Long (Western Michigan University), and project consultant Terry Smith (Business Opportunity Specialist, National Federation of the Blind) also attended.
The Council will meet for the final time during the NRTC's State of the Science Conference, which will be held April 2014 in Bethesda, MD, in conjunction with NCSAB's Spring meeting. Several advisory council members will participate in the SoS conference by serving as panel members to discuss project results. They will also provide suggestions and advice on how to translate findings from the NIDRR research projects into practice for use by consumers and professionals in the blindness and low vision field.
Current RRTC Research Highlights: Effectiveness of VR Agency-Employer Interactions
Negative attitudes held by employers towards people who are blind or visually impaired have been identified as a major barrier to employment. Interactions between vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and employers are a potential way to overcome this barrier. When securing employment for people who are blind or visually impaired, VR agencies have traditionally used job placement efforts, that is, placing one consumer in one job. More recently, some VR agencies have embraced a business relations model, or dual customer, approach. This approach focuses on treating businesses as a customer of the agency, and building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with employers. The purpose of this project is to empirically evaluate the effectiveness of existing practices used by VR agencies to interact with employers in their states. The project has four major research activities and is broken down into three sub-projects including VR agency surveys, evaluation of existing practices, and examining best practices.
The first sub-project focused on determining what practices agencies are using to interact with employers and to measure the emphasis placed by agencies on these practices. Two surveys were developed and conducted: one with administrators of all VR agencies that serve consumers who are blind or visually impaired (separate and combined agencies) and the other with employment specialist staff and/or rehabilitation counselors of these same agencies. Forty-seven of the fifty-one state agencies participated in this study. Findings from the VR staff survey will be published in the next issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation.
The second sub-project utilized these VR survey results from sub-project one in combination with RSA-911 data in order to determine if there is an association between VR agency-employer interaction practices and employment outcomes of their consumers. Findings from these analyses indicate that VR counselors' self-reported use of the business relations model approach with employers (based on responses to items on a measurement scale) was positively associated with outcomes for consumers. Business relations staff self-reported use of blindness-specific approaches with employers was also positively associated with outcomes for consumers.
The second component of sub-project two consisted of conducting telephone surveys with employers in selected states. States were selected using data collected from the VR surveys. These employer surveys utilized an instrument to assess employers' knowledge of how people who are blind or visually impaired can perform specific jobs tasks (e.g., using standard office equipment and accessing computers and pre-printed materials) and their attitudes towards people who are blind or visually impaired as employees. Data has been collected from 195 employers in four states. An article describing the development of the attitude instrument has been submitted for publication and analyses of knowledge items are being conducted.
Sub-project three consists of developing evidence-based practice guidelines for VR agencies. These guidelines will be developed using the results from the other sub-projects and interviews conducted with VR agency personnel in states using effective business relations methods and their partnering employers. The guidelines will serve as a handbook that will guide VR agencies serving people who are blind or visually impaired on best practices for establishing effective relationships with employers and increasing employment outcomes.
In the Works: Training and TA
The National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI)
Vision Specialist Certificate in Vocational Rehabilitation
Other NRTC News:
Dr. O'Mally Receives Emerging Investigator Award
Research and Training Coordinator Joins the NRTC
State of the Science Conference Reminder
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Recent Publications/Publications in Press:
O'Mally, J., McDonnall, M., & Bybee, J. (2013, July). Improving employment outcomes for individuals who are blind through employment mentoring, VR agency-employer interactions, and the Randolph-Sheppard Business Enterprise Program. American Council of the Blind Conference. Columbus, OH.
O'Mally, J. (2013, July). Improving employment outcomes for college grads who are legally blind. American Council of the Blind, Student Meeting. Columbus, OH.
O'Mally, J. (2013, July). A look at employment mentoring for college students who are blind. National Federation of the Blind Convention, Employment Committee Meeting. Orlando, FL.
O'Mally, J. (2013, July). Student involvement in an employment mentoring project. National Federation of the Blind Convention, National Association of Blind Students Meeting. Orlando, FL.
Publications Recently Archived for Download from Our Website:
McBroom, L. W. (1995). Transition to work following graduation from college: Experiences of employees with visual impairments and their employers (Executive summary). Mississippi State, Mississippi: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision.
Giesen, J.M. & Ford, K.L. (1986). The unsuccessfully closed blind client: Characteristics of a nonemployment outcome. Mississippi State, Mississippi: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision.
McBroom, L.W., Seaman, J., Chen, S., Machalow, S., & Robbins, V. (1986). Vocational education readiness tests: Modification and adaptation for blind and visually impaired persons (Executive summary). Mississippi State, Mississippi: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision.
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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