Quarterly Connections: News from the NRTC
Linking Blindness and Low Vision Research to Practice
The NRTC Enters Final Year of NIDRR RRTC Research Grant
The National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) is entering the fifth and final year of its NIDRR RRTC grant: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Employment Outcomes for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired. This grant, which includes six major research projects, has yielded a number of significant research findings, with additional findings expected in the coming year as projects are concluded. The Center is now focused on disseminating these research findings in order to have the broadest impact in the field of blindness and low vision and to find meaningful ways to translate the research findings for use by practitioners and administrators.
In meeting dissemination goals, each of the six projects have specific products and outputs in development. The NRTC's main website and NTAC website will be home to the majority of these dissemination products which will include research results, guides, short courses, and resource lists for service providers, consumers, and businesses. Many of the short courses will offer the option to earn CRC Credit and CEUs upon completion. Several products are already developed, with many more to come – below is a list of items currently available and a few to look forward to in the coming months:A Customized Transportation Intervention
For more information about any of these projects, please contact the NRTC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-325-2001.
Current RRTC Research Highlights: Update on the Employment Mentoring Project
One of the major difficulties faced by young adults transitioning from college to a career is finding employment. This is especially true for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The goal of this project is to determine whether pairing college and graduate students who are legally blind with professionals, who are also legally blind and employed in the students' field of interest, will improve employment outcomes for this population. Some outcomes of interest include skills, knowledge, and behaviors related to searching for and obtaining employment, ability to obtain competitive employment after graduation, and job satisfaction. This project provides legally blind students preparing for graduation a unique opportunity to learn from successful mentors, to develop job seeking skills and career goals, and to participate in networking and job shadowing experiences.
The project consists of four cohorts that include mentors and mentees, as well as a control group of students. Students are randomly assigned to participate in either the intervention group or control group. Each cohort began at a different point in time based on student graduation dates. The primary goal is to pair students with mentors at a critical time in their education as they prepare to enter the workforce. Mentor pairs work at their own pace to discuss important issues related to job seeking, including topics such as: transfer of technology skills from a school environment to a work environment, preparing for interviews, addressing accommodations and disclosure, and networking.
Three of the four cohorts have finished the year-long project, with cohort four (the final cohort) scheduled to finish in January 2015. The total number of mentees participating in this project is 51, with 25 in the intervention group and 26 in the comparison group. Each of the 25 mentees in the intervention group was paired with a mentor in his/her professional area of interest. The average age of participants is 27 years old, with 63 percent being male. Seventy-three percent of mentees currently were pursuing undergraduate degrees with the remaining 28 percent working on graduate degrees. There are a wide variety of majors among the mentees including STEM, social sciences, law, communication, performing arts, and disability/blindness related. The relatively even distribution of individuals within these majors in encouraging in that it demonstrates that young adults who are legally blind are pursuing all sorts of careers.
The average age of mentors was 49 years old, with 64 percent being female. Eighty percent of mentors are currently employed, and the remaining twenty percent are recently retired. The education level of mentors was impressive, with 76% holding graduate degrees, including 24% with doctoral degrees. The remaining 24% held either undergraduate degrees, vocational training, or some college education.
While data collection is not complete, some preliminary results suggest that the job search activities participants feel the most comfortable with are requesting a job application form, working on their own, and completing a job application form. Some aspects they feel least comfortable with include telling an employer about a visual impairment, general interview skills, and self-presentation at an interview. Based on the data from twenty-three participants who have completed the project, twelve (52%) are currently employed, all but one in full-time positions, with a median starting salary of $32,000. Levels of job satisfaction among participants are high, including ratings on job enjoyment and contentment, as well as high levels of jobs matching educational level and career interest.
Upon completion of data collection, additional analyses will be conducted to assess the efficacy of the mentoring program, including comparing employment and other employment-related outcomes between the intervention and comparison groups. For more information on this project, contact NRTC staff at email@example.com.
In the Works: Training and TA
Vision Specialist Program 2015
The NRTC has submitted a proposal to the recent RSA Long Term Training in Visual Impairment competition for renewal of the Vision Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation graduate certificate program. There are currently over 35 applications for the upcoming program, and if the proposal is funded there will be 10 stipends offered this year. Notification is due around the first of October.
New Short Course
A new short course by Dr. Michele McDonnall, Employer Attitudes toward Persons who are Blind or Visually Impaired, was added to the NTAC website. This course is based on research with VR personnel who work with employers. NRTC short courses are available at no charge, and this particular one carries 1.0 CRC credit. The course can be can be accessed at http://ntac.blind.msstate.edu/courses/.
Upcoming Annual Fall Teachers' Workshop
The ABC's of Education for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired: Assessment, Braille, Books and Computers will be held October 22 & 23, 2014 at the T.K. Martin Center Classroom on the MSU campus. The workshop is focused on those who are new to working with students with visual impairments, but since much of our activity is a discussion format, "Old Timers" are welcome too. Lunch is included in the $85.00 registration fee for professionals. Parents and MSU students are welcome for $35.00. CEU's are available for an additional $25.
Topics to be covered include: Introduction to working with students who are blind or visually impaired, Learning Media Assessment, Braille, Reading with Low Vision, Ordering Textbooks, Registration for the Federal Quota, Transition to College, and New Resources for Teachers of the Visually Impaired. Presenters will be B.J. LeJeune, NRTC; Kendra Farrow, NRTC Casey Robertson, TSB, and Kim Esco-Collins, MIRC.
Contact BJ LeJeune at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Other NRTC News:
NRTC Leadership in AER Division II
Dr. Michele McDonnall and Dr. Adele Crudden, NRTC research professors, and Dr. Jamie O'Mally, former NRTC research professor, have all recently been elected to officer positions in the AER Division II Chapter: Rehabilitation Counseling, BEP, & Employment Services. Dr. Crudden is serving as the Chair, Dr. O'Mally is the Chair-Elect, and Dr. McDonnall is the Secretary/Treasurer. The NRTC is proud to have strong representation and leadership in the AER Division that promotes and supports professionals dedicated to helping individuals with visual impairments secure employment through providing proper rehabilitation and training services. For more information about this division, visit http://rcbep.aerbvi.org/index.htm.
New Staff Member at NRTC
The NRTC is pleased to announce the addition of Anne Lang, Research Associate II, to the Center's research staff. Anne recently moved to Starkville from Houston, TX, where she worked for nonprofits focused on research and data around children's issues and helping high school students successfully enter the workforce. Anne holds a master's degree in Public Service and Administration from Texas A&M University and an undergraduate degree in History and Political Science from Rice University. She will be involved with several of the research, training, and dissemination activities at the NRTC. We are excited to welcome Anne to the NRTC staff!
Participant Registry Update
Nearly three years ago, the NRTC launched its Participant Registry in order to improve efficiency in recruitment and increase the number of individuals participating in NRTC and other research studies focusing on blindness issues. Since then, over 350 individuals have signed up and joined our registry, many of whom have been invaluable participants in our and others' research studies.
The need for participants in research studies is always present, so if you or someone you know is interested in participating in research, sign up for our registry today! It only takes a few minutes. Visit https://www.blind.msstate.edu/research/participate/ for more information or to sign up.
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Available online at http://rcb.sagepub.com/content/58/1/29
Bybee, J. (2014, November). Resources for Randolph-Sheppard Business Enterprise Program staff. NFB/NABM Business Leadership and Superior Training Conference. Austin, TX.
LeJeune, B.J. (2014, November). Enhancing employment outcomes for youth with visual disabilities. Association of Vision Rehabilitation Therapists. Colorado Springs, CO.
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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