Winter 2019 Quarterly Connections from the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University. News from the NRTC: Linking Blindness and Low Vision Research to Practice.

McDonnall and Moore Receive National Honors

McDonnall and Moore Receive National Honors
Photo courtesy of AFB.

In recognition of exceptional achievements and leadership within the field of blindness and low vision, NRTC director, Dr. Michele McDonnall, and former director, Dr. Elton Moore, were presented prestigious national honors during the 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference (AFBLC). Michele received the 2019 Corinne Kirchner Research Award, which recognized her leadership and dedication to innovative and authoritative research. Elton received the 2019 Migel Medal, which he described as the “quintessential lifetime achievement award in the blindness field.” Read more about these prestigious awards by visiting the Mississippi State University Newsroom.

Current Research Highlights: Development of an App to Help Parents and Youth Focus on Employment

The NRTC’s work to create an employment-focused app for parents of children with blindness or visual impairment (B/VI) or deaf-blindness (DB) is entering its final stages. The goal of the app is to promote independence and ease the transition process for youth with B/VI and DB by preparing them for independent living and employment.

The app will have three versions, each designed for a specific audience:

  1. Youth with B/VI,
  2. Parents of children and youth with B/VI, and
  3. Parents of children and youth with DB or other combined hearing and visual impairment in addition to other significant disabilities.

Each version of the app will give users information and activities to prepare children and youth, ages 4 to 24, for independent living and employment. Parents and youth will receive information based on the child’s age, skills, and goals for the future.

On a regular basis, app users will receive suggested activities, information about beneficial programs and services, links to additional resources, reminders to complete activities, and a checklist to track their progress.

The app’s framework and technical design were developed by AFB Tech. The app will be compatible with iOS, Android, and web platforms.

Content for the app was developed in cooperation with a team of external experts, including focus groups of parents and youth. Youth with B/VI and the parents of youth with B/VI and DB also participated in usability testing, which allowed them to give feedback on the app’s ease of use and content.

Over the last several months, the app content has been working its way through an editing process focused on making sure the language is user-friendly. Recent tech work has focused on finalizing the user interface, the account-creation process, and how parent and youth accounts can work together. A second round of usability testing was also completed and feedback incorporated into the app’s design.

In the coming months, all technical and content development for the app will be completed. Field testing will begin in the next few months. This process will allow youth with B/VI and parents of youth with either B/VI or DB to download and use the app and offer feedback on the app’s final design.

The B/VI version of the app is due for release in Summer 2020. The DB version of the app will follow a few months later in Fall 2020.

If you are interested in being contacted about future updates and app-testing opportunities, sign up at

Training and Technical Assistance

State of the Science Conference

Our State of the Science (SOS) Conference on Employment for Individuals with Blindness or Other Visual Impairments was a great success! Held in conjunction with AFBLC, the SOS Conference provided an opportunity to share the latest updates on our six NIDILRR research projects and gain feedback from professionals in the field through two days of presentations and a poster session.

A highlight of the conference was the SOS Scholars, a group of VR agency professionals representing 19 states who were awarded scholarships to attend. Scholars attended all SOS Employment Track sessions to learn about the latest research and products available to help their consumers obtain employment. They also participated in a discussion group at the conclusion of the conference and will complete two follow-up surveys regarding their experiences and utilization of information gained.

Our Products
We continue to expand the resources and publications available for free download from our website. A new page, Accessibility Resources, has been added to our homepage under Our Products. This new page includes the basics of creating accessible documents, as well as links to additional resources for more specific accessibility information and tutorials.

Three New Online Courses
Find courses and information about credits available on the Continuing Education tab of the National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI) website.

  • Older Blind - There has been increased interest in serving older adults using best practices. Best Practices in the Administration of the OIB (Older Individuals who are Blind) Program, describes best practices, identified by a panel of experts, for programs serving OIB. These best practices are for policy makers, service providers, and administrators, to guide the provision of quality services through OIB programs. Continuing education credits are available. This course was developed by the Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC) with special thanks to the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired for their support.
  • Ethics - Two new courses are available to assist professionals in becoming familiar with the concepts of ethical and cultural competence needed to work with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The first course provides a background and understanding of the topics, and the second course discusses competency, cultural diversity, assessment and testing, and social media use. Both ethics courses are available on the NTAC-BVI Continuing education page under Special Topics.

Other NRTC News

Award-Winning Team

  • We are very proud to share that Dr. Adele Crudden, NRTC researcher and professor and Department of Sociology interim department head and professor, is the recipient of the 2019 Mississippi Social Worker of the Year Award, recognizing her exemplary achievements in and contributions to the field. The award was presented earlier this month during the Mississippi Chapter of NASW annual conference in Natchez, MS.
  • A recent article by Dr. Marty Giesen, NRTC senior research scientist and lead author, and Anne Lang, NRTC research associate, has been selected as one of three finalists for the NARRTC Best Paper Award for 2018. NARRTC, a professional organization of NIDILRR stakeholders, selected Predictors of Earnings Enabling Likely Roll Departure for SSDI Beneficiaries with Visual Impairments in Vocational Rehabilitation in recognition of exceptional support and service to improve the lives of people with disabilities through NIDILRR-funded, peer-reviewed research. The finalists will present their papers at the 2019 NARRTC Conference in Arlington, VA, during a panel discussion on Wednesday, April 24, and the winner will be announced during an awards ceremony at the Annual Conference Luncheon.

OIB Program Manager’s Meeting
OIB-TAC hosted the annual OIB Program Manager’s Meeting prior to AFBLC. This all-day event included presentations, roundtable discussions, and an afternoon workshop to learn more about recruiting and retaining staff; creating quality documentation; prioritizing consumers; monitoring outcomes of direct service; and evaluating the program. The information-sharing was such a success that OIB-TAC is now hosting a monthly teleconference on the second Wednesday of each month for in-depth discussion of timely topics with OIB program managers and their designees. For a list of upcoming topics, please visit the Event Calendar on the OIB-TAC Community of Practice website or contact

Project Update: Job Retention and Advancement

  • Featured on Air – On January 11, Dr. Adele Crudden and Anne Steverson spoke with radio host Vance Durbin of Eye On Vision, a weekly program on Memphis Public Libraries’ broadcast radio station WYPL-FM for individuals with visual impairments. Adele and Anne discussed our state vocational rehabilitation agency research project and shared recruitment information for the Job Retention & Career Advancement Survey, detailed below. A podcast of the radio show is available on the Eye On Vision website.
  • We Need Your Help – We are recruiting participants for a survey about job retention and career advancement. The survey is open to individuals who are blind or have low vision, born between the years of 1950 and 1991, who have ever been employed post-education for at least minimum wage. Have you had challenges keeping a job? Have you had difficulty moving up the career ladder? Please share your experiences of attempting to keep or advance in a job, even if those experiences were not successful.
  • The survey may be completed electronically at, or you may call 1-662-546-0737 to request an appointment to participate by telephone. Participants who complete the survey may enter into a drawing for a $100 gift card. Please know this survey may take 30 to 40 minutes to complete. For assistance or further information, visit the project overview webpage for Job Retention and Advancement: A Mixed Methods Investigation or contact Anne Steverson or Adele Crudden.

Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies


Cmar, J. L., & McDonnall, M. (in press). Characteristics, services, and outcomes of vocational rehabilitation consumers who are deaf-blind. Journal of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association, 52(2), 12-24.

McDonnall, M. C., & Cmar, J. L. (2019). Services for consumers who are deaf-blind: Vocational rehabilitation agency service models utilized and their effectiveness. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 113(1), 19-31.

McDonnall, M. C., Cmar, J. L., & Lund, E. M. (in press). Comorbid traumatic brain injury and visual impairment: Vocational rehabilitation service provision and agency-level outcomes. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

Upcoming Presentations:

Farrow, K., & Crudden, A. (2019, April). Eye friendly tips and tricks for interacting with persons with vision loss. American Society on Aging Conference, New Orleans, LA.

McDonnall, M. & Cmar, J. (2019, April). The importance of specialized services. National Council of State Agencies for the Blind Meeting, Bethesda, MD.

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