Spring 2018 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.

NRTC Featured on Eye On Vision

Karla Antonelli, NRTC Research Scientist, was recently featured twice on a radio show to discuss findings from our previous employment mentoring intervention project and the latest information on the current development of an app to help parents and youth focus on employment. Eye On Vision, a weekly program on Memphis Public Libraries’ broadcast radio station WYPL-FM, is a show for individuals with visual impairments hosted by Janet Sides. Podcasts of the radio shows are available on the Eye On Vision website.

On May 11, Karla spoke with by Vance Durbin to detail the results of our employment mentoring project for college students who are blind, which was part of the 2010-2015 Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) grant funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). Karla provided information about the recruitment and participation of college students and mentors, highlighting participant feedback, project outcomes, and resources available.

On June 3, Karla spoke with Vance to discuss the ongoing development of an app for parents of youth who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI) or deaf-blind and youth who are B/VI that will guide them through steps to prepare youth for employment. One of six research projects of the current NIDILRR-funded RRTC grant underway at the NRTC, the app will provide age-appropriate tips and resources to foster the success of youth from ages 4 to 24. Field testing of the app is scheduled to begin in 2019.

Current Research Highlights: NRTC Researchers Evaluate the Effectiveness of a Business-Relations Training

One important role played by vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors is securing employment for consumers who are B/VI. In order to accomplish this, VR counselors must regularly interact with businesses. However, many VR counselors are unsure how to approach this aspect of their jobs and lack confidence in their ability to work effectively with employers.

In order to boost counselors’ confidence and skills in this area, the NRTC is in the midst of a project to evaluate a new training for VR counselors about working with businesses. Participants in the project receive training in the dual-customer approach to business relations, in which counselors seek to understand employers’ unique staffing needs and match them with qualified candidates.

Four broad topic areas are covered in the training curriculum: (1) what a VR counselor should know before connecting with employers, (2) how to connect with employers, (3) how to prepare for a first meeting with an employer, and (4) tips for following-up after the first meeting. Tools and resources to help counselors manage their business-development activities are also provided as part of the training. This training is based on results from a previous RRTC research project and a curriculum used by the former Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Blind Division, which has now merged into the Texas Workforce Solutions Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

Participants in this research project include VR counselors from four state VR agencies. Participants are divided into two groups: Group A and Group B. Group A contains 46 participants from two VR agencies; Group B is made up of 33 participants from two other VR agencies.

VR counselors from Group A were trained in 2017, and Group B received their training in early 2018. Participants from both groups completed pre- and post-tests to measure their business-relations knowledge and confidence in working with employers. NRTC researchers also conducted phone interviews with VR administrators and counselors to better understand any changes that occurred as a result of the training. All participating VR counselors are also submitting quarterly data on their business-relations activities and outcomes.

Data collection and analysis for both Groups A and B are still underway, with the final data collection point to occur in November 2018. Early data analyses indicate immediate increases in business-development knowledge and self-efficacy among participants. Once the final data is collected, researchers will determine whether the positive changes that occurred immediately following the training persist.

At the conclusion of this project, the NRTC will offer an online version of this training, which can be used by individual VR counselors across the country. The NRTC will also offer the in-person training to any other interested state agencies.

Training and Technical Assistance

New Online Course (credits available)

A new online course, Introduction to Best Practices for Older Individuals who are Blind Programs, acquaints Older Individuals who are Blind (OIB) program staff with the concept of best practices and the relevance of these best practices in the OIB field. The course, funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, has been added to the Working with Older Individuals who are Blind section under the Continuing Education tab on the National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment website.

B/VI Forum

The NRTC recently participated in a forum for vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies serving individuals who are blind and visually impaired (B/VI). The forum drew VR professionals from across the United States to San Antonio, TX, to discuss a variety of job-driven topics, such as collaborative WIOA implementation, youth-focused job-driven initiatives, access to job training and career pathways, labor market information, and collaborative business engagement. Hosted by JD-VRTAC: Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center and WINTAC: Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center, attendees took part in moderated panel and round table sessions to share perspectives and collaborate on how to better serve the employment needs of B/VI individuals.

Other NRTC News

OIB-TAC Seeks Project Director

We are accepting applications for Project Director of the Older Individuals who are Blind Training and Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC). The director will serve as the Principal Investigator of the OIB-TAC grant, which is housed within the NRTC. The function of the director is to supervise and coordinate all activities, staff, and external consultants. For a complete list of job responsibilities and qualifications, please visit our Employment Opportunities page.

We’re Growing

Join us in welcoming Emily Lund to the NRTC staff! Emily joined the NRTC in June as an Assistant Research Professor and brings to the center years of scholarship and experience in research and training focused on individuals with disabilities. Emily is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, holds a PhD in Disability Disciplines from Utah State University, a Master of Education in Educational Psychology from Texas AM University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Social Work with a minor in Biology from the University of Montana.

Updated Transportation Guide Available

The second edition of A Transportation Guide for Persons who are Blind or Have Low Vision is available for viewing and free download from the Transportation Resources page of our website. The latest edition provides persons with vision impairments, or those who serve them, updated information and tips about finding and using transportation options. Topics covered include O&M training, bioptic driving, public transportation, ride-hailing services, and walking, among others. Transportation tips include specific factors to keep in mind that relate to the mode of transportation selected.

OIB-TAC Best Practices

New documents detailing Best Practices in the Administration of the OIB Program are available from the OIB-TAC. Developed by an expert panel, both documents detail best practices associated with services to older individuals who are blind (OIB) and are intended to be a guide to policy makers, service providers, and administrators in their efforts to provide quality services through OIB programs. The Executive Summary provides the best practices conclusions, while the Best Practices Report also provides acceptable and unacceptable practices, as well as additional details about the creation process and expert panel members. Download the documents from the OIB-TAC website, then join the discussion on the OIB-TAC Forum.

Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies


Cmar, J. L., McDonnall, M. C., & Crudden, A. (2018). Transportation self-efficacy and employment among individuals with visual impairments. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 48(2), 257-268.

Crudden, A., Steverson, A., & Cmar, J. L. (2018). Drivers with low vision: Characteristics and transportation issues. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 48(2), 257-268.

Farrow, K. (2018). Increasing access to vision rehabilitation services for seniors through collaboration with occupational therapists. Journal of Visual Impairments & Blindness, 112(3), 301-306.

McDonnall, M. C., & Cmar, J. (2018). Employment outcomes and job quality of vocational rehabilitation consumers with deaf-blindness. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1177/0034355218769461.

McDonnall, M.C. (2018). Factors associated with employer hiring decisions regarding people who are blind or visually impaired. Journal of Visual Impairments & Blindness, 112 (2), 197-203.

McDonnall, M.C., & Crudden, A. (2018). Predictors of employer attitudes toward blind employees, revisited. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 48(2), 221-231.

McDonnall, M. C. (in press). Services for consumers who are deaf-blind: Vocational rehabilitation agency service models utilized and their effectiveness. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

McDonnall, M. C., & Antonelli, K. (in press). Professionals' implicit attitudes about the competence of people who are blind. Rehabilitation Psychology.

McDonnall, M.C., Crudden, A., & Steverson, A. (in press). Perceived impact of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act changes on agencies serving consumers with blindness and low vision. Journal of Rehabilitation.

Giesen, M., & Lang, A. H. (in press). The predictors of earnings enabling likely roll departure for SSDI beneficiaries with visual impairments in vocational rehabilitation. Journal of Disability Policy Studies.

Crudden, A., & Steverson, A. (in press). Job retention and career advancement: VR agencies serving consumers with blindness or low vision and WIOA. Journal of Rehabilitation.

Upcoming Presentations:

Cmar, J. L., & McDonnall, M. C. (2018, July). Helping youth put their best foot forward through job search skills training. Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired 2018 International Conference, Reno, NV.

Crudden, A., McDonnall, M. C., Steverson, A., & Sui, Z. (2018, July). Job retention and career advancement: What we know now. Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired 2018 International Conference, Reno, NV.

Crudden, A., Steverson, A., Antonelli, K., & Cmar, J. L. (2018, July). Transportation research: Where are we now? Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired 2018 International Conference, Reno, NV.

McDonnall, M. C., Cmar, J. L., & Markoski, K. (2018, July). Employment and individuals who are deaf-blind: Current statistics and predictors of employment. Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired 2018 International Conference, Reno, NV.

Farrow, K., Bedsaul, D., & Tomlin, W. (2018, July). Community of practice for serving older individuals with vision loss. Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired 2018 International Conference, Reno, NV.

Farrow, K., & Tomlin, W. (2018, July). How Do Other Programs Do…? Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired 2018 International Conference, Reno, NV.

Crudden, A., & Farrow, K. (2018, July). Older individuals who are blind - Best practices in service delivery. Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired 2018 International Conference, Reno, NV.

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Visit our website at http://www.blind.msstate.edu/.