Summer 2019 Newsletter

Summer 2019 Quarterly Connections News from the NRTC (Summer 2019): Linking Blindness and Low Vision Research to Practice.

Kasey Markoski: Reflections on time at the NRTC

Kasey Markoski

Kasey Markoski joined the NRTC in August of 2016 as the Anne Sullivan Macy Scholar. This competitive training program provides support for obtaining a doctoral degree to a person interested in the field of research on blindness and low vision. It was named in honor of Anne Sullivan who is best known for being the instructor of Helen Keller. Markoski is in the final stages of completing her Ph.D. in Special Education at Mississippi State University.

After earning her master’s at California State University of Los Angeles, Markoski worked at the San Diego Center for the Blind as an Orientation and Mobility Instructor. She was drawn to the NRTC three years ago because of the opportunity the Center provided for mentorship from experts in the field. During her time at the NRTC, Markoski has conducted surveys, assisted with the app development project, wrote research articles, and found ways to disseminate knowledge gained from her research.

She credits the research training from the NRTC for helping her gain confidence in her doctoral studies. Markoski says she “cannot stress enough that being at the NRTC absolutely made [her] experience as a student easier.” She believes she especially improved in her writing for research and academia through NRTC staff reviews and the opportunity to participate in creating NRTC publications and products.

Markoski’s advice to any future Anne Sullivan Macy Scholar is to constantly seek knowledge and move on to another skill once one is mastered. She is appreciative of the NRTC because “everyone here is very supportive” and offers “good constructive feedback.” We all wish her luck as she defends her dissertation and moves forward in her career as a scientist-practitioner.


Current Research Highlights: Job Search Skills Training Intervention for Youth

Research shows that early, paid work experience is linked to more positive employment outcomes for youth with disabilities, particularly when youth find jobs for themselves. Some research indicates that sponsored work activities are effective for youth with disabilities, but sponsored work activities have not been found to be beneficial when it comes to future employment outcomes for youth who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI).

Given the importance of paid work for youth, this project sought to teach youth who are B/VI the skills they need to find their own jobs. NRTC researchers wanted to determine whether a job search skills training program would improve the job search knowledge, behaviors, self-efficacy, and employment outcomes of youth who participated, and if any changes would be maintained over time.

To accomplish this goal, NRTC researchers created a job search skills training program for B/VI youth, called Putting Your Best Foot Forward (PYBFF). This curriculum was based on two evidence-based job search programs. Its overall goal is to improve youths’ employment outcomes by developing their job search skills, strengthening their job search self-efficacy, and encouraging a proactive approach to finding employment. NRTC researchers modified the existing curricula and added content on topics specific to B/VI youth, like nonverbal communication, disclosing a disability, and working with an employer on accommodations.

The PYBFF curriculum consists of about 40 hours of content. PYBFF uses active-learning approaches and both individual and group activities to cover topics like setting goals, improving self-presentation, identifying strengths, and crafting effective cover letters and resumes. A state vocational rehabilitation agency and several schools for the blind implemented PYBFF as part of this study. NRTC staff provided the curriculum, materials, training for trainers, and support to participating organizations.

PYBFF was evaluated with 92 youth, ages 15-22, across three different states during the summers of 2016, 2017, and 2018. The 44 youth in the intervention group completed PYBFF, and the 48 youth in the comparison group did not. Some youth from each group also participated in their VR agency’s regular summer work experience program. Youth completed a pretest and multiple posttests to measure changes in factors like their job search knowledge and self-efficacy.

Initial analysis of the program’s short-term effects found that:

  • Youth who participated in PYBFF significantly increased their job search knowledge and job search behavior.
  • Both groups of youth significantly increased their job search self-efficacy.
  • Two months after completing the program, only 9% of youth in the intervention group and 2% of youth in the comparison group had paid jobs.
  • Some youth had trouble telling the difference between sponsored work experiences and paid jobs.
  • Both trainers and youth gave positive feedback about PYBFF.

These results indicate PYBFF is effective in improving short-term outcomes. It also points to recommendations for practice, like helping B/VI youth better understand the difference between sponsored work and paid jobs. Research on longer-term effects is ongoing. After undergoing revisions, the PYBFF curriculum will be made public for interested organizations to use with B/VI youth.


Training and Technical Assistance

Our Products

The State of the Science (SOS) Conference on Employment for Individuals with Blindness or Other Visual Impairments report is posted on our conference webpage. Highlights include presentation summaries and evaluations as well as copies of the SOS poster displays.

We created a new resource titled Human Resource Guide for Working with Employees Experiencing Vision Loss, which is on our NTAC-BVI website. This guide provides useful information for HR staff who are helping employees who experience vision loss maintain employment. It will especially be useful for those who are unfamiliar with blindness or low vision. It is formatted in two ways: a regular PDF and a booklet format to be printed.

New Online Courses

We are adding to the courses available on the Continuing Education tab of our National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI) website. Under the Special Topics section, a new course titled Understanding Social Security Work Incentives: It’s Easier Than You Think is available.

Additionally, we have four new courses developed by the Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC):

OIB-TAC Hosts Inaugural Technical Assistance Conference

OIB-TAC is hosting the 2019 Fall OIB Program Manager’s Technical Assistance Conference on September 10-12 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This multi-day conference includes presentations on best practices in the administration of the OIB program as well as on data collection and analysis. In addition to presentations, it will include roundtable discussions on topics including staff retention, assistive technology, and community outreach. For more information, visit the Event Calendar page on the OIB-TAC Community of Practice website or email info@oib-tac.org. You can keep up to date on the event with social media through the hashtag #OIBTACCon.


Other NRTC News

Field Test of 4to24: App for Youth and Parents to Focus on Employment

We are recruiting participants for a field test of our app “4to24,” developed for youth with blindness or visual impairment and their parents, to help focus on and prepare for employment starting from an early age.

We are seeking:

  • Parents of children or youth who are blind or visually impaired, ages 4 to 24
  • Youth or young adults who are blind or visually impaired, ages 16 to 24

The field test will entail creating an account in the app and using the app features for a period of six months, as well as completing a series of surveys. Surveys will include questions about preparation for future employment and expectations for the future, and request feedback about how the app functions and meets the needs of participants.

The app will provide information and resources to support families in fostering youth’s independence and building skills toward employment. It will send modules of information about different topic areas such as academics, technology, and social skills, based on the youth’s age and skill levels. Modules will include a list of suggested activities that parents and youth can do to build skills related to each topic. We will ask participants to use the app as they normally would, and to complete surveys related to our study before, during, and immediately after the 6-month trial period. The surveys should take between 10 and 35 minutes each, for a total of about 1.5 hours of survey time. Participants who complete the final survey of the study will receive a $35 thank-you gift card.

If you’re interested in becoming a field tester for the app and participating in our study, please fill out the information form at this link: www.research.net/r/MSUAppRegistry.

For assistance or further information, contact Anne Steverson or contact Karla Antonelli.

Welcome to the Team

Please join us in welcoming Emily Damm as the new NRTC Communications Specialist. She holds a Master of Arts in Political Science with a focus in research methodology from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Mississippi State University. Emily joined the NRTC in May, returning to her hometown of Starkville. Along with strategically disseminating NRTC products and resources, she manages the Center’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Outreach

  • Kendra Farrow was a guest along with Steve Kelley for Hadley Presents: A Guide to Rehabilitation Services. She talked with podcast host Rickey Enger about possible first steps consumers may take after being diagnosed with vision loss. Specifically, Kendra discussed services available for continued employment and independent living with a vision loss.
  • On June 18, Sylvia Perez represented OIB-TAC as a panelist for the Women Aging with Disabilities: Challenges and Solutions at the National Council on Aging Age+Action Conference. Sylvia provided strategies to accommodate people with visual impairments in community programs. She also discussed the importance of being a confident self-advocate when asking for accommodations.

Call for Employee Profile Nominations

Our NTAC-BVI website hosts On the Job Employee Profiles to highlight career success stories of employees who are blind or visually impaired. Do you know someone who should be considered for our website? If so, please email Emily Damm at edamm@colled.msstate.edu or call 662-325-6695 with your nomination. Self-nominations are also welcome.

Job Retention and Career Advancement Survey

The NRTC on Blindness & Low Vision at Mississippi State University is recruiting participants for a survey about job retention and career advancement. 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 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. The survey may be completed electronically at tiny.cc/retention_advancement, 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

Publications

Lund, E. M., & Cmar, J. L. (in press). A systematic review of factors related to employment outcomes in adults with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

Lund, E. M., & Cmar, J. L. (in press). Factors related to employment outcomes in vocational rehabilitation consumers with visual impairments: A systematic review. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

McDonnall, M. C., & Sui, Z. (in press). Employment and unemployment rates of people who are blind or visually impaired: Estimates over time from multiple sources. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

McDonnall, M., Cmar, J., Antonelli, K., Markoski, K. (In Press). Professionals’ implicit attitudes about the competence of people who are blind. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.

Upcoming Presentations & Workshops

Perez, Sylvia (2019, July). Innovations in services to seniors with vision loss. American Council of the Blind Conference, Rochester, NY.

Antonelli, K. & Steverson, A. (2019, August). 4to24: Development of a transition resource app for parents. Poster session presented at the CHARGE Syndrome Conference, Dallas, TX.


For Additional NRTC News and Activities:

Visit our website at www.blind.msstate.edu, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.