Quarterly Connections: News from the NRTC
Linking Blindness and Low Vision Research to Practice
Participate in New Transportation Survey
The NRTC would like your help in recruiting participants 18 to 64 years old for a survey concerning transportation for persons who are blind or visually impaired. The survey will be administered online only and the first 200 participants will be entered into a drawing for one of four $100 gift cards (a one in 50 odds of winning $100!). To participate in this survey, follow this link, https://www.blind.msstate.edu, and click on the "Transportation Survey" button located at the bottom of the screen.
This survey is a follow-up to a recently conducted survey about transportation that was administered to volunteers on the NRTC's Participant Registry. The Registry is a database of persons who are blind or visually impaired and have signed up to participate in research projects conducted by the NRTC or other approved entities (to sign-up visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/participant-registry). The follow-up survey is now being disseminated for national participation.
Both surveys include items about transportation related to employment, including the ability to find transportation to work; the stress associated with finding transportation; the confidence people have in locating transportation; and the problems encountered with transportation.
Please pass this link to anyone who is blind or visually impaired between 18 and 64 years of age who has an interest in transportation issues. Identifying the scope of the problem is an important step in developing solutions, so please be a part of this process.
Current RRTC Research Highlights: Employment Outcomes for SSDI Beneficiaries Revisited
With the federal budget at $3.8 trillion in 2012, costs for the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) program represent the single largest expenditure in the federal budget. Annual federal costs for SSA benefits (SSDI and SSI) are over $100 billion and increasing. At the same time, costs for the state-federal Vocational Rehabilitation program (VR) are only $2.6 billion annually; these funds enable VR agencies to provide employment services to some 1.2 million people with disabilities. There is overlap; over 25% of VR consumers also are SSA beneficiaries, and approximately one-third of legally blind VR consumers closed in 2010 were SSDI recipients. Thus, both VR and SSA have a substantial stake in improving employment outcomes for these persons.
Dr. Marty Giesen is leading this research project, which focuses solely on VR consumers who are legally blind or visually impaired and SSDI beneficiaries. The project makes use of the RSA-911 Case Service Report data in addition to state-specific economic and workforce data. Research analysis methods that take into account impact factors at two levels—individual and state/agency-wide are being utilized.
The results from this research will have a significant impact by imparting a fuller understanding of why VR consumers who are blind or visually impaired and receiving SSDI are at greater risk for low employment levels and—most importantly—what factors are facilitators and risks, and identifying "what works" to improve employment outcomes. Identifying such factors will lead to the development of recommendations that will be translated into evidence-based best practice and policy guidelines for state VR agencies. These will be available at the end of the project.
This first phase of the project included major sets of analyses that assessed the impacts on individual-level competitive employment outcomes of (a) state- and agency-level economic factors such as state unemployment and poverty rates, state population, VR agency structure (Blind vs. General or Combined) and of (b) individual-level demographic, socioeconomic, and disability factors. We have empirically validated some expected beliefs, such as state unemployment rate does affect the chance of an individual competitive employment closure. We also have added more data-based supporting evidence to previous findings that persons with visual impairment are more likely to achieve competitive employment if served in specialized separate agencies serving only consumers who are blind or visually impaired ("blind" agencies) compared to combined agencies. For example, with our population, we found that although there is a general decline in the chance for competitive employment for older consumers (late 30s and above), the chance for competitive employment does not go down for those older consumers when served in blind agencies. This and other findings for race and gender clearly support policy aimed at retaining separate agencies exclusively serving consumers who are blind or visually impaired.
Another finding that leads to practice implications relates to the importance of work experience. Among VR consumers who are blind or visually impaired (not just SSDI beneficiaries), typically, African American consumers are "at risk"—have a lower chance of getting competitive employment. However, with SSDI consumers we found no race or ethnicity differences in likelihood of competitive employment. Because most SSDI beneficiaries have work experience, it appears that work experience is associated with similar chances for competitive employment across consumer groups of different race and ethnicity.
More information and details about the current finding and policy and practice implications can be found in our recent publication, entitled, Disability Insurance Beneficiaries with Visual Impairments in Vocational Rehabilitation: Socio-demographic Influences on Employment, which appears in the November-December 2013 issue of Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness. Work is continuing on the second phase of the project, which includes attention to the impacts of particular sets of VR services on competitive employment outcomes.
In the Works: Training and TA
Transition and STEM Careers Workshop
New Vision Specialist Class Beginning
Updated Online Training for Placing Older Consumers
Other NRTC News:
NRTC Website: New Design, New Features
Last Chance to Participate in the Employment Mentoring Project!
State of the Science Conference Reminder
Two NRTC Staff Recognized for their Service
Dr. O'Mally Guest on Radio Program
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Recent Publications/Publications in Press:
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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