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.

Survey Recruitment Underway

We are recruiting participants for a survey about job retention and career advancement. Have you had success or experienced challenges keeping a job? Have you had success or 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, 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 gift card for $100. 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 (

Current Research Highlights: Exploration of Secondary Data to Increase our Knowledge About Subpopulations of Individuals who are Blind and Visually Impaired and WIOA Impacts

This project uses two large databases to take a closer look at three sets of individuals who are rarely studied:

  1. Youth with deaf-blindness (DB),
  2. Adults with DB, and
  3. Individuals with combined traumatic brain injury (TBI) and blindness and visual impairments (B/VI).

The number of people in each of these groups is relatively small, and very little research exists about their experiences with employment. NRTC researchers were interested in learning more about their employment experiences and what predicts employment for these groups of individuals.

This research project uses two databases: the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS2) and multiple years of the Rehabilitation Services Administration Case Service Report (RSA-911). Additional data was collected from VR agency administrators. As part of a national survey of VR agencies from another current NRTC project, VR administrators answered questions about how their agencies provide services to individuals with DB and individuals with combined traumatic brain injury and B/VI.

The portion of this project that focuses on people with DB was conducted first. A number of reports and publications about the experiences of individuals with DB are currently available on the NRTC website.

The first study was based on NLTS2 data and aimed to uncover the characteristics and experiences of youth with DB. It is the first overview of the secondary and postsecondary school experiences of a nationally representative sample of youth with DB in the US. It includes comprehensive information about the characteristics, secondary school experiences, academic achievement, postsecondary school attendance, and employment experiences of this population from 2001 to 2009.

In the second study, researchers used NLTS2 data to examine a nationally representative sample of young adults with DB and their experiences after high school. They found that more than half of the young adults in the study were not receiving all the post-high school services they needed, with particular unmet needs in occupational/life skills training and vocational services. Families reported major challenges to obtaining services.

In addition, while more than half of the youth in the study had attended postsecondary school and been employed at some point, only 30% were currently employed at the time they were surveyed. These rates were even lower for youth who had both DB and cognitive disabilities. These findings support the strong need for vocational services for youth with DB, particularly for those with cognitive disabilities. The study found that less than half of these young adults had been receiving vocational services from a VR agency.

The third study examined in-school predictors of post-school employment for youth with DB. This study used NLTS2 data to investigate predictors of post-school employment for these youth.

Significant predictors of post-school employment were (a) paid high school work experiences and (b) high parent expectations. Significant predictors of continuous post-school employment were (a) number of additional disabilities; (b) receiving vocational education services, such as career counseling or help finding a job; and (c) high parent expectations. High parent expectations were particularly important when the child had additional disabilities. This study reinforces the importance of educating parents about their child’s employment options early in the child’s life, encouraging youth with DB to obtain early work experience, and ensuring these youth have access to vocational education services.

Finally, another study focused on employment outcomes and job quality of VR consumers with DB. Researchers used RSA-911 data to study 1,382 VR consumers with DB whose VR cases were closed during fiscal years 2013-2015. Researchers were interested in two outcomes: (1) obtainment of competitive employment and (2) the quality of those jobs.

The study found several VR service-related factors associated with whether consumers with DB obtained employment, but consumers’ personal characteristics carried the most weight when it came to job quality. Implications for VR for improving employment outcomes for consumers with DB include (a) increased provision of job-related services, such as job-search assistance and on-the-job supports; (b) supporting educational advancement, and (c) providing counseling and guidance. The results also highlight the efficacy of services provided by separate VR agencies for the blind.

The second portion of the project focuses on employment for people with combined TBI and B/VI. That portion of the project is in progress, with one publication developed and submitted for peer review. The final portion of this project focuses on the impact of the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) legislation on employment outcomes for people with B/VI. Of particular interest is the requirement that 15% of VR funds be spent on preemployment transition services for students with disabilities. This portion of the study will begin in late 2019.

In addition to more peer-reviewed publications, the NRTC plans to develop an online course based on the results of these studies. If the research reveals any particularly effective VR agency strategies for improving employment outcomes for the subpopulations studied, a policy brief describing these best practices will be developed and shared with VR agencies.

Training and Technical Assistance

State of the Science Conference

We will present a State of the Science (SOS) Conference on Employment for Individuals with Blindness or Other Visual Impairments in conjunction with the 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference (AFBLC). The conference will be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, on February 28 and March 1.

In our SOS session, which will be presented as the AFBLC Employment Track, learn about the latest research and products available to help consumers obtain employment. Detailed descriptions of the following sessions are available on our SOS webpage. Continuing education credits will be available.

    February 28
  • What We Know About Job Retention and Career Advancement
  • An Experiment to Evaluate Approaches to a First Meeting Between a VR Professional and Employer
  • A Job Search Intervention for Youth with Visual Impairments: Results and Trainer Perspectives
  • 4to24: Development of App to Help Parents and Youth Focus on Employment
  • March 1
  • Employment for Youth who are Blind or Visually Impaired and Deaf-Blind: Key Predictors and Current Status
  • Effectiveness of a Business Development Training for Rehabilitation Counselors for the Blind
  • New and Emerging Technology to Improve Workplace Accessibility

The AFBLC is an annual conference that attracts a diverse audience of leaders in the blindness field. Further information regarding registration and accommodations, including the full agenda, is available on the AFBLC webpage.

New Resource

The Information and Resource Referral page of the NTAC-BVI website puts information at your fingertips. A new resource has been added that provides Video Links to third-party websites covering several topics, including employment, independent living, and education, for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. These videos are informative and may be beneficial to businesses, service providers, and persons with vision loss for awareness, outreach, or training purposes. If you would like to recommend additions to the list, please contact Emile Creel at or 662-325-8243.

2019 Vision Specialist Class

Beginning in January, ten students will participate in the 2019 Vision Specialist program, a certificate program funded by a grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). This year’s cohort hails from seven states: Carmen Bodiford (Alabama); Alicia Betancourt and Audrey Turner (Florida); Latricie Demming and Matthew Henderson (Georgia); Tabitha Popwell (Mississippi); Kay Hager (North Dakota); Jennifer Hawkins (Oklahoma); and Carolyn Frank (Oregon). The certificate program is designed to provide vocational rehabilitation counselors and graduate students with specialized training, knowledge, and expertise to better serve individuals with blindness or visual impairment. More information about the program is available on our website.

OIB-TAC Events

  • Live Forum - The Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC) live discussion series continues on Wednesday, January 23, at 1:00 PM Eastern, as we discuss monitoring contracts. Participate in this live, text-only, one-hour event by logging on to the forum, where you can ask questions of industry experts and share your success stories, tips, strategies, and concerns for working with older individuals with vision loss. It is recommended that you sign up on the website in advance by going to, then select “Create Account” to get started.
  • OIB Program Manager’s Meeting and Aging Track - OIB-TAC will sponsor the Aging and Vision Loss Track during the 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference (AFBLC) in Arlington, Virginia. Continuing education credits will be available for the following events:
February 27 - The OIB Program Manager's Meeting is an all-day event prior to AFBLC that includes a presentation by RSA, roundtable discussions, and a workshop, “Providing Effective Direct Service: Evaluating Staff and Monitoring Outcomes.”
February 28 and March 1 - The Aging and Vision Loss Track will address strategies for reducing isolation, falls, and depression for older persons with visual impairment. Sessions include:
  • Dementia and Vision Loss: The Role of the Rehabilitation Team
  • Transportation for Older Adults with Vision Loss: Transitions, Options & Adaptations to Support Community Living
  • Popular Apps and Smart Speakers in the Home: Strategy for Reducing Social Isolation
  • Connecting to the Outside World from Home: Strategies for Reducing Social Isolation
  • Treatment of Chronic Visual Impairment: An Evidence-Based Approach
  • Falls Prevention and Health Promotion: Evidence-Based Programs, Partnerships, and Funding
  • Peer Support Networks: A Strategy for Addressing Isolation

For more information about these events, visit the OIB-TAC Community of Practice website or contact Bill Tomlin at

Other NRTC News

Welcome to the Team

We would like to welcome Emile Creel and Sylvia Stinson-Perez to the NRTC!

Emile Creel joined the NRTC team in October as our website Communications Coordinator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a concentration in public relations and minor in marketing, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Business Administration. Emile will be assisting with the update and maintenance of our three websites to optimize the dissemination of research outcomes and resources.

Sylvia Stinson-Perez joins the team in January as the new director of the Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance Center (OIB-TAC). A certified vision rehabilitation therapist (CVRT), she brings over 20 years of experience in the field of vision rehabilitation and five years in higher education. Most recently, she served as chief executive officer and executive director for a dynamic, non-profit organization that provides a full range of services to individuals of all ages experiencing vision loss or blindness.

Does Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Structure Matter?

Our researchers recently released an updated edition of one of the many free resources available on our website. Does Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Structure Matter? provides a review of the research on outcomes for blind and visually impaired consumers served in separate versus combined agencies. This document, available for free download from the NRTC website, addresses the following frequently asked questions with research-based answers:

  • Do separate and combined agencies serve different consumer populations?
  • How does service provision differ between separate and combined agencies?
  • Do consumers served in separate and combined agencies have different outcomes?
  • Should separate agencies be maintained?

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.

Crudden, A. (2018). Transportation and vision loss: Where are we now? Insight: The Journal of American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses, 43(2), 19-24.

Crudden, A., & Steverson, A. (2018). Job retention and career advancement: VR agencies serving consumers with blindness or low vision and WIOA. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 84(4), 39-45.

Upcoming Presentations:

Antonelli, K., Cmar, J. L., & Steverson, A. (2019, February). 4to24: Development of app to help parents and youth focus on employment. 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference, Arlington, VA.

Cmar, J. L., & McDonnall, M. (2019, February). A job search intervention for youth with visual impairments: Results and trainer perspectives. 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference, Arlington, VA.

Crudden, A., Steverson, A., & Townsend, A. (2019, February). What we know about job retention and career advancement. 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference, Arlington, VA.

McDonnall, M., Antonelli, K., Druedsedow, B., & Soto, R. (2019, February). An experiment to evaluate approaches to a first meeting between a VR professional and an employer. 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference, Arlington, VA.

Perez, S., Townsend, A., & Dillon, L. (2019, February). Providing effective direct service: Evaluating staff and monitoring outcomes. Pre-conference workshop for OIB program managers at the 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference, Arlington, VA.

Lipscomb, S., McDonnall, M., & Cmar, J. L. (2019, March). Employment for youth who are blind and deaf-blind: Key predictors and current status. 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference, Arlington, VA.

McDonnall, M., Steverson, A., Kershaw-Patilla, S., & Jefferson, T. (2019, March). Effectiveness of a business development training for rehabilitation counselors for the blind. 2019 American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference, Arlington, VA.

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