NRTC Celebrates 35th Anniversary
October 2016 marks the 35th anniversary of the NRTC at Mississippi State University. Since 1981, the NRTC has been awarded over $31 million to support research, training, technical assistance, and dissemination activities to enhance employment and independent living outcomes for individuals with blindness or other visual impairments. The NRTC was established with a grant from, and continues to be primarily funded by, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), and additional funding has been provided by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Institute of Education Sciences, the Office of Special Education Programs, the National Institutes of Health, the Helen Keller National Center for Deafblind Youth and Adults, and multiple state agencies.
The NRTC has a long history of generating new knowledge and contributing literature and resources to the field through peer-reviewed publications, monographs and technical reports, online courses, products available for download from the website, and training opportunities, such as the intensive graduate certificate program for Vision Specialists. Members of the NRTC team disseminate information and resources to a variety of audiences, while the primary focus is on helping professionals who work with individuals who are blind or visually impaired to better understand and provide services to the population.
To learn more about the NRTC’s current and recent research and training activities, please visit our website. A brief history of our research activities over the period of 1981-2010 is available here.
Current RRTC Research Highlights: An Experiment to Evaluate Employer Intervention Approaches
Employer attitudes impact employment outcomes for persons with all types of disabilities, and negative employer attitudes are acknowledged as one of the most prevalent barrier for individuals who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI). Several studies have been conducted about the effect of disability on hiring decisions and some studies have attempted to change attitudes towards people with disabilities, but very few have attempted to provide an intervention to employers to evaluate its ability to change attitudes. Building off recent NIDILRR-funded research conducted by the NRTC, the current study will evaluate the overall effectiveness of four different employer intervention approaches, as well as the ability of each approach to change employer attitudes towards, knowledge about, and intent to hire individuals who are B/VI.
Development of the intervention is currently underway, with approaches based on recommendations by VR professionals as the best way to encourage an employer to consider hiring someone who is B/VI. The intervention will consist of hiring managers participating in a meeting with a VR professional that will last approximately one hour. The VR professional will be provided with a specific script of how to begin their meeting. During that meeting one of four approaches to interacting with the hiring manager will be utilized:
- An educational approach about hiring persons with disabilities in general (active control condition)
- An educational approach focusing on how persons with B/VI can function on the job, including use of accommodations/AT
- An educational approach focusing on how persons with B/VI can function on the job, incorporating demonstration of AT
- A dual customer approach focusing on learning about the business and their needs
The purpose of the project is to evaluate the most effective first contact approach with potential employers who are naïve to employment capabilities of and accommodations for individuals who are B/VI. We will partner with one company to implement the experiment with 44 hiring managers.
The outcomes of interest will be employer attitude (both explicit and implicit), knowledge about how B/VI people can perform work tasks, and intention to hire persons with B/VI. Two measures developed for the previous NIDILRR grant project will be utilized for this project: an instrument to measure explicit attitudes of employers and an instrument to measure employer knowledge. An intent to hire measure utilized in research on people with disabilities will be modified for this study. A measure of implicit attitudes towards people who are blind or visually impaired will be developed for the study and utilized as an outcome measure. Participants will complete one pre-test and two post-tests. A randomized, controlled, repeated-measures experimental design will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the different approaches.
Training and Technical Assistance
The National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI) is a website filled with a wealth of information and resources on employment for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Driven to help improve the employment outcomes of BVI persons, the NTAC-BVI serves as the headquarters for individuals with vision loss and their families, service professionals, and employers to find targeted resources and technical assistance. A project of the NRTC, the NTAC-BVI contains extensive resources, including research findings, continuing education courses, a referral list of topic and agency links, and the Ask the Experts button, which will connect you to the NRTC’s subject matter experts to answer further questions regarding employment for individuals who are BVI. Visit the NTAC-BVI regularly for updates at ntac.blind.msstate.edu.
Online Course Update
A new online course, An Introduction to Technology Accessibility in the Workplace, has been added to the Enhancing Employment Outcomes section of the Continuing Education tab on the NTAC-BVI website. The course, funded by NIDILRR, discusses different types of technology that are traditionally inaccessible, including the additions and modifications that can be made to make technology accessible to someone with a visual impairment. Screen readers and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones are evaluated, and continuing education credits are available.
Other NRTC News
Volunteers Needed for Mobile App Registry
The NRTC is seeking volunteers, both youth and parents, to assist with the development of an app. The purpose of the app is to help parents of youth who are blind ,visually impaired, or deafblind between the ages 4 to 24, and youth who are B/VI between the ages of 14 and 24, focus on the necessary steps in preparing for and obtaining employment following the completion of their education. All interested volunteers should visit the App Registry webpage to sign up. For questions regarding the project or this volunteer opportunity, please email Karla Antonelli.
NRTC Publications Available Online
In an effort to provide access to our research, the NRTC has electronic copies of publications available for download directly from our website. These downloads are free of charge in both Word and PDF formats and include reports and products covering a wide variety of topics. Search the NRTC Publications on our website.
The Data Corner tab on the NRTC website offers customizable tables of data from both the Current Population Survey (CPS) and American Community Survey (ACS). These surveys provide comprehensive labor force statistics for the U.S. population, and include labor force data and national prevalence estimates for persons with self-reported visual difficulty. Visit the Data Corner to review the most recent statistics available.
Welcome to the Team
We would like to welcome Carol, Song-Jae, and Kasey to the NRTC staff!
Zhen (Carol) Sui joined the NRTC team in July as a Research Associate. Previously serving as a statistical consultant and research and teaching assistant at Mississippi State University, Carol will be utilizing her broad range of analytical and reporting skills and interests to support the NRTC’s ongoing research and dissemination activities.
Song-Jae Jo began his yearlong appointment as visiting international scholar in August, where he will pursue research and writing projects to refresh and advance his knowledge of vocational rehabilitation services, policies, and procedures. He will be involved in a variety of research projects, including the analyses of the Rehabilitation Services Administration case service report dataset (RSA-911) of employment outcomes for consumers who are deaf-blind. Song-Jae serves as Department of Vocational Rehabilitation associate professor at Daegu University in South Korea.
Kasey Markoski also joined the NRTC in August as our Anne Sullivan Macy Scholar. A Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist and Literary Braille Transcriber, Kasey brings professional experience and leadership skills to her role as graduate assistant as she pursues her doctoral degree in Special Education at Mississippi State.
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Recent and Upcoming Publications:
O’Mally, J., & Antonelli, K. (2016). The effect of career mentoring on employment outcomes for college students who are legally blind. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness.
McDonnall, M.C. (in press). Working with business: Counselor expectations, actions, and challenges. Rehabilitation Research, Policy and Education.
Antonelli, K. & Crudden, A. (2016, October). Transition, best practices for reaching employment. Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired Mississippi Conference. Jackson, MS.
Cmar, J. (2016, October). Motivating students to travel independently. Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired Mississippi Conference. Jackson, MS.
LeJeune, B.J. & Saner, P. (2016, November). Update and discussion of ongoing national initiatives related to IL-OIB issues. National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. San Diego, CA.