NRTC Receives ACVREP Certification
The NRTC recently received certification by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP). Certification is greatly valued in the field of rehabilitation, and the NRTC is committed to providing professional development opportunities to those working in the field of blindness and low vision. ACVREP’s vision is that all people with vision impairment receive services from highly qualified professionals. ACVREP certification allows the NRTC to improve continuing education opportunities for a broad audience of teachers, therapists, and other specialists.
Online courses with continuing education credits are offered through the National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI), a project of the NRTC funded by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. The courses cover a range of topics, including an introduction to medical aspects of the eye, the basics of vision loss, common eye conditions, enhancing employment for people with visual impairments, and working with older individuals who are blind. All courses are offered free of charge.
Current Research Highlights: App Development Ongoing
Our work to develop an app targeted to youth with blindness and visual impairments (BVI) and the parents of youth with either BVI or deaf blindness (DB) is well underway. The goal of the app is to promote independence for youth with both BVI and DB and to support their capability to eventually be employed as adults.
Both apps contain content for children and youth ages 4 to 24. The BVI version of the app is specifically targeted to academic-track youth with BVI and their parents. The DB version is intended for the parents of youth who have other disabilities in addition to DB and focuses on independent living, as well as the transition to employment. App users will receive age-appropriate, personalized notifications of suggested activities to help youth with BVI or DB develop key skills for independence and employment. Each notification will contain links to additional resources. The app will also contain a checklist where users can track their overall progress.
In the summer of 2016, we held a series of focus groups with youth with BVI and parents of youth with either BVI or DB. During these sessions, participants were asked what would make the app relevant and useful to them, particularly in relation to helping youth prepare for transition and employment. Feedback from focus group participants was used to inform the app’s content and design.
After completing these focus groups, NRTC staff, in consultation with outside experts in BVI and DB, began work on content development. Once the first draft of the app’s content was completed, it underwent independent review by experts and parents of youth with either BVI or DB. The feedback from these independent, expert reviews is currently being evaluated by NRTC staff and incorporated into the app content.
AFB Tech, in conjunction with the NRTC, is taking the lead on building the app and crafting its technical design. To date, the database that will house the app has been created, and the app’s foundational functions have been developed. Initial user testing has begun and will continue over the coming months. This testing allows potential end users (youth with BVI and the parents of youth with either BVI or DB) to give the app a try and submit feedback on ease of use of the app. Their feedback will be incorporated into the app’s final design.
Over the coming year, the app’s interface will be completed and the app’s content will be finalized. Once these components are in place, the app will undergo a second round of user testing. Both the BVI and DB versions of the app remain on track for a Spring 2020 release date, and the app will be available for iOS, Android, and web-based platforms.
This project is still in need of volunteers for a number of tasks. In October 2017, we will be conducting user testing for the app. This testing must be done in-person, so interested volunteers should live within easy travel distance of the NRTC offices in Starkville, MS. During the spring and summer of 2019, the app will undergo field testing. Field testers will be asked to download the app, use it on a trial basis for six months, and then provide feedback. There are no geographic limitations on the field test. If interested in volunteering for either round of app testing, you may sign up using the App Registry for Blindness and Low Vision Research.
Training and Technical Assistance
Research You Can Use
A number of publications are developed as a result of our research, training, and technical assistance activities. In order to make our research work for you, we summarize publications into key points that are easy to understand and incorporate into practice. Summaries cover a variety of topics, including employment, accommodations, transition, transportation, the Business Enterprise Program, and office technology, and are available for businesses, service providers, and persons with vision loss. Select the category below that meets your needs, then search the “More on…” menu on the right side of the screen (located below the “Ask the Experts” button) to view topics available:
New Online Courses (credits available)
Two new courses are available under the Continuing Education tab of the National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI) website. Developed by the Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance and Training Center (OIB-TAC), funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, these courses are designed to assist state agencies and others serving older individuals who are blind or visually impaired in improving operation and performance of OIB programs. Continuing education credits are available.
- Introduction to the Independent Living for Older Individuals who are Blind Program - This course provides Program Managers an overview of the OIB program, its impact on the aging population with vision loss, and implications for the general population.
- An Introduction to Community Outreach - This course provides an overview of outreach strategies and resources that will result in the recruitment of eligible consumers, strengthen community relationships, and help your community recognize and learn ways they can help individuals facing vision loss.
Upcoming Training Activity
BJ LeJeune, NRTC training supervisor, will be presenting a workshop during the statewide staff meeting of the Virginia Department for Blind and Vision Impaired in October. The workshop, Vision Loss, Special Populations, Ethics, and Employment-based VRT, is designed for teachers working with clients of all ages. The goal is to help them understand the basics of working with consumers who are blind and visually impaired, with discussion topics including secondary disabilities and teaching for employment. If you are interested in having NRTC staff conduct similar professional development workshops for your organization, contact BJ LeJeune.
Other NRTC News
Welcome Back, Anne!
We are pleased to welcome Anne Lang back to the NRTC staff! Anne previously worked as a research associate with the NRTC and most recently served as editor for the Research & Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State. She brings a background rich in research, data analysis, and writing skills to the team, where she will be involved with several of the research, training, and dissemination activities at the NRTC.
New Research Report Now Available
Literature about transition-age youth with deaf-blindness is extremely limited. Characteristics and Experiences of Youth who are Deaf-Blind explores data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), including unique perspectives from parents/guardians, youth, and teachers. The first of its kind, this report provides an in-depth overview of the secondary and post-secondary school experiences of deaf-blind youth who received special education services in schools across the U.S. from 2001-2009.
Mentoring Program - A Participant's Perspective
An article in the summer 2017 edition of Future Reflections highlights student feedback following a five-year, NIDILRR-funded mentoring project. "Career Mentoring for College Students: Insights from a program participant" shares the experiences of one student, paired with a blind mentor in her career field of interest, and the lasting impact of her participation. Future Reflections is a magazine for parents and teachers of blind children published by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults in partnership with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Visit the project overview page on our website to learn more about An Employment Mentoring Project for College Students who are Blind, including other available resources and publications.
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Antonelli, K., O'Mally, J., & Steverson, A. (in press). Participant experiences in an employment mentoring program for college students with blindness. Journal of Visual Impairments & Blindness.
Cmar, J. L., McDonnall, M. C., & Markoski, K. M. (in press). In-school predictors of post-school employment for youth who are deaf-blind. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals.
Crudden, A., Giesen, J. M., & Sui, Z. (in press). Contrasting competitively employed and unemployed VR applicants with visual disabilities: Characteristics and VR service delivery patterns. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Farrow, K. (in press). Increasing access to vision rehabilitation services for seniors through collaboration with occupational therapists. Journal of Visual Impairments & Blindness.
McDonnall, M. C. (in press). Factors associated with employer hiring decisions regarding people who are blind or visually impaired. Journal of Visual Impairments & Blindness.
McDonnall, M. C. & Cmar, J. (in press). Experiences of young adults with deaf-blindness after high school. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.
LeJeune, B. J. (2017, October). Deaf, aging, and visually impaired: Don't get boxed in! Southeast Regional Institute on Deafness. Jackson, MS.
Crudden, A., Steverson, A., & McDonnall, M. C. (2017, November). Job retention and WIOA changes: Results from a survey of NCSAB members. National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. Greenville, SC.
LeJeune, B. J. (2017, November). The OIB Matrix. National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. Greenville, SC.