RRTC Advisory Council Convenes
The NRTC held its third Advisory Council meeting for the 2015-2020 Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Employment for Individuals with blindness or Other Visual Impairments grant on March 27-28 in Starkville, Miss. Throughout the two day in-person meeting, NRTC research and training staff provided updates on the six projects, training and technical assistance, and dissemination activities associated with the five-year grant awarded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)(#90RT5040-01-00).
The purpose of this NIDILRR-funded RRTC grant is to conduct research to generate new knowledge about the efficacy of rehabilitation services and technology used to support improved employment for individuals who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI), including subpopulations such as youth, people who are deaf-blind, and people with combined traumatic brain injury and B/VI. Group discussions were held regarding ongoing activities to ensure alignment with the purpose, and Advisory Council members provided guidance and expertise to support projected activities and outcomes.
Advisory Council members represent major corporations and blindness and rehabilitation organizations: Kirk Adams (Executive Director, American Foundation for the Blind), Ron Brown (Second Vice President, National Federation of the Blind), Melanie Brunson (Director of Government Relations, Blinded Veterans Association), Tony Candela (Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired), Peter Fay (Business Solutions Executive, IBM), Ray Hopkins (President-Elect, National Council of State Agencies for the Blind), Roxann Mayros (Chief Executive Officer, VisionServe Alliance), Mitch Pomerantz (Immediate Past President, American Council of the Blind), Sue Ruzenski (Executive Director, Helen Keller National Center), Matt Wieseler (Director of Strategic Intelligence, National Industries for the Blind). Also in attendance was external evaluator John Crews, retired Health Scientist for the Vision Health Initiative at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Current Research Highlights: Researchers Continue Study of Best Approaches to Employer-VR Interactions
When individuals who are blind or visually impaired (BVI) enter the job market, some of the most difficult barriers they face are negative attitudes from employers, who are often reluctant to hire job candidates with disabilities. The NRTC is currently in the midst of a research project that tackles this barrier by testing two approaches vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors can use when interacting with employers. Ultimately, NRTC researchers hope to determine which approach can have a positive impact on the attitudes of employers and their willingness to hire individuals who are BVI.
VR counselors play an important role in helping individuals with disabilities secure jobs by serving as a liaison to the local business community. VR counselors regularly meet with potential employers to educate them about the possibility of hiring an individual who is BVI.
This study uses a randomized controlled design to test two approaches to a first meeting between a potential employer and a VR counselor: (1) use of an educational approach, which focuses on teaching employers about how individuals with BVI function on the job and (2) use of the dual-customer approach, which focuses on learning about each employer’s unique business needs. In addition, the study included vision status (sighted or blind) of the VR professional as a factor. This resulted in four possible conditions the employer could experience.
NRTC researchers gathered data on employers’ knowledge about and attitudes towards individuals who are BVI as employees and their intent to hire someone who is blind or visually impaired. Sixty hiring managers from a large company have participated in the study, with data collected before the intervention, immediately after the intervention, and four months after the intervention. Data analyses are currently underway.
Results from this study will eventually be shared with VR agencies across the country. The researchers hope that the results of this study will provide guidance to VR counselors about how to approach a first meeting with an employer, and help VR counselors be more effective when they speak with employers about hiring an individual who is BVI.
Training and Technical Assistance
New Online Course (credits available)
A new course, Community Outreach: Creating Targeted and Accessible Presentations, is available on the Continuing Education tab of the National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI) website. This course was developed by the Older Individuals who are Blind Technical Assistance and Training Center (OIB-TAC), located at the NRTC, and is available for continuing education credits. Find other courses and more information about credits available on the NTAC-BVI website.
Other NRTC News
New Employment Resource
A new employment resource is available on the NRTC website, “Blind People Can’t Perform This Job…Or Can They?” This brief article was written for employers and provides an overview of the services provided by vocational rehabilitation agencies. It makes the case for why hiring an individual with B/VI can be an asset for any organization. Find this article, and other employment resources, on Our Products page.
Welcome to the Team
We would like to welcome Nicole “Nikki” Jeffords to the NRTC staff! Nikki joined the NRTC in March as a Training Associate, as she will be overseeing the training and technical assistance activities for our NIDILRR grant. Her professional background most recently includes serving as Rehabilitation Outreach Coordinator for The Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, Ariz., and an appointed member of the Arizona Governor’s Council on Blindness & Visual Impairment. In 2012, she received national certification as a Vision Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation after completing the intensive graduate certificate program at Mississippi State University. Nikki brings an enthusiasm to improve the quality of life for individuals who are B/VI that parallels the mission of the NRTC.
We Have a New Look
The mission of NRTC is to enhance employment and independent living outcomes for individual who are blind or visually impaired. We are excited to reveal a new NRTC logo and newsletter design in the first phase of our rebranding. Our new logo design is a graphic representation of our organization, featuring sleek, stylized letters N, R, T, and C. The letters have a few missing elements by design, and the circular symbol in the middle of the C represents an eye. The missing elements represent gaps in concept development that may occur for children who are congenitally blind, inaccessible information in the world around us that may be missed by those with visual impairments, and the many research and training gaps that we are working to fill.
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Antonelli, K., Steverson, A., & O’Mally, J. (2018). College graduates with visual impairment: A report on seeking and finding employment. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness. 112(1), 33-45.
Crudden, A. (in press). Transportation and vision loss: Where are we now? Insight: The Journal of American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses.
McDonnall, M. C. (in press). Employment outcomes and job quality of vocational rehabilitation consumers with deaf-blindness. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin.
Cmar, J. L., & McDonnall, M. C. (2018, April). Putting your best foot forward: A job search intervention for transition-age youth. American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference 2018, Oakland, CA.
Crudden, A., & Steverson, A. (2018, April). Job retention: Characteristics and services associated with maintaining employment. American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference 2018, Oakland, CA.
Crudden, A., LeJeune, B. J., Farrow, K., & Tomlin, W. (2018, April). Older individuals who are blind - Best practices in administration and service delivery. American Foundation for the Blind Leadership Conference 2018, Oakland, CA.
LeJeune, B. J., & Crudden, A. (2018, April). Best practices in administration and service delivery of the older blind program. National Council of State Agencies for the Blind Spring Training Conference, Bethesda, MD.