Current Research Highlights: Exploration of Secondary Data to Increase our Knowledge About Subpopulations of Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired and WIOA Impacts
Every year, researchers learn more about the factors that influence whether people who are blind or have low vision (B/LV) are able to find and maintain jobs. However, almost none of this research has focused on people who are deaf-blind (DB) or on individuals with combined B/LV and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
In order to address these knowledge gaps, researchers from the NRTC used data from large datasets and interviews with vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency administrators to explore questions around employment for people who are DB and for those with combined TBI and B/LV. The impact of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 was also explored. Several additional studies focusing on employment of people with B/LV were also conducted, including systematic literature reviews and an analysis of employment trends over time with large national datasets.
This project is now reaching its conclusion after five years, and over a dozen peer-reviewed publications and other products have been created based on the findings. Notable discoveries from recently published articles include:
- VR consumers who are DB experience better employment outcomes when VR agencies utilize a specialist who works with DB individuals and when blind and general VR agencies collaborate in providing services. (Learn more about VR strategies.)
- Certain VR service delivery strategies—employing staff with expertise in both B/LV and TBI and providing training for staff on working with consumers with TBI—significantly increase the odds of employment for consumers with combined B/LV and TBI. (Learn more about service factors associated with employment for VR consumers with TBI and visual impairment.) However, most VR agencies lack a unique model for serving consumers with combined B/LV and TBI. (Access a plain language summary on this study.)
- Adjusting to the changes brought about by WIOA has been challenging for VR agencies. The new requirement to spend 15% of funds on pre-ETS was the greatest obstacle reported by VR agency representatives, but these representatives were also optimistic about the positive benefits of this requirement for students with disabilities. Their largest remaining concern was the impact of WIOA's changes on consumers who are over age 21. (Learn more about the impact of WIOA.)
- Among B/LV consumers at VR agencies, factors such as higher levels of education and earnings at the time of VR application are consistently linked to higher rates of employment. On the other hand, a secondary disability or legal blindness are consistently linked to lower employment rates. This information can help VR counselors better target services to consumers who are most at-risk for unemployment. (Learn more about factors related to employment outcomes.)
- The employment rate for B/LV individuals has not significantly increased over time. However, gaps in the employment and unemployment rates between B/LV individuals and people with no disabilities have decreased over time. In 2017, about 44% of B/LV people were employed, 10% were in the labor force but unemployed, and about 51% were not in the labor force at all. (Learn more about employment rates.)
Other products created as a result of this project include:
- A report on the characteristics and experiences of DB youth
- An analysis of employment data for the DB population
- A policy brief and fact sheet on best practices for providing services to consumers with combined B/LV and TBI
- Continuing education courses that cover an introduction to working with DB consumers, the most effective VR service models for working with DB consumers, and neuropsychological evaluations for people with B/LV.
As this project comes to a close, a handful of additional peer-reviewed studies will be released in the months to come. To learn more about this project and view a list of related outputs, visit the project page on the NRTC website.
Training and Technical Assistance
We created a trifold "You Can Work!" brochure that provides information for persons with newly acquired vision loss about the services available to support them in efforts to maintain or obtain a job. The brochure includes a link to an associated guide that provides more detailed information about services, resources, and tools related to vision loss. You can find both on our website under Resources for Professionals.
New Online Courses
We have four new courses available:
- Assistive Technology for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired in the Workplace provides information on assessment, ways to obtain devices, and resources for training individuals to use the provided devices (1 hour).
- Introduction to Working with Individuals Who are Deaf-Blind includes definitions, causes of deaf-blindness, communication strategies, assistive technology, and evidence-based recommendations regarding helping people who are deaf-blind obtain employment (1.75 hours).
- Accessing Textbooks and Reading Material is an overview of how individuals of all ages with vision impairments or blindness might access reading materials (1 hour).
- Understanding Data Collection and the 7-OB Report for OIB Programs reviews the new 7-OB form in its entirety and helps participants consider ways to organize and collect data for reporting (1 hour).
Other NRTC News
Our main website, www.blind.msstate.edu, has been redesigned for a new look! This website hosts our research results, publications, products, and information about training activities. Please check out our redesigned website and let us know if you have any feedback.
Vision Specialist Program Accepting Applications
Our Vision Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation graduate program is accepting applications now through October 1. This rigorous master's level curriculum includes evidence-based research findings and practical applications and is for vocational rehabilitation counselors and vision rehabilitation professionals. This online program will start in January and conclude in December.
Approximately 12 students will be awarded stipends with the support of a Rehabilitation Services Administration long-term training grant. For more information about the program and application process, visit www.blind.msstate.edu/training/vision-specialist-program.
4to24 App Deaf-Blind Version Starts Field Testing
The NRTC's employment-focused "4to24" app for parents of youth with deaf-blindness (DB) is in its final stages of development. This version of the app is designed specifically for parents or caretakers of children and youth between the ages of 4 to 24 years old who are deaf-blind, or have combined visual and hearing impairment, and additional disabilities. The app will help parents focus on building skills for communication, independent living, and preparing for employment starting from an early age. If interested in signing up to be a field tester or learning more, please register at msstatecoe.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4UxsxJJxeCPqXGJ
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Cmar, J. L., & McDonnall, M. C. (2020). A curriculum for teaching job search skills to youth with visual impairments. Visual Impairment and Deafblind Education Quarterly, 65(2), 74-86
Lund, E. M., & Cmar, J. L. (2020). A systematic review of factors related to employment in transition-age youth with visual impairments. Rehabilitation Psychology, 65(2), 122–136.
McDonnall, M. C., & Lund, E. M. (2020). Employers' intent to hire people who are blind or visually impaired: A test of the theory of planned behavior. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 63(4), 206–215.
McDonnall, M. C., Cmar, J. L., & Tatch, A. J. (2020). Importance of agency context for long-term effectiveness of a business development training for rehabilitation counselors. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.3233/JVR-201081
McDonnall, M.C., Cmar, J.L., & Sui, Z. (2020). Service factors and personal characteristics associated with employment and job quality for vocational rehabilitation consumers with combined traumatic brain injury and visual impairment. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 52(3), 223-238. DOI: 10.3233/JVR-201073
McDonnall, M. C., & Tatch, A. J. (in press). Educational attainment and employment for individuals with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.
McDonnall, M.C. & McKnight, Z. S. (in press). The association between presenting visual impairment, health, and employment status. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.
Upcoming Presentations & Workshops
Cmar, J. L., Moffitt, C., & Steverson, A. (2020, July 28-29). Putting Your Best Foot Forward Trainer Workshop [Webinar]. National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision.
Rogers, P. (2020, July 10). Transportation Options for Older Consumers with Vision Loss [Webinar]. Older Individuals Who are Blind – Technical Assistance Center.