Happy New Year from the NRTC
Wishing every day of the New Year be filled with peace and prosperity!
NRTC Receives Collaboration Awards
The NRTC was honored by Governor Robert Bentley and the Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (AGCEPD) during a recent ceremony, when it was presented with the Collaboration Award. The NRTC was earlier recognized with a regional award from the Mobile Chapter of AGCEPD.
As part of the Summer Work Program Team, the NRTC was recognized for its collaboration in providing job search training for youth with disabilities through a partnership with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS), Mobile Works, and Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast. The NRTC developed a job search program for youth who are blind or visually impaired, which was added to ADRS’s Summer Work Program in June 2016.
Current Research Highlights: The Effectiveness of an Evidence-Based Approach to VR Counselor Training
Interacting with businesses to generate employment opportunities for consumers is an important part of a counselor’s job. Research supports that counselors provide the majority of placement services to consumers within vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, but many counselors are uncomfortable about interacting with employers. Barriers or challenges that counselors experience to working with employers include lack of preparation or training, lack of experience resulting in a lack of confidence, and time constraints due to large caseload sizes.
Existing job development training curricula often focus on a sales approach, but many counselors feel uncomfortable with the idea of “selling” their consumers to businesses. The NRTC staff, working in collaboration with the Texas Workforce Solutions Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Division of Blind Services (DBS), is utilizing existing best practice elements of the dual customer approach from the Texas DBS training curriculum and empirical results from the recent NIDILRR-funded business interactions research project to develop the content for a new training program to improve counselors’ knowledge and skills related to engaging and building relationships with employers. The training will focus specifically on working with employers regarding consumers who are blind or visually impaired.
Beginning in May 2017, the NRTC will partner with four VR agencies to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the new training with practicing rehabilitation counselors who work with consumers who are blind or visually impaired. Through the training, we hope to increase counselor and agency capacity to engage with employers and help counselors gain confidence with this activity. Specific areas targeted for improvement include:
- Foundational knowledge and self-efficacy about working with businesses.
- Use of practices consistent with the dual customer approach.
- Number of interactions with businesses.
- Percentage of consumers served by the agency who achieve employment with a business.
Utilizing a quasi-experimental switching replications design, VR agencies will be divided into two groups: one group will receive the training first, and the other group will receive the training approximately one year later, serving as a control group prior to receipt of the training. To determine the long-term impact of the training on counselor behavior, quantitative and qualitative data will be collected over a two-year period.
This study will allow us to determine the effectiveness of this new training curriculum. The in-person training will be made available to other agencies upon request. In addition, the curriculum used for the in-person training will be published in the form of a self-paced, online training course available on the NTAC-BVI website in the future.
Training and Technical Assistance
2017 Vision Specialist Class
The 2017 Vision Specialist Class will begin training in January 2017 and includes twelve students from Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, Virginia, and West Virginia. The graduate certificate program, funded through a grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, provides specialized training for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors from across the country. Through extensive coursework, the Vision Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation program prepares graduates to become more effective in their work with consumers who are blind or visually impaired. Visit our website to learn more: blind.msstate.edu/training/training/vision-specialist/.
Recent Training Activity
Kendra Farrow, NRTC research and training associate, recently shared information about blindness and low vision with Mississippi State University students. On October 31st, Kendra engaged a class of education students in activities and knowledge-sharing regarding types of vision loss, assistive technology, accommodations, and inclusion.
Other NRTC News
Mentoring Project Featured by NARIC
As the final activities of the NIDILRR Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Employment Outcomes for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired grant (2010-2016) come to a close, much information and data is being published and shared. One such highlight is a recent feature by NARIC’s Research in Focus, providing an overview of the mentoring project article in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness and the Employment Mentoring Manual. Learn more about the NRTC’s mentoring project by reading NARIC’s feature story or by visiting the project overview page on our website.
Join our team and help the NRTC accomplish its mission! The NRTC is seeking an Older Blind Specialist and a Rehabilitation Counselor/Training Specialist. For more information about these available positions, please visit our Employment Opportunities webpage.
- Join the Conversation - Like us on Facebook @MSU.NRTC or follow us on Twitter @MSU_NRTC to stay connected with NRTC highlights, industry updates, upcoming events, and more!
- Professional Listserv - The NRTC’s newest listserv provides a forum for communication between Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) professionals working with consumers who are blind or visually impaired and NRTC staff. If you would like to subscribe or learn more about the free VR listserv, please email Angela Shelton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Take Part in Our Research - NRTC researchers use the Participant Registry to recruit individuals who are blind or visually impaired for current and future research projects. The NRTC also shares updates and information to keep participants up-to-date on projects that may be of particular interest to them. For more information, and to sign up for the registry, visit blind.msstate.edu/research/participate/.
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Farrow, K., & Steverson, A. (2016). A summary of services provided by Chapter 2 Programs: A review of Older Individuals who are Blind performance report data from years 2008-2013. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 110(6), 461-467.
McDonnall, M.C., Crudden, A, LeJeune, B.J., Steverson, A., & O'Donnell, N. (2016). Needs and challenges of seniors with combined hearing and vision loss. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 110(6), 399-411.
Crudden, A., Cmar, J., & McDonnall, M.C. (in press). Stress associated with transportation: A survey of persons with visual impairment. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.
O’Mally, J., & Steverson, A. (in press). Designing an employment mentoring program for blind college students: Mentors lessons and considerations. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.