Happy New Year from the NRTC!
NRTC Contributes to NOAA Collaboration
Members of the NRTC research team are collaborating on a project to improve accessibility and comprehension of tornado warnings for individuals who are deaf, blind, and deaf-blind. The two-year grant, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is led by researchers from Mississippi State University’s department of geosciences and the University of Alabama departments of geography and communication studies. NRTC researchers, Jennifer Cmar and Anne Steverson, are providing field expertise to guide the recruitment and interview processes, as well as offering a better understanding of the inclusion and accessibility needs of the target communities.
The research team is conducting interviews with volunteer participants in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana to gain insight as to their specific needs and how they currently receive and respond to emergency weather alerts. Many current weather alert systems and news formats are not fully accessible, so the project goal is to develop and test a number of alternative communication formats. One design concept includes a split screen format for viewing weather broadcasts on television or other electronic devices that will show the meteorologist on one half of the screen, while an American Sign Language interpreter will be shown on the other half.
If you would like to be considered for participation in this project, sign up for our online registry at https://www.blind.msstate.edu/participant-registry/.
Current Research Highlights: Youth Job-search Intervention Continues
For young people, getting a summer job is a rite of passage. But for youth with blindness and visual impairments (B/VI), securing a job can be especially difficult, and they are less likely than their peers to find employment while in high school or to be employed after graduating. In order to address this challenge, we are conducting research aimed at helping youth with B/VI develop job-search skills that allow them to confidently and successfully secure employment.
We are partnering with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) for this project. The ADRS sponsors a summer work experience program for youth, in which young people are provided with summer jobs. However, some of our past research indicates that youth who find their own jobs (rather than having jobs provided to them) experience better employment outcomes later in life. In light of this research, our study examines the effectiveness of adding job-search training aimed at helping youth find their own jobs to the traditional summer work experience program.
Participants for this project are drawn from youth ages 16-22 who are B/VI, and they are divided into intervention and comparison groups. Youth in the comparison group participate in the regular ADRS work experience program. Youth in the intervention group receive five days of job-search training, in addition to the regular ADRS program. The job-search training includes both group sessions and individual activities and covers topics such as disclosing visual impairments to an employer, identifying accommodations for a job, improving self-presentation, and setting goals.
To date, three cohorts of youth have enrolled in the study, for a total of 62 participants thus far. Cohort 1 completed training in summer 2016, and data collection for them is completed. Cohorts 2 and 3 completed training during 2017, and data collection for these youth is ongoing. Plans are underway to increase the number of youths enrolled in the study, and in 2018 the project will expand to other states. Researchers are tracking participating youth to measure their knowledge, self-efficacy, and employment outcomes both before and after participation in the program.
Over the coming year, NRTC researchers will continue to collect participant data and conduct data analysis to determine whether the intervention boosted participants’ knowledge, self-efficacy, and employment outcomes, both in the short- and long-terms. The insights they gain will be incorporated into recommendations and materials to improve employment outcomes for youth with B/VI through job-search training.
Training and Technical Assistance
2018 Vision Specialist Class
Eleven students will kick off the New Year as part of the 2018 Vision Specialist program. Beginning in January, participants will gain knowledge and expertise to better serve individuals with blindness or visual impairment. This year’s cohort hails from Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Funded through a grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the certificate program is designed to provide vocational rehabilitation counselors and graduate students specialized training in a wide range of subjects, including an emphasis on employment and independent living. More information about the program is available on our website or by contacting BJ LeJeune at 662-325-2694.
Continuing Education Credits Available
Free online courses are offered through the National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment (NTAC-BVI) to provide professionals the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding of a variety of topics and earn continuing education credits. Topics for these online short courses range from basic health and vision information to improving employment and independent living outcomes for persons with visual disabilities, and new courses are added regularly.
These online short courses are from 60-90 minutes in length. Students earn a certificate of completion by finishing the course, passing the quiz with a score of at least 80%, and completing a course evaluation. For more information on courses and credits available, visit the continuing education page of our website at www.ntac.blind.msstate.edu/courses/. The following credits are available:
- ACVREP, CRC, and NBPCB - All online short courses are available for free.
- CEU - Continuing Education Units are available for online courses and some workshops for teachers to maintain certification and/or licensure. Costs and course load requirements for CEU credits are determined through the Mississippi State University Center for Continuing Education.
Other NRTC News
Research Participants Needed
Are you interested in taking part in our research? We use the Participant Registry to recruit individuals who are blind or visually impaired to be involved in 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, such as the NOAA collaboration featured in this newsletter. Projects that are currently recruiting participants include an app to help parents and youth focus on employment and a study focused on job retention and career advancement.
To sign up for the registry, visit tiny.cc/participant-registry. By joining our Participant Registry, you are not obligated to participate in any projects.
New Employment Data Available
NRTC researchers recently compiled new data on the employment of individuals with dual sensory impairments, including unemployment rates and labor force participation. This marks the first release in recent history of employment statistics for people with combined hearing and vision loss. The report is available for PDF download on the Deaf-Blindness Resources page of our website.
A new graphic has been added to two of our websites to help visitors navigate the latest resources and publications. The What’s New graphic prominently lists the most recent additions to that specific website and is updated regularly. Find this new feature below the menu on the NRTC homepage and the NTAC-BVI website.
Benefits of Mentoring
"Role Models and Mentors Help Build Employment Success" was included in the November edition of Braille Forum, the official publication of the American Council of the Blind. The article pairs the experiences of a blind staff member with her perspective on the benefits and outcomes of our recently completed NIDILRR-funded grant project, An Employment Mentoring Project for College Students who are Blind. A link to this publication may be found at the bottom of the project overview page on our website, along with other project outputs and publications.
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Cmar, J. L., McDonnall, M. C., & Markoski, K. M. (2017). In-school predictors of post-school employment for youth who are deaf-blind. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals.
Crudden, A., McDonnall, M. C., & Sui, Z. (in press). Losing employment: At-risk employed vocational rehabilitation applicants with vision loss. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness.
Farrow, K., & Rogers P. (2018, March). Full Inclusion of Individuals Aging With Vision Loss Through Collaborative Models. 2018 Annual Conference of the American Society on Aging. San Francisco, CA.