RRTC Advisory Council Convenes
The NRTC held an Advisory Council meeting for our 2020-2025 Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment of People who are Blind or Have Low Vision grant on December 7-8 in Starkville, MS.
Representing major blindness professional and consumer organizations, the Advisory Council members provided guidance to the NRTC staff regarding the current research and training projects awarded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) under the 5-year grant.
During the meeting, members of the NRTC shared updates and reports on six research projects, multiple training and technical assistance projects, and dissemination activities. The comprehensive industry knowledge, organizational perspectives, and constructive recommendations of the Advisory Council will assist the NRTC in accomplishing project goals.
Michele McDonnall, NRTC Director, felt the meeting was a great success. She believes “bringing the Advisory Council together helps us continue our research, training, and technical assistance efforts with renewed energy. Stakeholder input is essential to the success of our projects.” Learn more about the NIDILRR-funded research by visiting our current research page on our website.
Advisory Council members include: Kathryn Fredrick (American Council of the Blind), Deborah Harlin (Executive Director, Hellen Keller National Center), Timothy Hornik (Director of Special Initiatives, Blinded Veterans Association), John McMahon (Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired), Lee Nasehi (Chief Executive Officer, VisionServe Alliance), Amy Porterfield (National Federation of the Blind), Carlie Rhoads (Program Metrics and Evaluation Specialist, American Foundation for the Blind), Bill Robinson (National Council of State Agencies for the Blind), Matt Wieseler (Director of Strategic Intelligence, National Industries for the Blind). Also in attendance was Dorothy Young from the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.
Current Research Highlight: Virtual Training to Improve Job Interview Skills
Paid work experience is a key predictor of future employment for youth who are blind or have low vision (B/LV). Unfortunately, an identified barrier to obtaining employment is limited job interview experience. This project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a virtual interview training program in improving job interview skills and employment outcomes for transition-age youth who are B/LV.
We are working with an existing web-based virtual interview training program, developed by SIMmersion and researchers from the University of Michigan, that allows transition-age youth to practice interviewing for entry-level jobs. In collaboration with the SIMmersion team, we first customized the content in this program for B/LV youth based on recommendations from key stakeholders.
The second phase of this project involved evaluating the virtual interview training program’s usability for screen reader and screen magnification software users. We conducted a usability study with ten youth and young adults with B/LV, who tested the product and provided feedback. Then, we shared key findings from the usability study with SIMmersion, and they implemented product updates based on the results.
As we enter the third year of this project, we are planning an experimental study to evaluate the effectiveness of the virtual interview training program in improving outcomes for B/LV youth and young adults. The study will involve participants completing a pretest, posttest, and 6-month follow-up to assess their interview skills, interview self-efficacy, interview anxiety, and employment outcomes.
The results of this project will help inform vocational rehabilitation (VR) service providers about the best ways to support transition-age youth in their journey toward employment and will provide information about using virtual interview training to assist youth and young adults with B/LV in developing interview skills.
For more information about this research project, visit our research project page.
Training and Technical Assistance
A new episode of Employment Insights with the NRTC is now available! In this episode, we are joined by our guest, Pat, who shares her story about an eye condition that progressed during her career. She also shares the challenges that she faced with the progression of her visual impairment and gives advice for others in a similar situation. Listen now on our Webinars and Podcasts page.
The NRTC has two new courses available:
- Partnering with Families to Support Employment Outcomes: This course for rehabilitation professionals provides numerous strategies for the healthy involvement of the family in the rehabilitation process and approaches for setting boundaries with family members. Facilitating healthy family support by incorporating these strategies can improve employment outcomes for participants. (1-hour CRC)
- Beyond Acuity: Addressing Functional Aspects of Lack of Depth Perception and Visual Field Deficits: Learn to detect functional difficulties caused by visual field deficits, a lack of depth perception, and other visual skills deficits. Assist your client to understand and practice environmental adaptations, visual skills training, and integration of other senses in their daily life necessary for confidence, safety, and self-advocacy. (1-hour ACVREP and NBPCB)
In celebration of January being Braille Literacy Month, the NRTC shares a featured course: Braille: What It Is and Why It Is Important. This course provides an overview of how the code works, the equipment used for reading and writing braille, and barriers faced by those to want to learn and use braille.
Other NRTC News
NRTC Recruiting for Job Search Skills Training Study
The NRTC is now recruiting participants for a job search skills training study. We are seeking job-ready adults with blindness or low vision who are not currently employed to join our study!
Participants will respond to surveys, submit resumes, and either receive job search resources by email or attend 5 days of group training via Zoom. To find out if you qualify, click here to complete our online survey. Space is limited! Please apply by February 22, 2023.
If you have any questions, please contact Katerina Sergi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-325-8231.
Vision Specialist Program Updates
Congratulations to the Vision Specialist Program graduates of 2022. This class consisted of thirteen vocational rehabilitation professionals representing states from Florida to North Dakota. They successfully completed the four-course graduate-level certificate program and graduated with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to provide high-quality service to blind and low vision rehabilitation consumers.
Our participants selected for the 2023 program will begin their coursework in January. The courses aim to increase participants’ knowledge about working with consumers who are B/LV. Three of the four courses are available to take individually and may be transferable to other universities’ programs. More information about the Vision Specialist Program is available on our website.
Cmar Receives State Honor
The Mississippi Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (MAER) presented Dr. Jennifer Cmar with an esteemed award during the MAER Virtual Conference on October 27, 2022! Dr. Cmar, NRTC Associate Research Professor, is the 2022 MAER Employment Award recipient. This award is provided in recognition of exceptional work to improve employment opportunities for people with blindness and low vision (B/LV). Read our news item for more.
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
McDonnall, M. C., Cmar, J., & McKnight, Z. S. (2022). Beyond employment rates: Self-employment and other categories of work among people with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 116(5), 729-735.
Steverson, A., Cmar, J. L., & Antonelli, K. (2022). The experiences of parents of and students with visual impairments with 4to24, a transition application. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 116(5), 644-657.
Crudden, A., & McKnight, Z. S. (2022). Skills associated with job retention among persons with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 116(5), 668-677.
McDonnall, M., Cmar, J., & McKnight, Z. (2022). The impact of WIOA on agency-level vocational rehabilitation outcomes for adults and youths with blindness and low vision. Journal of Disability Policy Studies. Advance online publication.
McDonnall, M., & Sessler-Trinkowsky, R. (2023, February 2). Experiences with AT for employed and unemployed people who are blind or have low vision. Assistive Technology Industry Association 2023 Conference. Orlando, FL.
Ottowitz, J., Crews, J., Rogers, P., & Fredrick, K. (2023, March 28). Data to support vision loss programming. On Aging 2023 Conference. Atlanta, GA.
January 20 (2:00 CST) - Introducing Braille: How do you approach the topic of braille with your older adult consumers or clients? How does your own philosophy and attitude about braille have an impact on their interest and motivation? Join us to learn creative ways to present braille as a tool to help get things done rather than a stigma or just something to learn.