Quarterly Connections: News from the NRTC
Linking Blindness and Low Vision Research to Practice
Meet Nikki Jeffords, the NRTC Research & Training Utilization Award Recipient
We are pleased to announce that Ms. Nikki Jeffords, vocational rehabilitation counselor at the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, is this year’s recipient of the NRTC Research & Training Utilization Award. The NRTC conducts research funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). This award recognizes individuals who have used products and/or information from the NRTC’s NIDRR-funded research or training and have applied it in their own practice, training, or research activities.
Currently employed as a Transition Counselor, Ms. Jeffords has previous service as a rehabilitation counselor in Arizona and at ABIL, the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living. Ms. Jeffords participated in the NRTC’s Vision Specialist Program, a 12-credit hour graduate level certificate program for Vision Specialists in Vocational Rehabilitation with a curriculum based partially upon NRTC research. Ms. Jeffords has used the knowledge from that program to improve her counseling skills, access resources, and develop service delivery networks. She reports making fundamental changes in the way she delivers services, placing greater emphasis on assisting transition-age consumers in obtaining work experience and entering into cooperative agreements with other agencies to increase job opportunities for consumers. Utilizing information from the NTRC’s Transition to Employment grant funded by NIDRR, Ms. Jeffords states, “I now emphasize gaining work experience at a very young age…” and “I am more willing to think creatively and outside the box.” She also shared that “I use what I’ve learned on nearly a daily basis...(the research) was profound to me and it has changed the way I think about transition services.”
Ms. Jeffords lives with her husband and twin daughters in Virginia Beach, VA. As a person who is blind, Ms. Jeffords is keenly aware of the issues blind people face when seeking employment. We congratulate Ms. Jeffords on her research utilization and her receipt of a $500 award!
Current RRTC Research Highlights: Best Practices in the Randolph-Sheppard Business Enterprise Program
The Randolph-Sheppard (R-S) Business Enterprise Program (BEP) has been one of the most successful programs ever enacted for the employment of people who are blind, providing employment for more than 30,000 individuals with visual impairments since its inception in 1936 and currently employing about 2,500 blind entrepreneurs nationwide. Its future appears compromised, however, as evidenced by a steady downward trend in the numbers of both facilities and blind entrepreneurs over the past 20 years.
To address current trends and explore future needs in this important program, this project is developing materials that include a general informational brochure, online training curricula for BEP staff, marketing materials for transition-aged individuals, a resource guide for BEP staff on working with deaf-blind entrepreneurs, and a resource guide for minimum and preferred qualifications for blind entrepreneurs and facility performance standards.
The general informational brochure entitled, “The Randolph-Sheppard Business Enterprise Program: An Entrepreneurial Program for People who are Legally Blind,” is designed to inform state legislators, government officials, and the general public about the history and current trends in the R-S Program. This brochure was developed and disseminated to all the state directors of blindness agencies and shared with all BEP directors. Since first being published, the brochure has been used by several state BE programs in developing their own state specific BEP brochures. An electronic copy of the brochure can be found and downloaded here.
At the beginning of the project, an online survey was sent to all state BEP directors inquiring about many aspects of their program including training, recruiting, and entry-level requirements for entrepreneurs in the program. Forty-four state BEP directors completed the survey. The data collected are being used to guide the development of several components of the project. An article highlighting the results from the survey, focusing on training needs for new BEP and SLA staff, and outlining a proposed national online training curriculum to meet these needs, is currently in press with the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness.
The national online training curriculum for new and current BEP staff will be a comprehensive program complete with assessment tools and certificates of completion. The training will address a wide array of topics including an introduction to blindness, business management principles, marketing the Program, and new opportunities in the BEP. The online training curriculum is currently under development and will be finished in late 2014. Mr. Terry Smith, expert consultant on this project, is taking the lead in developing the online curriculum.
The state BEP directors’ survey also identified states that have experience in working with BEP entrepreneurs who are both blind and deaf or hard of hearing. In-depth interviews were conducted with BEP directors, business counselors, training staff members, and entrepreneurs themselves in these identified states. Data collected from these interviews are being used to develop a resource guide which will provide real-life scenarios including challenges faced with accommodating deaf-blind individuals and how those challenges were successfully overcome. It will also contain an extensive resource list for obtaining and finding information about accommodations. The goal of this resource guide is to assist BEP staff who may be working with an entrepreneur who is deaf-blind for the first time in the BEP. The resource guide will be finished and available for general use at the end of the year. Beth Jordan, HKNC regional representative and project consultant, is assisting with its development.
The last two components to this project are developing marketing materials for the recruitment of transition-aged individuals into the BEP and defining minimum and preferred qualifications for blind entrepreneurs and developing guidelines for facility performance standards. Development of these products will begin next year.
If you have any questions or suggestions please contact Jacqui Bybee at email@example.com.
In the Works: Training and TA
Mississippi Department of Education Grant
The NRTC, along with the University of Southern Mississippi and the Mississippi Deaf-Blind Project, have been awarded a follow-up grant from the Mississippi Department of Education to continue our efforts to assist teachers in Mississippi to more effectively identify and serve students with visual impairments. There will be nine Workshops including four conducted by the NRTC. The first NRTC workshop entitled "Help2! There is a Child with a Visual Impairment in my Class!" was conducted on September 24 and 25 on the Mississippi State University campus. Other NRTC workshops include one for school administrators, one on Transition and one for Para-Professionals. The dates for future workshops are to be announced, but most will be held in the fall of 2013.
Webinar on Employment and Transportation
Dr. Adele Crudden will be participating in a webinar entitled “Employment and Transportation: Ensuring People with Disabilities Have Equal Access to the Workforce” conducted by Easter Seals Project Action. The 1.5 hour webinar will be on Wednesday, October 23, 2013, and will address transportation barriers for people with disabilities in accessing employment. Click here to register for this free webinar.
Other NRTC News:
Two New Positions Open
The NRTC is seeking a Training/Research Associate (PARF 7432). The successful candidate will assist in the development and implementation of a comprehensive research-to-practice training and technical assistance program related to blindness and low vision rehabilitation. This program will include curriculum development and implementation of research-based training activities, development of web-based technical assistance content, and providing training at workshops, conferences, and in college classes. We are also seeking a Research Associate (PARF 7391). This individual will assist with existing research projects relating to persons who are blind or visually impaired. Specific work duties include conducting literature reviews, survey development, data collection, data management, and quantitative and qualitative analysis. For more details, visit www.jobs.msstate.edu or contact Dr. Michele McDonnall at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Employee Mentoring Project
We have made great progress in our Employment Mentoring Project, which pairs college students and professionals who are legally blind for a mentoring relationship that takes place over the course of one year. Our last group will begin in January, and it's not too late to sign up to participate! Students graduating between April and December 2014 may sign up through December 2013, so please spread the word. Visit http://tiny.cc/mentoring-project today for more information on eligibility, benefits, and how to sign up.
State of the Science Conference
The NRTC's State of the Science Conference will be held on April 9 & 10, 2014 in Bethesda, MD in conjunction with NCSAB's annual Spring Conference. The focus of this interactive SoS Conference is on improving employment outcomes for persons who are blind or visually impaired. It will include presentations on the six NIDRR-funded research projects, discussion groups, and presentations by experts external to the NRTC. A full agenda and registration information will soon be available on our website.
Hall of Fame of Leaders and Legends in the Field of Blindness and Low Vision
One of our staff, B.J. LeJeune, nominated Dr. Laurence C. Jones and Ms. Martha Louise Foxx to the Hall of Fame and they will be inducted October 18, 2013 as the first Mississippians and the first African Americans to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. B. J. LeJeune and Dr. Rosie Pridgen will be presenting the awards to their families at the October celebration. B.J. learned of these two innovative educators in response to a Technical Assistance inquiry about the first African-American educator for blind children. She did not discover the answer to that question, but she did discover some incredible educators. In 1929 the Piney Woods Country Life School expanded its mission to educate young African-Americans to include a school for those who were blind. Dr. Jones, the founder of the Piney Woods School and Martha Foxx, a graduate from Overbrook School in Philadelphia and the first teacher were extra-ordinary individuals whose amazing lives are chronicled on the Hall of Fame website.
Exhibit at NIB National Conference
National Industries for the Blind’s National Conference and Expo, Leading the Way, is October 9 through October 11, 2013, at the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland. The NRTC on Blindness and Low Vision will be exhibiting at this conference and recruiting participants for both the mentoring and transportation projects. Visit http://www.nib.org/about-us/events for additional information about the conference.
Focus Group on Transportation Issues at AER O&M Conference
The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired is sponsoring the Orientation and Mobility Conference in New Orleans, December 11 through 14, 2013. Dr. Adele Crudden will be there to conduct a focus group of O&M professionals concerning transportation issues faced by persons who are blind or visually impaired. Visit the website to get more information about the conference, and to get more information about the focus group contact Dr. Crudden at email@example.com.
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Recent Publications/Publications in Press:
Upcoming Presentations:Bybee, J. (2013, November). An overview of research and training activities for the Randolph-Sheppard Business Enterprise Program. 2013 National Council of State Agencies for the Blind Fall Conference. Denver, CO.
For Additional NRTC News and Activities:
Visit our website at http://www.blind.msstate.edu/.
This newsletter was supported in part by grant #H133B10022 from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). Newsletter contents do not represent policies of NIDRR or the Department of Education and viewers should not assume endorsement by the federal government. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to interested parties.
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