Quarterly Connections: News from the NRTC
Linking Blindness and Low Vision Research to Practice
The MSU-RRTC is now: The National Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision
As the MSU-RRTC celebrates its 30th anniversary, it marks this milestone with a new name: The National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision. The center was founded in 1981 with the receipt of a National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) grant. Throughout its 30 years, the center has been a leader in research and training in the blindness and low vision field, with hundreds of publications and hundreds of presentations given by NRTC staff throughout the world. This research has had significant and far-reaching effects; outcomes have been used by many professionals, from practitioners to administrators of state and federal programs, as well as by individuals who are blind and visually impaired.
When the center was established over 30 years ago, its primary focus was to investigate employment issues for participants of the state-federal Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program. Over time, the center's focus has broadened to populations beyond VR participants, including persons for whom employment is not a primary focus (e.g., older adults), and to include other issues faced by people who are blind or visually impaired. The expanded focus of the center, coupled with its position as a leader in blindness research, prompted the name change. To accompany the center's new name, it has unveiled a new logo:
The NRTC will celebrate at the AER International conference, July 18-22, in Seattle, WA. During the conference, the center will host an event celebrating 30 years of conducting blindness and low vision research and working with professionals in the field. The event will also serve as a venue to showcase the center's new name and logo. Several NRTC staff will be in attendance to help promote the center's success including Michele McDonnall, Jamie O'Mally, B.J. LeJeune, Alberta L. (Ali) Orr, and Jacqui Bybee. For those of you attending the conference, please join us at our booth, No. 23, in the Exhibitor Hall on Thursday, July 19th at 3:15 pm for some cake and fun!
Current NRTC Research Highlights: Employment Outcomes for SSDI Beneficiaries
Annual federal costs for Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits (SSDI and SSI) are over $100 billion and increasing. Costs for the state-federal Vocational Rehabilitation program (VR) is over $2.6 billion annually to enable VR agencies to provide employment services to some 1.2 million people with disabilities, over 25% of whom are SSA beneficiaries. Approximately one-third of VR consumers who are legally blind are SSDI recipients (Giesen, 2010). Thus, not only VR but also SSA has a substantial stake in improving employment outcomes for these persons.
Dr. Marty Giesen is leading this research project, which focuses solely on VR consumers who are legally blind and SSDI beneficiaries. The project will utilize the RSA-911 Case Service Report data. Although much research has investigated factors and VR services that affect employment outcomes for persons who are blind or severely visually impaired, none has focused on SSDI beneficiaries. This population is an important demographic to study because they are at greater risk for poor employment outcomes than their counterparts not receiving SSDI.
In order to more thoroughly investigate the issue of employment outcomes for this population, a two-level research approach is being utilized. Many studies have analyzed individual-level personal, demographic, disability, and service-related factors and their impact on employment outcomes, whereas other studies have evaluated state economic and agency practice factors for the same population. However, no studies have investigated the effects of these factors simultaneously on individual employment outcomes in a multi-level approach. Namely, this study investigates the person-level and state/agency-level factors and their effects on employment outcomes for SSDI beneficiaries who are blind or severely visually.
The results from this research will have a significant impact on the blindness and low vision field by imparting a fuller understanding of why VR consumers who are blind or severely visually impaired receiving SSDI are at greater risk for low employment levels and—most importantly—what factors are "facilitators," "risks," and "what works" to improve employment outcomes. Identifying such factors will lead to developing recommendations that will be translated into a best practice guideline for state VR agencies, which will be available at the end of the project.
Activities completed on the project to date include data acquisition for state-level information and data management and pre-analysis processing of the individual-level RSA-911 data. Preliminary analyses assessing the impacts on individual-level competitive employment outcomes from (a) state/agency-level economic factors such as state unemployment and poverty rates, state population, VR agency structure (Blind vs. General or Combined) and (b) from individual-level demographic, socioeconomic, and disability factors have been conducted.
In the Works: Training and TA
Vision Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation Certificate
For more information, go to: http://www.blind.msstate.edu/training/visionspecialist or contact B. J. LeJeune, Project Director: email@example.com.
Collaborations with TACE
If you are interested in receiving information about signing up for these continuing education opportunities, contact Angela Shelton, Instructional Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. CRC credits will be offered.
Recent NRTC Training in Madison, Mississippi
Other NRTC News:
The NRTC Welcomes New Staff Member
Participate in our Research
You may have heard about our Employment Mentoring Project that seeks college students and professionals who are legally blind to be paired with each other for face-to-face interactions in their local areas for a mentoring relationship that takes place at their pace over the course of one year. Our next group begins in August, and it's not too late to sign up to participate! We are still in need of students for this project from now 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.
Help us reach 100 fans on Facebook
Here's just one example of the variety of posts we've made:
A burger joint created a pretty cool commercial to creatively announce their new braille menus. Sesame seeds were arranged on burger buns to form messages in braille! Here's the link to commercial with narration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nszEBLtI3qg
Stay up to date on what's happening at the NRTC and get information about the blindness and low vision field by liking our page today at https://www.facebook.com/msu.nrtc!
Publications, Presentations, and Miscellanies
Publications Recently Archived for Download from Our Website:
Moore, J.E., Hutto, M. & Schauwecker, T. (1993). Model Curricula for Training Managers and Facility Operators in the Business Enterprise Program: A Resource Guide. Mississippi State, Mississippi: Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision.
Maxson, J.H., Staats, R.C. & Smith, S. (1992). The Randolph-Sheppard Business Enterprise Program: Illumination and Color Contrast Monograph 3: Studies of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. Mississippi State, Mississippi: Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision.
Maxson, J.H., Tedder, N.E., Chen, S.C.S., and Marmion, S. (1988). A Comparison on Job Tasks for Operators of Business Enterprises for the Blind and State Licensing Agency Training Practices. Mississippi State, Mississippi: Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision.
Recent Publications/Publications in Press:
LeJeune, B.J. (2012, July). An Historical Moment from the Piney Woods Country Life School in Mississippi: The Legacy of Laurence C. Jones, PhD, and Ms. Martha Louise Morrow Foxx. AER International Conference. Seattle, WA.
Orr, A.L. (2012, July). The Value of Program Evaluations: The Case of the Title VII Chapter 2 Program and Others. AER International Conference. Seattle, WA.
Bybee, J., Cavenaugh, B., Crudden, A., Giesen, J.M., LeJeune, B.J., McDonnall, M.C., O'Mally, J., & Uslan, M. (2012, July). Improving Employment Outcomes for Individuals Who are Blind or Visually Impaired: An Overview of Six Research Projects. AER International Conference. Seattle, WA.
McDonnall, M.C., O'Mally, J., & Giesen, J.M. (2012, July). Predicting Employment for Transition-Age Youth with Visual Impairments: Research Results and Future Directions. AER International Conference. Seattle, WA.
LeJeune, B.J. (2012, July). Employment Models for Persons with TBI and Vision Loss. AER International Conference. Seattle, WA.
LeJeune, B.J., Orr, A.L. & McDonnall, M. (2012, July). Preparation Starts Early: Transition Activity Calendar and Career Advantage for VIPs. Poster Session. AER International Conference. Seattle, WA.
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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