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 Funded by the United States Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

An Experiment to Evaluate Employer Intervention Approaches and their Ability to Change Attitudes and Intent to Hire

Principal Investigator: Michele McDonnall, m.mcdonnall@msstate.edu

One of the most commonly identified barriers to employment for individuals who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI) is negative employer attitudes. Negative employer attitudes are considered a significant barrier to employment for persons with all types of disabilities. A number of studies have been conducted to determine the effect of disability on hiring decisions and a few studies have attempted to change attitudes towards people with disabilities through educational interventions. However, very few studies have attempted to provide an intervention to employers to evaluate its ability to change attitudes, and this type of research is needed to expand our understanding of how to alter employer attitudes.

Evaluation of employer attitudes specifically toward persons who are B/VI has been scarce, but recent research funded by NIDILRR and conducted by the NRTC has begun to bridge this gap. As part of the previous study, VR professionals provided feedback and recommendations as to the best ways to encourage employer consideration and hiring of B/VI candidates. In the current study, the effectiveness of four different employer intervention approaches will be evaluated. The four approaches to be utilized include:

  • An educational approach about hiring persons with disabilities in general (active control condition)
  • An educational approach focusing on how persons with B/VI can function on the job, including use of accommodations and assistive technology (AT)
  • An educational approach focusing on how persons with B/VI can function on the job, incorporating demonstrations of AT
  • A dual customer approach focusing on learning about the business and their needs

The 44 employer participants (hiring managers) will be drawn from a large company with multiple positions that could feasibly be filled by individuals who are B/VI, and will be located in a highly populated area with a pool of local candidates that would be likely to include people who are B/VI. The intervention will consist of hiring managers participating in a meeting with a VR professional that will last approximately one hour. Hiring managers will be randomly assigned to one of the four intervention approaches.

We will determine whether the intervention approaches are able to change employer attitudes towards, knowledge about, and intent to hire people who are B/VI, and whether any approach is more effective than the others. Results will be shared with VR professionals in a practice brief, as the information will be valuable for their interactions with employers about hiring people who are B/VI.