RRTC on Employment Outcomes for Individuals who are Blind and Visually Impaired

Summary/Abstract: This RRTC will conduct research that generates new knowledge about the efficacy of rehabilitation services and technology used to support employment outcomes for individuals who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI), utilizing multiple stages of research. The overall purpose of the project is to improve competitive employment outcomes for individuals who are B/VI, including subpopulations such as youth, persons who are deaf-blind (DB), and persons with combined traumatic brain injury (TBI) and B/VI. We will conduct six major research projects and related training, technical assistance, and dissemination activities that will contribute to this overall goal. A brief description of each research project follows.

1.    Project 1: Development of an App to Help Parents and Youth Focus on Employment is an intervention development project to create an app for parents of youth who are B/VI or DB and youth who are B/VI that will help them focus on the steps they need to take, starting early in the youth’s life, to obtain employment upon completion of their education. The app will provide a checklist of age-appropriate activities that should be accomplished to aid in the transition process.

2.    Project 2: Summer Work Experience Plus is an intervention efficacy project that involves adding a guided job search component to an existing summer work experience program conducted by a vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency with youth in their local community. This modification is supported by our research that indicates finding a job independently is associated with better employment outcomes later, whereas sponsored work activities are not beneficial.  

3.    Project 3: An Experiment to Evaluate Employer Intervention Approaches will use a randomized controlled trial design to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches to a first meeting between a vocational rehabilitation (VR) representative and an employer. This intervention efficacy project will evaluate the ability of four different approaches to change employer attitudes and intent to hire people who are B/VI.

4.    Project 4: The Effectiveness of an Evidence-Based Approach to VR Counselor Training involves implementing training on working with businesses with VR counselors and an evaluation of the training’s effectiveness. This training will be based on empirical results from a current NIDILRR research project. We will partner with four VR agencies to provide training to counselors and will evaluate its effectiveness in this intervention efficacy project.

5.    Project 5: Job Retention and Advancement is an exploratory study that will generate knowledge about job retention and advancement for individuals with B/VI. We will implement a survey with individuals to identify factors that helped them retain their jobs and a survey with VR agencies to explore policies for job retention cases. Analyses with RSA-911 and survey data will explore job retention cases nationally and evaluate the impact of agency policies on consumer employment outcomes. Case studies will provide more in-depth information.   

6.    Project 6: Exploration of Secondary Data is an exploratory study that will utilize two large secondary databases to increase our knowledge about subpopulations (youth and adults who are deaf-blind, persons with combined traumatic brain injury and B/VI) and the impacts on employment outcomes of changes associated with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) legislation.

We will develop a large number of outputs and products through this RRTC; each research project and associated dissemination activities will involve measurable outputs. An example of outputs are a minimum of 18 peer-reviewed publications, 11 conference presentations, an app, an intervention manual, two policy or practice guides, and online courses (five short and one multi-module). All of these products will be available through our website. A national Advisory Council, with representatives from 10 consumer and professional organizations, will provide guidance to the projects and help disseminate results. 

Funding Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services (DOH)

Funding Level: $1,435,807.13

Project Start Date: April 2015

Project End Date: September 2016

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NRTC on Blindness & Low Vision