In the letter below, Dr. Arielle Silverman highlights 2017 research, research-related summaries and additional information centered around preparing students with visual impairments for employment. This information was originally shared with Disability Wisdom Consulting subscribers and is posted on Paths to Technology with Dr. Silverman's permission.
Adult Rehabilitation and Employment Survey Series
Over the past 18 months, I’ve been honored to work with Dr. Edward Bell and Mary Ann Mendez at the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness (PDRIB) on a research project. We began by collecting demographic and employment data from a group of about 1,000 blind adults in the United States to look at current employment patterns and factors that were associated with employment. Results from this initial survey replicate previous findings: about one-third of the blind adults who have completed vocational rehabilitation (VR) are employed full-time, with about 20% working in self-employed or part-time positions. Many of these individuals, though employed, are still not earning enough to leave the Social Security Disability rolls. Consistent with past research, we found that having more formal education, using braille on a regular basis, and being a member of a blindness consumer organization were correlated with employment. We also found that individuals who were blind with additional disabilities reported lower employment rates and likely face additional barriers in the workplace. We will be submitting these results to the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research (JBIR), a peer-reviewed, open-access journal dedicated to publishing scholarly discourse on blindness. Learn about the journal here.
We are continuing this project with four follow-up surveys to ask blind adults in the United States for more in-depth feedback on their experiences with employment, parenting, training and rehabilitation, and psychosocial issues. These surveys are unique in that they include both closed-ended and open-ended questions to describe trends as well as to gather more subjective input from blind individuals regarding barriers and facilitators to participation. It is also unique in that all three people on the research team are blind, and we have incorporated our lived experiences into the design of the survey questions.
The results from the employment and parenting surveys are being compiled and prepared for publication at this time, while the other two surveys are still ongoing. I will provide updates as the results from these surveys are published.
The Impact of Blindness Simulations
Last summer, I gave a brief talk at the 2017 National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) conference describing my earlier research on blindness simulations. I explain the social-psychological theories underlying this work and a few anecdotes from experiments we conducted to test the impact of simulating blindness on sighted college students’ attitudes and beliefs about blindness. A transcript of my talk was recently published in the NOPBC’s quarterly magazine. Click here to read a transcript of my talk.
Tips for Making Images Accessible on Social Media
Sharing pictures on the Web and social media is easier than ever. When you share pictures of your loved ones, or a digital flyer for your next event, be sure your blind followers aren’t left out of the fun. Check out this blog post to help take the mystery out of image descriptions.
Disability Inclusion Planning Toolkit
I recently joined the inclusion committee for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. They have created an excellent inclusion toolkit that organizations can use to evaluate their inclusion and accessibility. The toolkit contains printable discussion guides, as well as interactive self-assessment tools. Although it was originally created for synagogues, it can be useful to any organization serving the public. The inclusion tool is free and available to the public. Learn more about the inclusion tool here
Knowledge Translation Highlights
Research in Focus Series
I write a weekly column called Research in Focus for the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) website. Each Research in Focus article is a reader-friendly summary of a recent disability-related study. In this newsletter, I want to highlight two recent Research in Focus articles that I found particularly interesting. The first highlighted results of a coaching program to empower youth receiving “wraparound” behavioral health services. The coaching helped the youth participate more actively in their team meetings, making the meetings a more positive experience for all involved. Principles from this coaching program could be applied to youth participating in education or transition planning as well.Learn about the coaching program here
A second Research in Focus article highlights data from young adults who are deaf-blind. This population is small and has not been well-studied. The results show that young adults whose parents expected them to find jobs were more likely to find jobs than those whose parents did not. This pattern was especially strong when the deaf-blind adult had other disabilities as well. While this isn’t a surprising finding, it shows that parents can make a real difference in their children’s futures, even (and especially) when the children have complex disabilities. Read more here
Website and Blog Highlights
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