[nfbmi-talk] afb employment research navigator

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Fri Sep 26 15:47:16 UTC 2014

Just an fyi on some pretty interesting AFB research here:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: denise colley <
dmc0124 at comcast.net>

Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2014 16:34:07 -0700
Subject: [Wcb-l] FW: Introducing AFB's Research Navigator--Inaugural
Edition: Employment of People with Vision Loss
wcb-l at wcbinfo.org

From: AFB Research Navigator [mailto:MRichert at afb.net]
Sent: Tuesday, September 23, 2014 2:30 PM
To: AFB Subscriber
Subject: Introducing AFB's Research Navigator--Inaugural Edition: Employment
of People with Vision Loss

Image removed by sender. AFB DirectConnect Letterhead

Introducing AFB's Research Navigator

A Quarterly Series on Research in Blindness and Visual Impairment from the
AFB Public Policy Center

Welcome to this first edition of AFB's Research Navigator. This is a
quarterly series of the AFB Public Policy Center. The purpose of this series
is to keep you informed of user-friendly facts and figures and the latest
research pertaining to people with vision loss. The series will also include
the necessary background information so you may use the information most
accurately. Have an idea for a Research Navigator topic? Want to know more
about a particular statistic or line of research? Send your thoughts to
AFB's Senior Policy Researcher, Rebecca Sheffield

Follow this link to email Rebecca Sheffield <
mailto:rsheffield at afb.net> .

Readers are also encouraged to check out AFB's Statistical Snapshots on a
regular basis.

Follow this link to Statistical Snapshots <

This webpage is regularly updated with a wide variety of information and
tools that address commonly asked questions about people with vision loss.
In recognition of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month,
our first topic for AFB's Research Navigator is:

The Current State of Employment among Individuals who are Blind or Visually

Introduction to the Topic

It is no secret that individuals who are blind or visually impaired have far
lower employment rates and labor force participation rates than the general
population. Certainly, it is a topic of much discussion in this field: for
example, the latest volume of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness
(JVIB November - December 2013, volume 107, number 6) was a special issue
dedicated to transition and employment, not to mention the numerous articles
that have been published in other volumes of JVIB.

Follow this link to JVIB November
http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pubjvib.asp?DocID=jvib0706toc> -
December 2013,
volume 107, number 6

Joe Strechay of AFB CareerConnect frequently blogs about the topic.

Follow this link to read more about Joe Strechay

Follow this link to AFB CareerConnect

AFB's annual Leadership Conference often has a number of sessions on the
topic, and the list goes on.

Follow this link to AFB

the-blind-leadership-conference-2015/123> 's annual Leadership Conference

Yet, among the general population, employment rates among people with vision
loss, indeed, employment rates among people with disabilities is not
commonly a hot topic of conversation. To be sure, the bleak employment
numbers have been acknowledged - and these numbers have been acknowledged
worldwide - but outside the field, little action has been taken.

The Numbers

First, some definitions. When discussing employment, there are three key
figures: unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, and percentage
not in the labor force. The unemployment rate, as calculated by the Bureau
of Labor Statistics (BLS), is the percentage of the total labor force that
is unemployed but actively seeking employment and willing to work.

Follow this link to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

The unemployment rate does not count individuals who are not looking for
work, whether this is because a decision has been made to leave the
workforce or those who have dropped out of the workforce as a result of
long-term unemployment. The labor force participation, as defined by BLS, is
"the subset of Americans who have jobs or are seeking a job, are at least 16
years old, are not serving in the military and are not institutionalized."
The percentage not in labor force accounts for both, those counted in the
unemployment number and those that have either dropped out of the labor
force or did not enter it. This number, the percentage not in labor force,
is always higher than the unemployment rate and provides a more accurate
picture of the proportion of people who are not employed. This number seeks
to represent all Americans who are eligible to work in the everyday U.S.
economy. All these figures are representative of the civilian labor force.

Now, the numbers. First, let us look at the numbers for "working-age" (i.e.,
16 to 64 years of age) individuals who are blind or visually impaired. In
December 2013, this subset of the population had a 36 percent labor force
participation rate, 64 percent not in the labor force, and 15 percent
unemployment rate (American Foundation for the Blind [AFB], 2014) <> . That
means that an alarming 64 percent of individuals who are blind or visually
impaired 16 to 64 years of age were not working! But to fully understand the
gravity of this number, let us take a moment to look at the same figures for
the general working-age population (i.e. individuals 16 to 64 years of age)
during the same month, December 2013. The labor force participation rate was
72 percent, percent not in labor force was 28, and the unemployment rate was
7 percent (BLS, 2013) <> . To reiterate, the labor force participation rate
among the general working-age population, 16 and to 64 years of age was
exactly two times (72 percent) that of the labor force participation rate
among individuals who are blind or visually impaired (36 percent).

December 2013 was not a unique month. Indeed, individuals with vision loss
continually have far lower labor force participation rates than their
counterparts in the general population. Between 2009 and 2012, the yearly
average labor force participation rate for all working-age individuals
ranged from 75 percent in 2009 to 73 percent in 2012. For that same time
period and age group, the yearly average for individuals with vision loss
ranged from 40 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2012 (Kelly, 2013) <> . And,
for those individuals with vision loss who are employed, this group has
lower median monthly earnings: $2,281 person with vision loss versus $2,724
for an individual with no disability (Brault, 2013) <> .
Note: We use caution about drawing too many conclusions from these data as
the margins of error around both the earnings and family income were
relatively large. The 90% confidence interval lower bound of the family
income estimate for people with disabilities is $2,783 and the upper bound
of the family income estimate for people with difficulty seeing is $2,823.
This overlap implies that the two may not be statistically significant at
the 90 percent confidence level. Nevertheless, these numbers are insightful.

Why This Matters

Employment is far more than a paycheck, which, in and of itself is vitally
important. Employment is the economic and social foundation for stability in
one's life, the lynchpin for one's independence, an important component of
one's self-definition. Employment has traditionally served as an indicator
of one's entrance into adulthood (Silva, 2012) <> . Additionally, the
negative effects of unemployment on psychological well-being have long been
established. Indeed, lack of employment has been shown to correlate with
depression, anxiety, and low subjective well-being and self-esteem (Cohn
1978 <> , Paul  <> & Moser, 2009). Other research has focused on the role of
joblessness and its negative association to one's social role, meaning that,
with a lack of employment comes a questioning of one's role as a friend,
spouse, parent, etc. (Price, Friedland,  <> & Vinokur, 1998). These social
relationships are fundamental aspects of well-being. Thus, not only does
unemployment negatively impact one's earnings, it also negatively affects
one's view of self, resulting in low self-esteem, low self-worth, and low

Moreover, individuals with vision impairments want to work.
RespectAbilityUSA, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., recently
presented findings on their survey of individuals with disabilities and
family members, close friends, professionals, and volunteers in the
disability community.
Note: While we find the results of this survey interesting, we are not privy
to their exact methodology and are therefore cautious in reporting these
numbers. Moreover, we know that their sample includes "the activist people
with disabilities community and reflects more women, Democrats, Caucasians,
and a more highly educated audience than one might expect within the
disability community."
Their survey yielded 3,839 respondents of which 1,969 were individuals with
a disability. While this survey was of people with all types of
disabilities, individuals with vision loss were part of the sample and the
results provide some insight into the issue. Most pertinent among their
findings was that 71 percent of people with disabilities said that having a
job was more important to them than a government safety net. Additionally,
over three-fourths of respondents who had disabilities reported that having
a job was "important to their happiness" (RespectAbilityUSA) <> .

Yet, despite the desire for and knowledge of the importance of employment,
barriers continue to exist. Past studies have shown that education alone is
not enough in helping individuals with visual impairments in gaining higher
employment numbers (Kirchner  <> & Smith, 2005). Some of the most common
barriers cited in employment literature continue to be out-of-date or
inaccessible equipment and materials, inadequate assistive technologies,
inadequate compensation, weak job status, discrimination, and limited
training opportunities. Included in these barriers is a lack of, what Wolffe
(2011) <>  refers to as, employability skills on the part of the individual
with vision loss. The skills included in this category are: "organizational
and planning skills, working in a team, interacting appropriately with
others, and demonstrating a sense of responsibility" (Kaine  <> & Kent,
2013, p. 534)and are vital in both gaining and maintaining employment. Like
any other skill set, these must be taught and practiced. And, despite
numerous research studies aimed at identifying ways to improve this skill
set, there continues to be a need for evidenced-based practices which have
successful results (Cavenaugh  <> & Giesen, 2012).


Employment is important to one's social and economic livelihood. The
employment numbers for individuals who are blind or visually impaired are
bleak. And, important to point out is that certain socio-demographic groups
among this population fare worse than others. We know that access to quality
vocational rehabilitation (a future topic of AFB's Research Navigator
quarterly series), training programs, career counseling and mentoring, and
professional resources all have the potential to make a positive difference
in employment outcomes. Yet, despite all this significant research,
researchers and practitioners alike continue to be faced with the problem of
how to increase employability. No doubt, an investment must be made in the
aforementioned programs, and they must be made available to all who need
them. But this also means that there is a need for more research, both in
the areas mentioned above and in others, such as the importance of social
networks and various training and development interventions.

Each reference is hyperlinked to a website where you can read the original
source. Note that a subscription or fee applies to read some articles in
their entirety.

* American Foundation for the Blind. (2014). Interpreting Bureau of
Labor Statistics employment data.
* Brault, M. (2013). Census Bureau data on vision difficulty.
Presented at: Focus on Eye Health National Summit. July 2013.

* Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2013). The employment situation
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf> -
December 2013.
* Cavenaugh, B.,
& Giesen,
J. M. (2012). A systematic review of transition interventions affecting the
employability of youths with visual impairments. Journal of Visual
Impairment & Blindness, 106(7), 400-413.
* Cohn, R. M. (1978). The effect of employment status change on
self-attitudes. Social Psychology, 41(2), 81-93.

* Kaine, N.,
& Kent,
R. (2013). Practice perspectives: Activities to encourage employability
skills in middle childhood. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness,
107(6), 524-528.
* Kelly, S. M. (2013). Labor force participation rates among
working-age individuals with visual impairments. Journal of Visual
Blindness, 107(6), 509-513.
* Kirchner, C.,
& Smith,
B. (2005). Transition to what? Education and employment outcomes for
visually impaired youths after high school. Journal of Visual Impairment &
Blindness, 99(8), 499.
* Paul, K. I.,
Moser, K. (2009). Unemployment impairs mental health: Meta-analyses. Journal
of Vocational Behavior, 74(3), 264-282.
* Price, R. H., Friedland, D. S.,
20identity.pdf> & Vinokur. A. D. (1998). Job loss: Hard times and eroded
identity.In J.H. Harvey, ed., Perspectives on loss: A sourcebook (pp.
303-316). Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis.
* RespectAbilityUSA. (2014). Nationwide poll of people with
disabilities, family members, close friends, professionals, and volunteers
in the disability community.

* Silva, J. M. (2012). Constructing adulthood in an age of
uncertainty. American Sociological Review, 77(4), 505-522.

* Wolffe, K. (2011). Pre-employment Programme Trainer's Manual.
London: Royal National Institute of Blind People.


AFB would like to thank Dr. Stacy Kelly, Policy Research Consultant and
Assistant Professor in the Northern Illinois University Visual Disabilities
Program, for her work on this article.

Follow this link to visit Northern Illinois University Visual Disabilities
Program <


If you have questions about this edition of the Research Navigator or other
research/stats issues related to blindness/visual impairments, please
contact AFB's Senior Policy Researcher, Rebecca Sheffield.

Follow this link to email Rebecca Sheffield <
mailto:rsheffield at afb.net> .

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