[Pibe-division] Blind and Visually Impaired Adult Rehabilitation and Employment Survey:Final Results

Dr. Denise M. Robinson dmehlenbacher at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 4 12:11:14 CDT 2013


Excellent...Thank you for sharing

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--- On Thu, 4/4/13, Edward Bell <ebell at latech.edu> wrote:

From: Edward Bell <ebell at latech.edu>
Subject: [Pibe-division] Blind and Visually Impaired Adult Rehabilitation and Employment Survey:Final Results
To: "NOMCT Committee" <certificationtrainersnomct at lists.nbpcb.org>, "NOMC mailing list" <nomc at nbpcb.org>, nclb at lists.nbpcb.org, pibe-division at nfbnet.org, "Rehab Mailing list" <rehab at nfbnet.org>
Date: Thursday, April 4, 2013, 2:33 PM



 
 




Blind and Visually Impaired Adult Rehabilitation and 
Employment Survey:Final Results
 
By Edward C. Bell, Ph.D. and Natalia M. 
Mino
 
Edward C. Bell, Ph.D., serves as director of the Professional 
Development and Research Institute on Blindness, Louisiana Tech 
University.
 
Abstract
Individuals who are legally blind or visually impaired in the 
United States have long suffered high rates of unemployment. The purpose of this 
study was to determine the current employment status of these individuals and to 
analyze its consistency with federal reports. The study also examined 
demographic factors, education, civic involvement, and rehabilitation 
experiences of this population in order to determine whether some of the factors 
could be identified as contributing to the employment outcomes. Results showed 
that the employment rate for individuals who are legally blind/visually impaired 
is 37%, which is consistent with previous research. Findings show that a gender 
gap still exists, with a significant difference in annual earnings between men 
and women. Education and rehabilitation-related factors seemed to impact 
employment outcomes; where higher educational attainment is associated with 
better employment outcomes. In addition, those individuals who were trained 
under the Structured Discovery approach were more likely to be employed and to 
have higher earnings than those who did not. Finally, for individuals who read 
Braille on a weekly basis and used a white cane, the likelihood of being 
employed and receiving higher earnings was higher than those who did not use 
these tools.
 
Keywords
Rehabilitation Research, Employment Outcomes, Education, training 
centers, Braille, Cane Travel; Structured Discovery 



Adult Rehabilitation and Employment Survey
This study sought to describe the current employment status of 
individuals who are blind and visually impaired (VI) in the U.S. and to examine 
its consistency with federal reports. In addition, it explored those factors 
that might have an impact on employment status for this section of the 
population. In order to do so, a summary of the most current federal data is 
included, followed by a review of the literature that analyze the employment 
situation of people with disabilities in the U.S. and, more specifically, those 
factors related to an increase in employment outcomes by blind and VI 
individuals.
Employment Status of Blind and VI Individuals: Federal 
Reports
The 2010 U.S. Census reports that the total population in the 
United States is 308,746,538. According to the provisional report for the 2010 
National Health Interview Survey, 21.5 million American adults age 18 and older 
reported experiencing vision loss (defined as individuals who reported that they 
have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as 
those who reported that they are blind or unable to see at all). By December 
2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that approximately 2 million 
individuals from 16 to 64 years old were identified as having vision loss 
according to the Current Population Survey (CPS) for all working age adults (16 
to 64 years of age). Of them, 63.6% were not in the civilian labor force (i.e., 
those who were identified as "not in the labor force" were not actively looking 
for work during the reported month, and thus not included in the unemployment 
rate, even though they were not employed as well). Of the 36.4% who were in the 
labor force, 13.8% were unemployed. However, the employment to population ratio 
showed that of the 2 million working age adults with vision loss, only 31.3% 
were employed (American Foundation for the Blind, 2012). These data are similar 
to that of Bell (2010) who reported that by 2007, only 37% of adults who were 
legally blind exiting the vocational rehabilitation (VR) system were achieving 
competitive employment. 
The present study analyzed how the above reports are reflected in 
the current employment situation of blind and VI individuals. And, more 
importantly, whether specific rehabilitation, education, and/or civic factors 
could be identified that might be indicative of increased employment. 
Disability, Employment, and the Vocational Rehabilitation 
System
In the pursuit of employment, each person, especially those with 
significant disabilities, has to navigate a whole host of social services, 
institutions, and processes that are aimed at assisting them in achieving their 
vocational goals. These include the state-federal VR process (Schriner, 2001; 
Schroeder, 2000); public financial support, such as Social Security Disability 
Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Vaughn & Omvig, 
2005); and an entire array of education and employment preparation institutions 
(Amato, 2009; Hershenson, 1998; Jeanmarie & Strauser, 2000). For those who 
have successfully achieved employment, these social systems worked, in some form 
or fashion, to facilitate success. While for many others, these same systems 
have served as a land minefield, with continual road blocks, delays, and dead 
ends. 
The most commonly reported research in the area of employment 
outcomes comes from secondary analysis of existing databases, such as the RSA VR 
closure system, to identify variables that correlate with employment outcomes. 
For example, Randolph (2004) found that disability status was the variable that 
presented the strongest negative correlation with employment. The author 
determined that disability status was a strong negative predictor of employment, 
particularly of being competitively employed. He found that females with a 
disability, who were less educated and who had young children, were less likely 
to be employed.
A study by Ozawa and Yeo (2006) compared the employment outcomes 
of individuals with mild and severe disabilities with those having no disability 
(it is important to notice that of the factors that the authors used to classify 
individuals into mild or severe disability groups, the use of a wheelchair, 
white cane, or similar aid for more than 6 months was one of the most relevant). 
The results showed that the rate of employment was inversely related to the 
degree of disability. From the group of respondents with no disability 83.04% 
were employed, while those in the mild disabilities group and the severe 
disabilities group were employed at 69.94% and 51.54% respectively. These 
authors found, as did Randolph (2004), that disability affects two main aspects 
of work performance: the likelihood of working and monthly earnings. The 
probabilities of working were significantly less for respondents with severe 
disabilities than for those with mild or with no disability. Monthly earnings of 
both respondents with mild disabilities and with severe disabilities were lower 
than those of people with no disability. According to Baldwin and Schumacher 
(2002), not only the chances of obtaining a job and earnings are negatively 
correlated to disability status, but also job mobility. Workers with 
disabilities were more likely to experience involuntary job changes than 
nondisabled workers. 
Martz and Xu (2008) analyzed the demographic and service-related 
predictors of employment among individuals with disabilities who received VR 
services and who exited from a state-federal system in a U.S. southern state. 
Having a sample composed of clients who received VR services from the Tennessee 
Division of the Rehabilitation Services (TDRS) during the years of 1998-2004, 
this study showed that those individuals with learning disabilities had the 
highest employment rate (93.3%) and the ones that presented the lowest 
employment rate were individuals with visual disabilities (78.7%). For this 
later group, gender and age were significant predictors of employment outcome, 
with women being less likely to be employed. 
The next section summarizes findings on predictors of employment 
specifically for the blind and VI population.
Blindness, Employment, and the Vocational Rehabilitation 
System
Warren-Peace (2009) analyzed outcomes and predictors of employment 
and the differences between clients who were legally blind and clients with 
other disabilities. With this framework, the RSA-911 data for Fiscal Year 2007 
was used. Results showed that approximately 34% of consumers with legal 
blindness were closed competitively, while 29.5% of individuals in this same 
group were closed in non-competitive employment (i.e., homemaker and unpaid 
family worker). This is in sharp contrast to other disability groups, where 
non-competitive employment was only 1.5%. Of the total of noncompetitive 
closures, clients who were legally blind represented 43.6%. This suggested that 
out of the 19 disability types included in this study, just the legally blind 
group accounted for a significant amount of the total of noncompetitive closures 
in FY 2007.
According to the literature, there are several factors that 
predict employment for the blind and VI. Among them, educational level, age, 
training in blindness skills, and visual status remain consistent across the 
research studies. Leonard, D'Allura, and Horowitz (1999) found that both 
achieving a higher educational level and attending an integrated school setting 
for most of one’s schooling was associated with being employed. In addition, the 
use of printed material as a primary reading medium, employment related skills 
(computer, typing, and use of public transportation), psychosocial variables 
(overall satisfaction with social contact and receipt of encouragement from 
family and friends), vision rehabilitation service, and technology training were 
associated with being employed. In relation to those factors that predicted 
employment in higher level positions, they identified higher level of education, 
technology training, orientation and mobility (O&M) training, and fewer 
hours of rehabilitation teaching. 
In addition to the receipt of education services that resulted in 
a certificate or degree, Capella-McDonnall (2005) concluded that having worked 
since the onset of the disability, the reason for applying to rehabilitation for 
services, and a high-quality relationship between the client and rehabilitation 
counselor were the greatest predictors of an employment outcome. In contrast, 
McDonnall and Crudden (2009) concluded that an involvement with the VR counselor 
was not associated with employment. In this later study, the results showed that 
work experience, academic competence, self-determination, use of assistive 
technology, and locus of control were all significant predictors of employment 
in transition-age youth with blindness. Cavenaugh, Giesen, and Steinman (2006) 
also found that the education level reached and the age at the time of 
application, followed by the presence of a secondary disability, and 
race/ethnicity were strong predictors of employment. 
Regarding visual status, Leonard et al (1999) found that this 
factor had an important impact on employment outcomes, since those individuals 
who were blind were more likely to be employed in higher level positions than 
those who were partially sighted. A study by Darensbourg (2013) also revealed 
that the severity of vision loss was a statistically significant predictor of 
competitive employment outcomes, however, in this study those consumers with 
lesser vision loss where more likely to be competitively employed. On the other 
hand, the study of Cavenaugh et al (2006) showed that the severity of the 
disability was the strongest predictor of acceptance for VR services.
The results of the study conducted by Warren-Peace (2009) revealed 
that the likelihood of obtaining competitive employment after receiving services 
from VR was greater for those consumers who were legally blind without a 
secondary disability; were male; African American, Hispanic, or Multiple 
race/ethnicity; had a personal income as a primary source of support at 
application; and attained a special education certificate or college degree. As 
well as visual status, Darensbourg (2013) found that the variables that were the 
most statistically significant predictors of competitive employment outcomes for 
individuals with blindness or visually impairment were weekly earnings at 
application, source of referral (self-referral), gender (male), and not 
receiving Medicaid.
Besides predicting competitive employment, some of the factors 
mentioned so far also predicted higher earnings. For consumers with visual 
impairments who were competitively employed through the state-federal VR system 
during Fiscal Year 1997, Capella (2001) concluded that age, educational level, 
and case expenditures were some of the factors accounting for differences in 
earnings. Of these three, age was the most significant predictor; clients with 
visual impairments that were older tended to receive lower earnings. Education 
also had impact on earnings, since the higher the level of education, the higher 
the earnings. Finally, some of the variance in earnings was explained by case 
expenditures, whereby the greater amount of money that was spent on a case, the 
higher the earnings at closure was for consumers. 
An additional factor that seemed to have a significant impact on 
employment outcomes and earnings for individuals who were blind and VI was the 
type of agency (separated or combined/general) that served these clients. 
Cavenaugh, Giesen, and Pierce (2000) concluded that the mean earnings at closure 
of legally blind consumers were significantly higher in separate agencies than 
in combined agencies. In addition, Warren-Peace (2009) found that the type of 
agency seemed to be a relevant predictor of competitive employment outcomes. 
Those consumers who received services from a separate agency for the blind had 
more chances to be closed in an integrated work setting. Capella (2001), 
however, found that the type of agency that served these clients was not a 
significant factor impacting on earnings. 
From a different perspective, Golub (2006) studied the factors 
that contributed to successful work experiences for employees from the 
perspective of their employers. This study revealed that, according to the 
employers, important factors included employee being comfortable with his/her 
disability, being an ambassador for blindness by eliminating awkwardness in 
relationships, and insisting on being held to the same standard as his/her 
coworkers. In addition, this study found that the key to success for employees 
was skills of blindness. He/she should possess updated O&M, Braille and 
assistive technology skills, and a variety of strategies to cope in case a 
system fails. Furthermore, during interviews candidates should demonstrate their 
competence and have specific ideas for how to manage the details of the work and 
transportation challenges.
The literature also accounts for studies that have analyzed those 
factors that are considered barriers for employment. Crudden and McBroom (1999) 
for example, found that attitudes of employers and the general public, 
transportation problems, and a lack of access to print, adaptive equipment, and 
accommodations were the most relevant. Visual status also seemed to play a role 
when analyzing barriers to employment since individuals who were partially 
sighted had more issues with transportation than those who were totally blind. 
Those who were blind as opposed to VI, however, had more problems with the 
skills or attitudes of rehabilitation counselors or placement staff. When asked 
about the most important thing the rehabilitation counselor did to help the 
participants to find employment, they mentioned help in locating jobs, arranging 
interviews, and providing job references; provision of education and training or 
equipment; and provision of counseling and emotional support. However, of the 
total sample, only 39% of the participants believed that VR services helped them 
to obtain their jobs. The rest of them believed that rehabilitation services 
helped them to improve their performances, that the services made them more 
competitive with those nondisabled workers, and that the services helped them to 
maintain their jobs.
Finally, Bell (2010) offers one of the most current analyses on 
the competitive employment rates for VR consumers who were legally blind. 
Results from fiscal year 1997 to 2007 (obtained by using the RSA-911 data 
system) showed an average employ­ment rate of 31.79%, which was 
significantly higher than the 25.1% reported by Cavenaugh (1999) based on data 
from FY 1995. In fact, the Competitive Consumer Rates have shown a steady climb 
from 27% in 1997 up to a high of 37% in 2007. In addition, earnings of consumers 
had also increased. Some of the factors that seemed to impact employment 
outcomes were gender, race, education, and veteran status. Results demonstrated 
that men earned $0.63 more an hour than women in 1997, and this increased by 
2007 to a $0.86 difference on average. In addition, while the average spread 
between earnings was about $6.00 in 1997, the variability in earnings had 
increased to nearly $12 for men but only $8 for women. On the other hand, Native 
Americans had less employment in 1997 than the other racial groups, and this 
group remained substantially behind by 2007. Asian/Pacific Islanders earned the 
highest average wages and Black/African Americans earned the lowest average 
hourly rates. Those with a master’s degree or higher had almost a 40% greater 
chance of being employed and had $4.00 an hour more in earnings than did 
individuals with less than a high school degree. In addition, American veterans 
were underrepresented in the RSA-911 data system, and where they were identified 
the rates of employment were 19%.
White cane for mobility. When analyzing the 
impact of using a cane and having received O&M training on employment 
outcomes, this factor appears to be important when obtaining a job in higher 
level positions (Leonard et al 1999). In addition, from the perspective of 
employers, having O&M skills was a factor that contributed to successful 
work experiences for employees (Golub, 2006). In his literature review, Miller 
(2002) addresses the important role that both O&M instructors and 
rehabilitation teachers have as employment resources. They not only provide the 
training that leads to employment but since they spend more time with the 
consumers than the counselor in a community-based setting, they have the chance 
to explore a consumer’s vocational interests and complement the rehabilitation 
counselor’s job.
As it is well known in the field of O&M, there are two main 
philosophical approaches that outline two different training methods: the 
conventional approach and the alternative approach or Structured Discovery Cane 
Travel (SDCT) (Omvig, 2005). SDCT instructional service offers to individuals 
who are blind or VI the opportunity to learn independence and build 
self-confidence in a meaningful and permanent approach. SDCT is rooted on 
non-visual techniques, problem- solving skills, and confidence-building learning 
experiences (National Blindness Professional Certification Board, 2012). It is 
based on experiential learning and it remains neutral regarding the instructor’s 
perceptual experience, transferring the focus on the instructor’s vision to the 
cognitive processes that are involved in an orientation and mobility lesson. The 
success of cane travel depends upon the way in which the student is able to 
cognitively process the information (Mettler, 2008). SDCT also applies 
principles of the Socratic questioning, (i.e., the asking of strategic questions 
to guide the learner in solving the problem autonomously), and strongly relies 
on the role modeling of non-visual techniques, which encourages the discrediting 
of public misconceptions about blindness (National Blindness Professional 
Certification Board, 2012).
The literature is not extensive about the effectiveness of the 
different types of O&M training that those individuals who are blind or VI 
receive and their impact on employment outcomes. However, in his study, Aditya 
(2004) made an attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of the SDCT approach. The 
author hypothesized that because of the philosophical and methodological 
differences between the conventional and alternative approaches related to 
functional independence, individuals trained in the alternative approach will 
score higher on a measure of functional independence than those trained in the 
conventional approach. In this survey the data about the method of training was 
not directly obtained, however, it was replaced by examining the variable of 
cane size, given that the “NFB” canes are employed almost exclusively in the 
alternative approach, while the shorter, folding, aluminum or graphite canes are 
predominately utilized in conventional programs. Therefore, the item of cane 
size was recoded into a dichotomous variable to reflect the two training 
approaches. The descriptive statistics revealed that the differences were in the 
expected direction. The within-group variances between those who were trained in 
the alternative approach and those who were trained in the conventional approach 
were noticeably different. Aditya (2004) reported that individuals who were 
trained with a long, white cane had significantly higher ability and activity in 
matters of independent living. 
Braille. One of the most cited studies in the 
field conducted by Ryles (1996) revealed that reading Braille was one main skill 
that predicted, for congenitally legally blind adults, higher employment rates 
and higher education levels than reading print as original medium. The main 
results showed that those individuals that utilized Braille as their primary 
reading medium had a significantly lower unemployment rate (44%) that those who 
utilize print as the original reading medium. The author affirmed that even 
though reading Braille as a primary medium did not increase an individual’s 
opportunities for employment, those who learned Braille when they were children 
and used Braille extensively as their primary reading medium, were employed at a 
higher rate. However, those who learned Braille after using print did not have a 
higher employment rate than those who never read Braille. According to Golub 
(2006), employers believed that possessing updated Braille skills represented an 
important factor that contributed to successful work experiences for their 
employees. 
Papadopoulos and Koutsoklenis (2009) conducted a study with higher 
education Greek students and graduates who were VI in order to explore the use 
of different reading media. They found out that the most significant predictors 
of the frequency of use of Braille were visual status, age at the loss of sight, 
and training in Braille. Specifically, the frequency of use of Braille declined 
with the increase in the age at which sight was lost, but increased with 
training in Braille. The authors concluded that a well-established tendency to 
use technology could lead to a further decline in the frequency of Braille use 
in Greece. For this reason they stated that efforts should be made to enhance 
the use of Braille, and since in Greece the frequency of Braille use decreases 
with the increase in age at time of loss, they recommended the development of 
intensive Braille courses for people who become visually impaired at a later 
age.
Little agreement exists over the type, nature, intensity, 
structure, and model of training that is most effective (Ryles, 2008). Some 
training models report that the learning of Braille is a requirement for all 
individuals who enter the program (Mayo, Allen, & Deden, 2008) while others 
report that only 20% of individuals attending training elect to learn Braille 
(Ponchillia & Durant, 1996). It is commonly reported that 85% of adults who 
read Braille are employed (Ryles, 1996; Spungin, 1990), yet disagreement still 
rages over what constitutes best practice for the teaching of Braille.
Consumer and civic involvement. Existing 
literature has demonstrated the key role that family support plays in sustaining 
effective outcomes (Bennetts, 2003; Whelley, Radtke, R., Burgstahler, S., & 
Christ, T., 2003). The role of advisors, peers, and other peer-to-peer 
interactions has also been cited as important in the rehabilitation process 
(Hall & McGregor, 2000; Whelley, et al., 2003). Both formal as well as 
informal models of mentoring have been demonstrated as effective mediators in 
education, employment, and career decision making (Bell, 2012; Hall & 
McGregor, 2000; Marks & Feeley, 1995). Community and civic participation, 
such as religious affiliation, social clubs, and civic organizations, further 
help to support interest and engagement in employment (Nagle, 2001; Vaughn & 
Omvig, 2005). Finally, specifically for members of the target population, 
self-reports and anecdotal evidence suggest that membership in a consumer 
organization is an essential element in the rehabilitation process 
(Beck-Winchatz & Riccobono, 2008; Omvig, 2005; Phelps, 2005). However, the 
stories of many individuals who are blind tell of families who were over 
protective (Omvig, 2002), of communities that put up restrictions (Ferguson, 
2001), and of support groups that promoted unemployment and dependence (Vaughn 
& Omvig, 2005). What research needs to accomplish is to tease out how these 
factors serve as facilitators rather than deterrents so that training and 
education can impact greater growth and evolution. 
Crudden and McBroom (1999) conducted a study that demonstrated 
that among the reasons participants thought they were successful in overcoming 
barriers to employment was the importance of developing networking and mentoring 
opportunities. Role models appeared to be a relevant variable in maintaining 
motivation. They serve as examples to others and provide helpful insight on how 
to address some of the employment barriers. According to participants in this 
study, rehabilitation providers usually do not encourage mentoring opportunities 
or contact with role models who are visually impaired. The authors stated that 
referrals to consumer organizations could assist those who seek employment in 
generating support systems.
Even though there is a lack of empirical studies about the impact 
of a consumer affiliation on employment outcomes, there are sufficient 
testimonies of blind individuals who express the opinion that their involvement 
in a consumer organization changed their lives completely. Omvig (2002) stated 
the NFB has been a key in his life and the lives of many blind individuals. He 
emphasizes the importance that competent and successful blind people who are 
part of this organization have as positive role models. These role models are 
the living proof that with proper training and opportunity, blind people can 
live normal, successful, and meaningful lives. And this is what they pass along 
to the new generations. 
Purpose of the study. The purpose of the current 
study was to capture a snapshot of the employment status of individuals who are 
legally blind and/or VI across the United States. Furthermore, this study sought 
to examine demographic factors, education, civic involvement, and rehabilitation 
experiences of this population in order to determine whether any state factors 
(i.e., those which are changeable through education or training) could be 
identified as contributing to the employment outcomes of these individuals. 
Research Questions. The following research 
questions served as the guiding principles for this study. 
Q1: What is the employment rate for adults who are blind/VI in a 
national sample, and how does this rate compare to existing research findings on 
the subject? 
Q2: Are specific demographic factors (i.e., age, gender, racial 
identity, visual status) associated with greater or lesser rates of employment 
and wages for this population? 
Q3: Can social and civic factors (i.e., civic 
involvement, affiliation with consumer organizations) be identified that are 
associated with higher rates of employment and wages for this population?
Q4: 
Can education and rehabilitation-related factors (i.e., college, adjustment 
training, etc.) be identified that are associated with increased rates of 
employment and wages for this population? 
Method
Participants
The participants for this survey were drawn from legally blind and 
VI adults of working age (i.e., 18-70 years old) from across the United States. 
Complete data were obtained from 1,056 individuals who were an average age of 
46.47 years (SD=13.81, Range=18-87). These individuals were representative of 
595 females (56.34%) and 461 males (43.66%), who were 90 African Americans 
(8.52%), 35 Asian Americans (3.31%), 56 Hispanics/Latinos (including Puerto 
Ricans) (5.30%), eight Native Americans/Alaska Natives (0.76%), four Native 
Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (0.38%), 836 Whites or Caucasians (79.17%), and 27 
who reported being of other or mixed races (2.56%).
Instruments
The instruments that were used for this study included the Adult 
Rehabilitation and Employment Survey (ARES), which consisted of 79 variables, 
covering (a) general demographics including living situation; (b) VR and 
adjustment training experiences; (c) civic and consumer organization 
affiliation; (d) educational attainment; (e) employment characteristics; and (f) 
a request to participate in future research. 
Procedures
All participants first read (or were read to) an informed consent 
document that outlined the purpose of the study, characteristics of requested 
participants (i.e., blind/VI adults of working age), and a notice that their 
participation was completely voluntary. This study was reviewed and approved by 
the host university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Interested persons were 
provided two options for participation: (1) they could complete the survey 
online by visiting the provided URL; or (2) they were invited to contact the 
office of the principal investigator and have the survey read to them by a 
research assistant over the phone. The survey took approximately ten minutes to 
complete. Data were collected between March 15 and August 31, 2011. 
Recruitment. The purpose of this survey was to 
obtain a snapshot of the cross section of rehabilitation, education, and 
employment situation of adults with legal blindness/visual impairment in the 
United States. As such, a host of methods were employed to reach individuals 
from a cross section of society and socioeconomic status. The invitation to 
participate in the survey was distributed on all available listservs of the two 
largest consumer organizations of the blind (i.e., the American Council of the 
Blind (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)). The invitation was 
sent electronically to every state-operated library for the blind in each 
regional office with a request to have it distributed to library patrons. The 
invitation was sent electronically to all fifty VR agencies who serve the 
blind/VI population, to the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, 
and related rehabilitation membership organizations. The request for 
participation was sent to more than 80 rehabilitation and adjustment training 
facilities electronically, and more than 2,000 requests were also sent in 
print/Braille to those training centers that were willing to distribute the 
announcement. In addition, 3,000 print/Braille flyers were distributed to the 
participants of the 2011 annual convention of the NFB; 1,200 were distributed to 
the participants of the 2011 annual convention of the ACB; and 200 were 
distributed to the participants of the Blinded Veterans of America Conference. 
Requests were sent on more than ten periodic newsletters and periodical 
publications, were posted on Facebook and other social media outlets, and were 
passed on by word of mouth. 
Results
Demographics
Beyond age, gender, and racial group identity, the following data 
were captured to provide an understanding of the make up of the sample 
population that comprised this study. The respondents were representative of all 
50 states, with the fewest respondents being from North Dakota (n = 2) and the 
largest representation coming from Texas (n = 75). They self-reported being 702 
individuals who are blind (66.48%) and 354 reported being visually impaired 
(33.52%) (See Table 1).
Table 1 – Demographics


  
  
    
      Age
    
       
    
       
  
    
      n
    
      Mean
    
      SD
  
    
      1056
    
      46.47
    
      13.81
  
    
       
    
      Range
    
      18-87
  
    
       
    
       
    
       
  
    
      Gender
    
      Frequency
    
      Percent
  
    
       Female
    
      595
    
      56.34
  
    
       Male
    
      461
    
      43.66
  
    
      Total
    
      1056
    
      100
  
    
       
    
       
    
       
  
    
      Race/Ethnicity
    
      Frequency
    
      Percent
  
    
      African American, Black
    
      90
    
      8.52
  
    
      Asian American, Asian
    
      35
    
      3.31
  
    
      Hispanic, Latino (including Puerto Rican)
    
      56
    
      5.3
  
    
      Native American, Alaska Native
    
      8
    
      0.76
  
    
      Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander
    
      4
    
      0.38
  
    
      Other
    
      27
    
      2.56
  
    
      White or Caucasian
    
      836
    
      79.17
  
    
      Total
    
      1056
    
      100
  
    
       
       
    
       
    
       
  
    
      Vision Status
    
      Frequency
    
      Percent
  
    
      Blind
    
      702
    
      66.48
  
    
      Visually Impaired
    
      354
    
      33.52
  
    
      Total
    
      1056
    
      100
Data were collected on additional demographics, such as marital 
status, living situation, and the community of residence. The majority of 
participants (51%) reported that they live in their own home that they are 
purchasing, with the smallest proportion (2%) who reported living in a dormitory 
or similar institution. The largest segment of this population are currently 
married (45%), while just under two percent report being widowed. By far, the 
majority of this sample (57%) report that they do not have any children, while 
the next largest grouping (17%) report having two children. While others report 
having one, three, four or five children, less than two percent (1.5%) report 
having six or more children. When looking at the size of the community in which 
individuals reside, the majority (23%) lived in small communities of less than 
25,000 residence, with the second largest concentration (22%) living in small 
communities of between 25,000 and 75,000. The third largest grouping of 
individuals resided in large cities with populations above one million, and the 
remainder fell into mid-size communities (See Table 2). 
Table 2 – Family and Community


  
  
    
Living 
      Situation
    
      Frequency
    
      percent
  
    
      Live alone and/or with others in house/condo that I own or am 
      purchasing
    
      541
    
      51.23
  
    
      Live alone and/or with others in apartment or rental property that I 
      pay for
    
      300
    
      28.41
  
    
      Live at home with parents or in someone else’s home
    
      130
    
      12.31
  
    
      Live in dormitory or other institution
    
      25
    
      2.37
  
    
      Share an apartment or rental property with room mates
    
      60
    
      5.68
  
    
      Total
    
      1056
    
      100
  
    
       
    
       
    
       
  
    
      Marital Status
    
      Frequency
    
      Percent
  
    
       Divorced
    
      107
    
      10.13
  
    
       Married
    
      475
    
      44.98
  
    
       Separated
    
      22
    
      2.08
  
    
       Single
    
      353
    
      33.43
  
    
       Widow or widower
    
      18
    
      1.7
  
    
       With significant other person
    
      81
    
      7.67
  
    
      Total
    
      1056
    
      99.99
  
    
       
    
       
    
       
  
    
      Raising Children
    
      Frequency
    
      Percent
  
    
      No, I have no children
    
      605
    
      57.29
  
    
      1 child
    
      133
    
      12.59
  
    
      2 children
    
      176
    
      16.67
  
    
      3 children
    
      80
    
      7.58
  
    
      4 children
    
      35
    
      3.31
  
    
      5 children
    
      11
    
      1.04
  
    
      6 or more children
    
      16
    
      1.52
  
    
      Total
    
      1056
    
      100
  
    
       
    
       
    
       
  
    
      Population of Your Community
    
      Frequency
    
      Percent
  
    
      1-25,000 People
    
      245
    
      23.2
  
    
      25,001—75,000 People
    
      240
    
      22.73
  
    
      75,001—150,000 People
    
      121
    
      11.46
  
    
      150,001—250,000 People
    
      104
    
      9.85
  
    
      250,001—500,000 People
    
      89
    
      8.43
  
    
      500,001—1,000,000 People
    
      121
    
      11.46
  
    
      1,000,001—2,000,001—larger
    
      136
    
      12.88
  
    
      Total
    
      1056
    
      100.01
Vocational Rehabilitation and Education
The next set of questions was designed to gain information related 
to VR, and in particular, the attainment of adjustment to vision loss training. 
Individuals were asked whether they had an active case with their state’s VR 
agency. Forty-two individuals (3.98%) stated that they have never had a VR case, 
while 26 were unsure or did not know (2.46%). Of the remaining 94%, 577 
individuals (54.64%) reported having once had a VR case, but that it is closed 
now, while 411 individuals (38.92%) reported they still maintain an open VR 
case. When asked whether or not the individual ever received adjustment to 
blindness training (i.e., mobility with a white cane, Braille, or daily living 
skills), 191 individuals (18.09%) reported that they have never received any 
sort of formal skill training based on visual impairment. Another 501 
individuals (47.44%) reported having completed (or graduated) from either a 
residential or day-training program. Another 119 individuals (11.26%) stated 
that they attended a residential or day program, but that they did not complete 
their training program. Finally, 252 individuals (23.86%) reported that they 
attended multiple forms of training, and/or that they received training in their 
home or school. 
While there are many forms of rehabilitation and adjustment 
training, this study focused only on cane and Braille. For those who did receive 
some sort of adjustment training, they were asked about their training/use of a 
white cane for mobility. There were 777 individuals who reported having been 
taught to use a cane. These individuals were at an average of 23.67 years of age 
(SD = 15.62, Range = 2—78) when they were first taught. Of the total sample, 152 
stated “No, the use of a cane was not taught” (14.39%). The remaining 
individuals stated, “I learned a little about cane use” (n = 76, 7.20%); “I was 
taught using a white cane that measured between my sternum and chin” (n = 513, 
48.58%); and “I was taught with a long cane that measured between my chin and 
nose” (n = 315, 29.83%). When respondents were asked whether they currently use 
a white cane for mobility, 247 stated that they did not use a cane for mobility 
(23.39%). Of the remaining 544 individuals, (51.52%) stated that they use a cane 
all of the time, and 265 individuals (25.09%) reported using a cane some of the 
time. When asked about the size and structure of the cane that is preferred for 
current use, 334 individuals (39.57%) said, “A folding cane, that is lower than 
my chin in height;” 171 individuals (20.26%) said, “A folding or telescoping 
cane that is above my chin in height;” 249 individuals (29.50%) said, “A rigid 
cane that is above my chin in height;” 40 individuals (4.74%) said, “A rigid 
cane, that is lower than my chin in height;” and 50 individuals (5.92%) stated 
that they used another type of cane/mobility device.
Similarly, participants were asked about their training/use of 
Braille. There were 674 individuals who reported being taught Braille at an 
average of 18.32 years of age (SD = 15.54, Range = 3—78). Of the entire sample, 
765 stated that they were taught Braille (72.44%), while 291 reported that they 
had not been taught Braille (27.56%). When these participants were asked whether 
or not they currently read Braille on a daily or weekly basis, 613 stated that 
they currently read Braille (58.05%), and 443 stated that they do not currently 
read Braille (41.95%). 
With respect to participant education, respondents were asked 
about their educational standing before they received any rehabilitation 
training, and then again after the receipt of any vocational training. Table 3 
provides a side by side comparison of the number and percentage of individuals 
by educational level before and after rehabilitation training. As can be seen 
from the table, a majority of individuals significantly increased their 
educational attainment, from pre to post training. When respondents were asked 
whether they attributed their rehabilitation training to their advances in 
education, 141 individuals (13.45%) stated that they did not attend 
rehabilitation and adjustment training. Of the remaining, 201 individuals 
(19.03%) stated that their rehabilitation did not help them to increase their 
educational attainment, while another 282 individuals (26.70%) were not sure. 
This meant that 432 individuals (40.1%) of respondents felt that their 
rehabilitation training was either somewhat helpful, or was instrumental in 
their ability to increase in their educational attainment. 
Table 3 -- Education


  
  
    
Education 
      
Before VR
    
      Frequency
    
      Percent
    
      Education
After 
      VR
    
      Frequency
    
      Percent
  
    
      Less than High School
    
      194
    
      18.37
    
      Less than High School
    
      13
    
      1.23
  
    
      High School diploma/GED
    
      349
    
      33.05
    
      High School diploma/GED
    
      49
    
      4.64
  
    
      Some college, but no degree
    
      148
    
      14.02
    
      Some college, but no degree
    
      141
    
      13.35
  
    
      Associates Degree/AA
    
      50
    
      4.73
    
      Associates Degree/AA
    
      76
    
      7.2
  
    
      Vocational or Trade school
    
      15
    
      1.42
    
      Vocational or Trade school
    
      53
    
      5.02
  
    
      Bachelor’s/undergraduate degree
    
      147
    
      13.92
    
      Bachelor’s/undergraduate degree
    
      246
    
      23.3
  
    
      Master’s/Graduate Degree
    
      72
    
      6.82
    
      Master’s/Graduate Degree
    
      238
    
      22.54
  
    
      Law Degree
    
      12
    
      1.14
    
      Law Degree
    
      21
    
      1.99
  
    
      Doctorate degree/post graduate training
    
      17
    
      1.61
    
      Doctorate degree/post graduate training
    
      46
    
      4.36
  
    
      Not sure or 
Not applicable
    
      52
    
      4.92
    
      Not sure or 
Not applicable
    
      173
    
      16.38
  
    
      Pre Training
    
      1056
    
      100
    
      Post Training
    
      1056
    
      100.01
Consumer and Civic Involvement
Individuals were asked whether they participated in any consumer 
organizations of the blind. There were 226 individuals (21.40%) who affiliated 
with the (ACB); 49 individuals (4.64%) who affiliated with both the ACB and NFB; 
457 individuals (43.28%) who associated with the NFB; and 324 individuals 
(30.68%) who are not members of any consumer organization. In attempting to 
determine the level or extent of consumer organizational affiliation, 330 
individuals (31.25%) reiterated that they do not participate in consumer 
organizations; 397 individuals (37.59%) stated that they are members, but hold 
no leadership positions; 253 individuals (23.96%) reported holding local or 
state leadership positions; 12 individuals (1.14%) claimed national leadership 
positions; and 64 individuals (6.06%) stated that they hold several positions at 
the local, state, and/or national level. 
Information was also sought with respect to the frequency with 
which participants participated in other community and/or civic activities in 
their local communities. All individuals participated in at least one 
extracurricular event, and a large number participated in a number of different 
activities. Of the sample, 541 individuals (51.23%) stated that they participate 
in their local church, synagogue, or place of worship. As many as 185 
individuals (17.51%) reported holding leadership positions within their church. 
One-hundred ninety-four individuals (18.37%) participate in music or theatre; 
111 individuals (10.51%) compete on local sports or athletic teams; 114 
individuals (10.79%) are members of Kiwanis, Rotary, or other business groups; 
and 200 individuals (18.93%) participate in political and/or other civic groups. 

Employment
One of the major factors under consideration in this study was the 
employment situation of the population of adults who are blind/VI, and 
specifically, what role, if any, VR plays in changing this situation. As can be 
seen from Table 4, 512 individuals (48.48%) were unemployed prior to receiving 
VR services, while only 192 individuals (18.18%) were employed full time. 
Conversely, after individuals received VR services, the majority of persons, 393 
(37.22%), were employed full-time, compared to 307 individuals (29.07%) who 
remained unemployed, in addition to a 5.3% increase in the number of individuals 
who were working part-time. Of the 535 individuals who were working either full- 
or part-time at the completion of this survey, 406 individuals provided data on 
their annual salaries. For these individuals, the average annual salary was 
$40,134.12 (SD = $27,129.74, Range = $2,401.92--$180,000), with a median annual 
salary of $35,000.
Table 4 – Employment Status


  
  
    
Before 
VR
    
      Frequency
    
      Percentage
    
      After VR
    
      Frequency
    
      Percentage
  
    
      Full-time employed
    
      192
    
      18.18
    
      Full-Time  
    
      393
    
      37.22
  
    
      Part-time employed
    
      86
    
      8.14
    
      Part-Time 
    
      142
    
      13.45
  
    
      Full-time college or vocational student
    
      119
    
      11.27
    
      Full-Time College
    
      72
    
      6.82
  
    
      Volunteer part- or full-time
    
      33
    
      3.13
    
      Vol. F-P
    
      45
    
      4.26
  
    
      Full-time Homemaker
    
      26
    
      2.46
    
      Homemaker
    
      21
    
      1.99
  
    
      Retired from previous employment
    
      35
    
      3.31
    
      Retired
    
      76
    
      7.2
  
    
      Unemployed
    
      512
    
      48.48
    
      Unemployed
    
      307
    
      29.07
  
    
      N/A, I never had a VR case before
    
      53
    
      5.02
    
       
    
       
    
       
  
    
      Total
    
      1056
    
      99.99
    
      *
    
      1056
    
      100.01
Information was also collected with respect to the availability of 
fringe benefits through the place of employment. The participants reported that 
361 individuals (66.85%) had the availability of medical insurance through their 
place of work. In addition, 338 individuals (62.59%) reported having dental 
insurance available to them, and 332 individuals (61.48%) reported having 
retirement benefits/planning available to them through their work. 
Factors that Impact on Employment 
The preceding data are helpful in drawing a picture of the general 
demographic, rehabilitation, educational, and employment characteristics of the 
working-age population of individuals who are blind. With only 37% of the 
population reporting full-time employment, it is important to examine the 
demographic, rehabilitation, and educational characteristics of this sample to 
determine the factors that seem to make an impact on the attainment of 
employment. The demographic and descriptive data that have been presented so far 
are representative of the entire sample. During the analysis of the VR data, the 
first question identified that 475 individuals (45.36%) of the sample either 
still have an open VR case, or else they did not know what their VR status was. 
Consequently, 577 individuals (54.64%) of the sample reported that they did 
receive VR services, but that their VR case has now been closed. It is this 
portion of the sample whose data should be most descriptive of the employment 
situation of individuals post-rehabilitation, and therefore, the remaining 
analysis will be confined to the 577 individuals who have already received VR 
services and who should most likely be available for participation in the 
workforce. 
Demographic factors. The participant’s age, 
gender, racial/ethnic classification, and visual impairment characteristics were 
examined to determine to what effect each has on the attainment of employment. 
The data demonstrated that there was no correlation between the age of the 
consumer and the likelihood of being competitively employed; nor was there a 
relationship between age and the annual earnings of participants. 
Participants were asked to classify themselves as being either 
blind or VI. This information was sought based on a perception that those with 
lesser vision may be less employable and consequently at a greater risk for 
unemployment. The data demonstrated no significant difference based on this 
classification (F(1, 576) = 1.55, p = .21, RS.0). Those who described 
themselves as “blind” were employed at a rate of 54%, while those who classified 
themselves as “visually impaired” were employed at a rate of 49%. While a 
difference does exist based on annual earnings for these two groups, the results 
were non-significant (F(1, 294) = 3.28, p = .07, RS = .01).; with blind 
individuals earning $44,000 on average and visually impaired earning $37,623. 
With respect to gender, the data demonstrated no significant differences between 
men and women on the percentage of those who were employed (54% and 51% 
respectively); however, there was a significant difference in the annual 
earnings based on gender (F(1, 294) = 10.45, p < .01, RS = .03), 
with men earning an average of $47,424 and females earning $37,483 annually. 
Next, the participant’s self-reported racial/ethnic background was examined, and 
no significant differences were found in either the percentage of employment or 
annual earnings. 
Does participation in a national consumer organization of the 
blind/VI help such individuals with their employment prospects? Data 
demonstrated that a significant difference did exist (F(2, 576) = 5.99, 
p < .01, RS = .02), with those individuals who participate in the ACB being 
employed at a rate of 42%, those who participate in the NFB being employed at a 
rate of 59%, and those who reported no participation in a consumer organization 
for the blind being employed at a rate of 49%. Similarly, a significant 
difference exists based on annual income (F(2, 294) = 3.80, p = .02, RS 
= .02), with ACB members earning an average annual wage of $37,100; NFB members 
earning $46,200; and those who do not affiliate with either organization earning 
$38,200. 
Training factors. Beyond those characteristics of 
participants that are trait factors (i.e., demographics), it was next important 
to evaluate the impact of the state factors that were examined (i.e., education 
and rehabilitation training). Previous studies (Bell, 2010) demonstrated that 
the attainment of college education is a leading factor in increasing employment 
and so it was examined for its impact in this study. Although myriad forms of 
rehabilitation training exist, this study focused primarily on the provision of 
adjustment skills training through comprehensive residential and day training 
programs. Specific data were also obtained with respect to the use of the white 
cane and Braille, as these are the most readily identifiable tools used by 
individuals who are blind or VI.
The data demonstrate that a significant difference exists between 
the employment status of participants based on the level of education that had 
been attained (F(4, 576 = 13.09, p < .01, RS = .08). Further 
analysis showed that those who had a high school diploma or less, or who 
attended only some college were employed at a rate of 36%; those who had earned 
a baccalaureate degree were employed at a rate of 59%; those having earned a 
master’s degree were employed at a rate of 65%; and those with a law or doctoral 
degree were employed at a rate of 80%. Similarly, significant differences exist 
with respect to the annual earnings of these individuals (F(4, 296) = 
12.23, p < .01, RS = .14). These differences were represented by those 
holding a high school diploma or less earning an average annual salary of 
$31,500; those holding a baccalaureate degree earning $42,300; those holding a 
master’s degree earning $48,200; and those with a law or doctoral degree earning 
$66,900 annually.
When participants were asked whether they had completed training 
at any sort of day-time or residential program, the sample was split almost in 
half between those who had, and who had not completed training. The data 
demonstrated that the mere fact of receiving training versus not receiving 
training had no impact on employment outcomes (F(1, 576) = 0.24, p 
=.62, RS = 0). Upon further analysis, a more interesting trend was discovered. 
The data demonstrated a significant difference based on the method or type of 
training that was received (F(2, 576) = 3.78, p = .02, RS = .01). The 
data demonstrated that those individuals who completed training at a Structured 
Discovery-based training center were employed at a rate of 60%; those who 
completed training at a traditional or conventional training facility were 
employed at a rate of 47%; and those who either received training at home, or 
who received no formal skills training were employed at a rate of 56%. When the 
annualized salary of these individuals was examined, the data again showed 
significant differences (F(2, 294) = 3.98, p = .01, RS = .02). The same 
trend continued, with those who received their rehabilitation at a Structured 
Discovery-based program earning an average of $49,302; those who received their 
training at conventional centers earned an average of $38,170; and those who 
were trained at home or had no formal training earned an average of $42,753. 

Another factor that was examined in this study was recidivism 
(i.e., the returning for training multiple times). As has been noted in the 
literature, there is concern that the need for constant retraining—for example, 
when more vision diminishes--has a negative impact on employment. It is for this 
reason that Structured Discovery-based training centers endeavor to provide 
comprehensive training during one concentrated period of time. The data do in 
fact support the notion that those who return for training multiple times have 
significantly less employment than those who only obtain training a single time 
(F(3, 384) = 2.80, p = .04, RS = .02), with those who obtained training 
one time being employed at a rate of 57% and those receiving training 4 or more 
times being employed at a rate of 35%. The same trend exists with respect to 
salary (F(3, 193) = 2.81, p = .04, RS = .04), with those who attended 
training one time earning $46,766, and those obtaining training four or more 
times earning $33,275.
More specifically, this research was interested in several 
specific training variables and their impact on employment. The data 
demonstrated that 87% of participants have been taught to use a long white cane 
for mobility; however, only 54% of respondents report currently using a white 
cane for daily mobility. When these data were evaluated for their impact on 
employment, the data demonstrated that individuals who currently use a white 
cane for mobility are employed at a significantly higher rate than those who do 
not (F(1, 576) = 3.73, p = .05, RS = .006), with cane users being 
employed at a rate of 57% and those who do not use a cane being employed at a 
rate of 49%. The data were similarly significant with respect to the annual 
income of cane users (F(1, 294) = 4.77, p = .02, RS = .01), with cane 
users earning an average of $45,329, and non-cane users earning an average of 
$38,478. Stemming from the findings of Aditya (2004), the data were next 
analyzed to see if the type of cane used was related to employment outcomes. The 
data demonstrated a significant difference (F(2, 465) = 9.52, p < 
.01, RS = .03), with those who use a rigid cane that comes above the chin in 
height being employed at a rate of 66%, those who use a folding or rigid cane 
that is below the chin in height being employed at a rate of 47%, and those who 
either use an “other” device or no cane at all being employed at a rate of 34%. 
Similarly, the data demonstrated a significant difference in the annual earnings 
(F(2, 241) = 6.92, p < .01, RS = .05), with longer white cane users 
earning approximately $50,000, short/folding cane users earning $37,000, and 
other/no cane earning $49,000. 
The same data were next analyzed to determine whether the use of 
Braille had an impact on the employment status of this population. Similar to 
cane use, 75% of the participants were taught Braille at some time during their 
education or rehabilitation, but only 63% reported still using Braille on a 
daily basis. Are Braille readers employed at a higher rate than VI individuals 
who do not read Braille? The data demonstrate that the answer to this question 
is yes (F(1, 576) = 11.32, p < .01, RS = .02), with Braille readers 
being employed at a rate of 58% and those who do not read Braille being employed 
at a rate of 44%. With respect to annualized salary, the data are even more 
significant (F(1, 294) = 11.40, p < .01, RS = .03), with Braille 
readers earning an average of $45,947, and non-Braille readers earning an 
average of $34,826. With more than an $11,000 difference in annualized salary, 
there appears to be a substantial impact that Braille has on employment and 
salary. 
Taken individually, each of these factors demonstrates a 
significant impact (or association) with greater or lesser rates of employment. 
By combining the most salient factors together, the results show even more 
substantial differences in employment outcomes. Individuals who complete 
training at a Structured Discovery type of training center, continue to read 
Braille on a daily or weekly basis, use a white cane for mobility, and affiliate 
with the NFB are employed at a rate of 75%, earning an annualized salary of 
$53,600. Conversely, those individuals who received training at a conventional 
program or had no formal training, who affiliated with the ACB or no consumer 
organization, and who do not use a white cane or Braille are employed at a rate 
of 44%, earning $36,000 annually. 
Discussion
The rates of employment for individuals who are legally blind/VI 
in the United States have been low for decades. The purpose of this study was to 
describe the current employment status of these individuals and to analyze its 
consistency with federal reports and previous research. In addition, the study 
sought to examine demographic factors, education, civic involvement, and 
rehabilitation experiences of this population in order to determine whether some 
of them could be identified as contributing to the employment outcomes.
The contributions of this study are quite revealing and reliable 
since this work represents the largest field-based study in the field of 
rehabilitation for blind and VI individuals, with a national sample of 1,056 
participants. Although this study highlighted a great deal of demographic, 
education, and rehabilitation factors that impact on employment, the following 
were found to be the most salient:


  The data show that 37% of working-age adults who are blind/VI are employed 
  full-time earning a median salary of $35,000—a strikingly similar finding to 
  the federal rehabilitation and labor findings for this population. This 
  finding is also similar to those of existing research (Bell, 2010; 
  Warren-Peace, 2009), putting in evidence that there has not been a change in 
  the employment rate in the last years. 
  Of these 37% employed individuals , approximately 67% have access to 
  medical insurance through their work, 63% have access to dental insurance, and 
  61% have the availability of retirement planning.
  Although men and women who are blind/VI are employed at roughly equivalent 
  rates, a gender gap still exists with men earning on average $10,000 more 
  annually than women. These findings are consistent with those of previous 
  research (Bell, 2010; Darensbourg, 2013; Randolph, 2004; Warren-Peace, 
  2009).
  No significant difference was identified within the rates of employment or 
  earnings based on other demographic characteristics, such as age, 
  race/ethnicity, or visual impairment classification.
  Those individuals who affiliate with the NFB in this study were employed 
  at a rate of 59%, earning $46,200; whereas, those who affiliate with the ACB 
  were employed at a rate of 42%, earning $37,000. Those who chose not to 
  affiliate with either organization tended to fare better than ACB members, but 
  less well than NFB members. 
  As has been demonstrated in previous research, educational attainment was 
  a significant factor in the employment of this population, with those having 
  graduate-level education being employed at more than twice the rate of those 
  with only a high school diploma, and a more than $35,000 difference in 
  annualized earnings. 
  Obtaining comprehensive adjustment training was also positively related to 
  employment outcomes, with those being trained at Structured Discovery-based 
  programs being employed at a rate of 60%, earning $49,300 in comparison to 
  those trained at conventionally-based programs, who were employed at a rate of 
  47%, earning $38,100. These results confirm those of Aditya (2004).
  Recidivism (i.e., the returning for retraining multiple times), was found 
  to be negatively related to employment, with those who receive training four 
  or more times being employed at a rate of 35% in comparison to those who seek 
  training only once being employed at 57%, and those same individuals earning 
  $13,000 less than those who were trained a single time. 
  The findings showed that those who use a white cane for daily mobility are 
  employed at a significantly higher rate and earn a significantly greater 
  annualized salary than those who no longer do. 
  Those who read Braille on a daily or weekly basis are employed at a 
  significantly higher rate than those who do not, and Braille readers also earn 
  on average $11,000 more than non-Braille readers. 
  In combination, the data indicate that individuals who complete training 
  at a Structured Discovery program, who affiliate with the NFB, use a cane for 
  daily mobility, and read Braille are employed at a rate of 75%, earning 
  $53,000 annually. 
  In contrast, those who were conventionally trained or not trained, who 
  either affiliate with ACB or no one, and who neither use a cane or read 
  Braille are employed at only a rate of 44%, earning only $36,000 annually. 
  
 
Implications
The employment rate for individuals who are blind or VI remains 
extremely low in the United States. The findings of this study may help 
consumers and professionals in the field of blindness to pinpoint and work on 
those factors that influence the acquisition of competitive employment and 
higher earnings in their particular cases. Education and training seem to be two 
of the main central factors to have a significant influence. It is extremely 
important for consumers and professionals, especially in the VR field, to 
acknowledge the benefits of this type of training. Consumers should become aware 
of these data about Structured Discovery training in order to be able to make an 
authentic informed choice about their rehabilitation plan. Of the data obtained 
through this study, consumers and practitioners should know that: 


  Age, gender, racial identity, and degree of visual impairment need not 
  impede one’s ability to obtain employment. 
  Education, especially higher education, seems to make a positive 
  difference in the chances of being employed and the amount of money that one 
  can earn. 
  Knowing positive role models who are themselves blind appears to be 
  important in the pursuit of education, training, and employment.
  Using a white cane to assist in daily mobility is probably a good idea. 
  
  Knowing and using Braille for reading on a regular basis makes good sense. 
  
  Obtaining comprehensive training up front seems better than getting it 
  piecemeal over time in shorter segments.


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Edward C. Bell, Ph.D., CRC, NOMC
 
REGISTER TO TAKE THE NATIONAL CERTIFICATION IN 
LITERARY BRAILLE (NCLB) Exam 
http://www.nbpcb.org/pages/announcements.php
 
Director, Professional Development and 
Research
Institute on Blindness
Louisiana Tech University
210 Woodard 
Hall
PO Box 3158
Ruston LA  71272
Office: 318.257.4554 
Fax: 
318.257.2259 (Fax)
Skype: edwardbell2010
ebell at latech.edu
www.latech.edu/instituteonblindness
********************
"I 
am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain 
than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in 
cotton fields and sweatshops." 
-- Stephen Jay Gould 


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