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Overview

Rates of employment among working-age persons who have a visual impairment are substantially lower than those in the general population as well as among other disability subgroups. National estimates indicate that only about 30% of working-age adults who have severe visual impairments are employed. This proportion is significantly lower than the estimated 84% of persons in this age group without any kind of disability who were employed (McNeil, 1997).

Lighthouse Placement Services address the employment needs of adults with visual impairments. The goal of Placement Services is to provide training in the skills necessary to obtain and retain employment independently. The Research Institute conducted a follow-up evaluation study of Lighthouse Placement Services. The objectives of this follow-up study were to determine the employment status of vocational placement referrals, determine factors associated with employment, and to determine the effectiveness of Lighthouse vocational placement services.

Method

Information related to employment history, service history, psychosocial status, and demographics has been gathered from two sources: (1) an evaluation questionnaire designed specifically for this study, and (2) case records from the Lighthouse Consumer Information System. The potential study participants included all individuals referred to the program of vocational placement between July 1, 1989 and June 30, 1994.

Findings

A total of 167 telephone interviews were conducted. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 79 years with an average age of 41 years. Approximately 56% are male (n=93, 55.7%).

Results indicated that 42% of the sample were employed, 22% were engaged in some other activity (e.g., school, placement service), and 36% were not working at the time of the follow-up interviews. Findings revealed that employed respondents were more likely to have a college education, have attended an integrated school setting, and primarily read printed material. Employed respondents were also more likely to be users of computers and public transportation. A significantly higher level of selfefficacy was found among employed respondents, though no differences between groups were found for work-motivation or feelings of sadness or depression. Employed respondents were also more likely to report receiving encouragement from family in obtaining employment.

Results from logistic regression analyses revealed that among all factors significantly related to employment status on a bivariate level, the type of school attended (i.e., integrated or not integrated), receipt of technology training, and primary reading method used emerged as significant predictors of employment. Respondents who attended an integrated setting for most of their schooling were 74% more likely to be employed and individuals who read primarily printed material were 78% more likely to be employed. Respondents who received technology training were more than twice as likely to be employed than those who did not receive technology training.

Predictors of more positive employment characteristics (occupational position, salary range, and perceived match between abilities and job responsibilities) were also examined. Results from a hierarchical regression analysis indicated that being blind rather than partially sighted, receiving technology training, and receiving fewer hours of rehabilitation training were significant predictors of higher occupational positions. Results from a hierarchical regression analysis also indicated that a set of covariates (education, having dependent children and computer and keyboarding skills) accounted for a significant proportion of variance in salary range, but that no individual variables emerged as significant predictors. Finally, receiving encouragement in looking for work from family or friends was the only significant predictor of greater perceived match between abilities and job responsibilities which emerged.

Experiences of Nonworking Respondents - Analyses were also conducted among a subsample of respondents who were not working (n=60). The purpose of these analyses was to describe the experiences of nonworking respondents, examine the barriers that prevent them from working, and to determine the predictors of job seeking. Vision impairment in general was the most frequently reported obstacle to employment with four respondents specifically expressing concern over telling employers about their vision loss. Results indicated that the majority of nonworking respondents were not looking for work (57%) at follow-up, primarily due to another health condition or disability. A logistic regression analysis was conducted to determine the predictors of job seeking. Results identified having another health/physical condition and length of time unemployed to be significant predictors of job seeking. Respondents who had no other health or physical conditions were nearly 8.5 times more likely to be looking for work than those with another condition. Respondents unemployed one year or less were 6.5 times more likely to be looking for work than those out of work for more than one year.

Results from this study have several implications. First, this type of information may be beneficial to a service provider in identifying potential risk factors associated with a poorer chance of employment. Second, findings have implications for early childhood education and the issues surrounding integrated versus self-contained classes for children with visual impairments. Findings also highlight the positive impact of technology training on employment among persons who have a visual impairment. Analyses found that among nonworking respondents, those unemployed one year of less were significantly more likely to seek employment. This suggests that early intervention following job loss is important in keeping persons with visual impairments in the workforce.

Publications

Leonard, R. (2002). Predictors of job-seeking behavior among persons with a visual impairment. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 96 (9), 635-644.

Leonard, R., & D'Allura, T. (2000). Employment among persons with a vision impairment: A comparison of working and nonworking respondents. In C. Stuen, A. Arditi, A. Horowitz, M. A. Lang, B. Rosenthal, & K. Seidman (Eds.), Vision rehabilitation: Assessment, intervention and outcomes. Amsterdam: Swets and Zeitlinger.

Leonard, R., D'Allura, T., & Horowitz, A. (1999). Factors associated with employment among persons who have a vision impairment: A follow-up of vocational placement referrals. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 12, 33-43.

Leonard, R., D'Allura, T., & Horowitz, A. (1997). Factors associated with employment: A follow-up of vocational placement referrals. (Final Report). New York: Arlene R. Gordon Research Institute of Lighthouse Inc.

Presentations

Leonard, R., & D'Allura, T. (1999, July). Factors associated with employment: A follow-up of vocational placement referrals. Poster session presented at Vision '99: International Conference on Low Vision, New York, NY.

Leonard, R., & D'Allura, T. (2000, July). The experiences of nonworking persons who have a vision impairment: A follow-up of vocational placement referrals. Poster session presented at the International Conference of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Denver, CO.

Investigators: Robin Leonard, MA
Tana D'Allura, PhD

Project Period: December 1994 - June 1997

 

 

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