Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Predictors of Employment for Youths with Visual Impairments: Findings from the Second National Longitudinal Transition Study

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Predictors of Employment for Youths with Visual Impairments: Findings from the Second National Longitudinal Transition Study

Article excerpt

Abstract: The study reported here identified factors that predict employment for transition-age youths with visual impairments. Logistic regression was used to predict employment at two levels. Significant variables were early and recent work experiences, completion of a postsecondary program, difficulty with transportation, independent travel skills, and social skills.

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Levels of employment among youths with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision) who are making the transition to adulthood (aged 16-24) have long been a concern of professionals who work with this population. In 2009, data became available to document the severity of the problem among these youths. The results from the Current Population Survey indicate that 19.8% of youths with visual impairments aged 16-19 are working (the employment-population ratio), compared to 29.2% of the youths in the general population, and 39.5% of youths with visual impairments aged 20-24 are working, compared to 63.8% of those in the general population (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009).

Despite the difficulty with employment that youths with visual impairments face, there has been only limited research in this area. Most federal-state vocational rehabilitation programs provide special programs to help youths who are visually impaired prepare to make the transition to work, yet the contents of these programs are generally not based on empirical evidence. The purpose of the study presented here was to identify factors that are related to future employment for youths with visual impairments to assist professionals in the field to work with this population and to provide an empirical foundation for the development of transition programs.

A substantial amount of research has been conducted on factors that affect successful transition outcomes for youths with disabilities, with employment being one of the key outcomes. Several variables have consistently been found to be important to helping youths with disabilities obtain employment, including early work experiences, self-determination, and academic competence (Benz, Lindstrom, & Yovanoff, 2000; Bremer, Kachgal, & Schoeller, 2003; Stodden, Dowrick, Gilmore, & Galloway, 2001). Other research has documented an association between employment and level of education, health, and the receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for transition-age youths with disabilities (Berry, 2000). A much more limited amount of research has been conducted on factors that influence employment outcomes for youths who are visually impaired. Studies involving this population have supported the importance of self-determination, early work experiences (including the number of experiences), academic competence, level of education, parental support

and expectations, health, level of functional vision, and use of assistive technology (McDonnall, 2010; McDonnall & Crudden, 2009; Shaw, Gold, & Wolffe, 2007).

Research has identified variables that are associated with the employment of adults with visual impairments. Several studies have specifically focused on barriers to employment for this population. Some of the most commonly identified barriers are employers' negative attitudes, transportation problems, receipt of social security benefits and associated medical benefits, access to assistive technology, and the lack of or limited work experience (Crudden & McBroom, 1999; Crudden, Sansing, & Butler, 2005; Kirchner, Johnson, & Harkins, 1997; O'Day, 1999). Other studies have focused on factors that are associated with successful employment. Some key factors that were identified were good social skills, the ability to travel independently (that is, good orientation and mobility skills) and to work independently, communication skills, basic academic skills, the receipt of an educational certificate or degree, and having worked since one became visually impaired (Capella-McDonnall, 2005; DeMario, 1992; Golub, 2003). …

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