Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Systematic Review of Transition Interventions Affecting the Employability of Youths with Visual Impairments

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Systematic Review of Transition Interventions Affecting the Employability of Youths with Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

Abstract: Introduction: The purpose of the study presented here was to identify and synthesize studies of transition interventions to improve the employability and employment outcomes for youths with visual impairments. Methods: An a priori protocol was followed in conducting a systematic review of the literature, including criteria for selecting studies, search strategies, and a synthesis of findings. Results: Fifteen studies of interventions to improve the employability of youths with visual impairments were identified. Four studies used two-group designs with control or comparison groups, four used single-subject, multiple-baseline designs, and seven used single-group designs (no control or comparison groups). Of the four two-group designs, two reported statistically significant relationships between the transition intervention and factors related to employment. A meta-synthesis indicated the efficacy of several interventions to improve the career-awareness, job- seeking, independent-living, and social skills of the participants. Discussion: Interventions that were found to enhance employability skills and self- constructs were also identified in correlational research as predictors of the successful employment of youths with visual impairments. There were no studies of interventions that directly resulted in employment. Only 3 of the 15 studies used designs with random assignment to groups--the most rigorous in evaluating the effectiveness of interventions. Implications for practitioners: There is a critical need for information on evidenced-based practices that affect the successful transition of young adults with visual impairments. Practitioners are encouraged to implement rigorous evaluation methods to evaluate transition practices and to publish findings as a basis for public policy and the development of high-quality programs.

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Transition-age youths with visual impairments (those who are blind or have low vision) have long experienced barriers to the successful transition from secondary school environments to work. Recent data from the Current Population Survey supported earlier findings (Kirchner & Smith, 2005; Wagner & Blackorby, 1996) that indicated a substantial gap in employment rates between youths with visual impairments and sighted youths in the general population: 19.8% of youths with visual impairments aged 16-19 are employed, compared with 29.2% of same-age youths who are sighted; the gap widens for youths aged 20-24--39.5% versus 63.8% are employed (McDonnall, 2011).

Concerned about the low employment rates of youths with visual impairments, the field of visual impairments has, over the years, implemented specialized programs to improve transition outcomes. The first school-to-work program opened in 1840 on the campus of what is now the Perkins School for the Blind to assist graduates in finding work. Today blindness agencies and organizations across the United States offer specialized transition programs to enhance the future employability of youths with visual impairments. Researchers and practitioners have also implemented interventions to enhance employability skills. Given the ongoing employment gap between youths with visual impairments and sighted youths, there is a critical need for scientifically based evaluations of these programs to inform policy and practice.

With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the U.S. Department of Education began a major push to identify evidenced-based programs, that is, those that have been demonstrated to be effective by using scientifically based research (Test et al., 2009). The What Works Clearinghouse was funded by the U.S. Department of Education in 2002 and charged with the development of a systematic literature review process to identify the best scientific evidence from educational research. Initially used in the health fields, systematic reviews became the method of choice for identifying, reviewing, and synthesizing educational research. …

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