Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Michele C. McDonnall, Ph.D. and Jennifer Cmar, Ph.D. (2018). Employment Outcomes and Job Quality of Vocational Rehabilitation Consumers with Deaf-blindness. Sage Journals,
Title:  Employment Outcomes and Job Quality of Vocational Rehabilitation Consumers with Deaf-blindness
Authors:  Michele C. McDonnall, Ph.D. and Jennifer Cmar, Ph.D.
Year:  2018
Journal/Publication:  Sage Journals
Publisher:  Hammill Institute on Disabilities
DOI:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0034355218769461
Full text: 
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Yes

Structured abstract:

Background:  Effecting less than 1% of the U.S. population, those who are considered “deaf-blind” face challenges in obtaining high quality employment. These individuals face very specific hurdles in everything from daily life challenges to gaining and maintaining employment outside the home. Drs. Michele McDonnall and Jennifer Cmar study the difficulties faced by this population and suggest how agency services and Vocational Rehabilitation counselors can serve these individuals.
Purpose:  To identify ways in which the deaf-blind population can be served by existing Vocational Rehabilitation counselors and agencies that serve this population.
Study sample:  1,382 individual cases from the Rehabilitation Services Administration Case Service Reports between 2013 and 2015
Data collection and analysis:  Data for this study comes from the Rehabilitation Services Administration Case Service Reports between 2013 and 2015. Variables included personal characteristics and Vocational rehabilitation services. Further, employment outcomes were measured including competitive employment and a composite measurement of job quality.
Findings:  Three main predictors of gaining employment were level of education, gender, and agency type. Simply put, higher levels of education meant higher levels of employment. In addition, women were less likely to find employment outside of the home and faced more significant hurdles in finding a job. As well, agency support is a significant factor in helping deaf-blind individuals find and retain a job. The researchers found that agencies dedicated to supporting blind people provided more support and developed more relationships with employers to help deaf-blind individuals find and retain a job. Further, employment was negatively impacted because of the requirements for maintaining benefits through SSDI or SSI. Specifically, low earnings are required to maintain benefits. As a result, some deaf-blind individuals face a very difficult choice of choosing benefits or employment. Vocational Rehabilitation counselors had less of an impact on employment than might be expected. Factors like gender, age, and education were more accurate predictors of employment than VR counseling. The researchers suggest that more specialized agencies (like those that serve the blind community) were more effective at supporting this population. Also, the VR counselor’s ability to communicate effectively with deaf-blind individuals is an important factor in promoting opportunities for this population. The researchers suggest that VR counselors, in particular, can support women in their ability to find work outside of the home. This group of deaf-blind individuals is underserved, according to available data, and VR counselors can provide more direct support for this population by connecting women with mentors and encouraging women to seek out possible employment.
Conclusions:  Ultimately, this study reveals the gaps in information about deaf-blind people and the needs they have in finding fulfilling and successful lives on the job. The data indicate that factors like gender, race, age, education, and support are critical in determining positive outcomes for this population. Addressing each of these issues through agency and counseling support is important in improving outcomes.

Disabilities served:  Blindness
Deafness
Hearing impairment
Visual impairment
Multiple disabilities
Populations served:  Culturally diverse populations (e.g., African Americans, Native Americans, and non-English speaking populations)
Persons with multiple disabilities (e.g., deaf-blindness, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse)
Interventions:  Accommodations
Assistive technology
Benefits counseling
Career counseling
Compensatory strategies
Environmental modifications
Job restructuring
Job search and placement assistance
On-the-job training and support
Non-psychological counseling
Rehabilitation counseling
Supported employment
Vocational assessment
Motivational interviewing
Outcomes:  Employment acquisition
Full-time employment
Increase in hours worked