Factors Associated with Employment Among Persons Who Have a Vision Impairment: A Follow-Up of Vocational Placement Referrals

by Robin Leonard, Tana D'Allura and Amy Horowitz

Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, Vol 12, N 1, (1999), 33 -43. IOS Press


National data indicate that the rate of employment among persons who are blind or partially sighted is significantly lower than that of the general population. Data indicate that an estimated 46% of persons aged 21 to 64 with a visual impairment are working; this figure decreases to 26% among individuals who have a severe visual impairment, defined as an inability to see words and letters in ordinary newspaper print. Other estimates reveal that less that one-third of working age adults who have visual impairments participate in the labor force compared to almost three fourths of the general population. In this paper the authors present findings from a follow-up study of persons with vision impairment who refer to vocational placement services. The objectives of the study will determine the employment status of the individuals who responded and identified the factors associated with employment and more positive employment characteristics. They were able to collect data from telephone interviews with 167 individuals, along with consumer case records.

This sample consisted of all persons who were referred to the Light House Vocational Placement Program in New York City during a five-year period. The results of this study indicated that respondents who were not involved in another primary activity such as attending college. Fifty-four percent were employed.

The authors indicated that predictors of employment included having been integrated into a regular school setting (as opposed to special schools for persons with a disability) for most of their schooling, reading primarily printed material and receipt of technology training. Also, predictors of employment in higher positions and perceived underemployment such as match between abilities and job responsibilities were also examined. The authors indicated that receiving technology training and receiving fewer hours of rehabilitation teaching emerges significant predictors of employment in higher level positions. Unemployment was predicted by lack of encouragement received in looking for work.

The major strength of this follow-up study is that both demographic and psychosocial, as well as service related data, were examined relative to the relationships with employment status and average of 2 ½ years following referrals of vocational placement services. Obviously, the major limitation of this follow-up study was a lack of measurement and variables prior to services such as the use of a pretest post-test design and as much as the research discussed in the literature, the data for this study were collected using the revision of services. Because pre-service information was not collected, significant relationships among service psychosocial status indicators and outcomes need to be interpreted with caution. Nevertheless, these findings maybe useful identifying potential risk factors associated with poor vocational outcomes among persons with vision impairments, especially since this research institute is one of the leading ones in the country.