SHHH Research Symposium

SHHH Research Symposium

Dr. Richard Melia, Associate Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) introduced the Research Symposium and provided some background information on his organization. The NIDRR is an applied research organization, which means that it is trying to do research that directly affects the lives of people with disabilities. [Editor: This is in contrast to theoretical research, which attempts to increase understanding of the subject of study, but doesn’t attempt practical application.]

The NIDRR is part of the Department of Education, but we typically work in an interagency environment. Our research program budget is about $110 million annually. We get an additional $60 million from the Assistive Technology Act of 1998. One of our major goals is to promote independent living.

We typically identify needs by reaching out to the public to identify directions for research. Once we identify a particular research direction, we seek organizations to perform the required research. That process begins with our publication of a notice in the Federal Register. There is a 30 day comment period following publication, and then we issue a Request for Proposal. Organizations who believe they are qualified to conduct the specified research submit proposals, and we select the organization(s) that submitted the best proposal(s) to conduct the research.

Recent research directions have included:
– the provision of mental health services to deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf/blind individuals
– people who have had either long term hearing loss or long term vision loss and are now losing the other sense.

The remainder of the program contained the following presentations:

– Innovative Rehabilitation Interventions Regarding Employment by Dr. Steven Boone of the University of Arkansas Rehabilitation Research and Training (RRT) Center for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

– Hearing Assistive Technology Research by Matthew Bakke Ph.D. and Harry Levvit Ph.D. of Gallaudet University’s  Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Hearing Enhancement.

– Access to Telecommunications by Judy Harkins of Gallaudet University’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Telecommunications Access

– Maintaining Employment Status and Enhancing Personal Adjustmentby Dr. Carren Stika of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) for Persons who are Hard of Hearing or Late Deafened

Innovative Rehabilitation Interventions Regarding Employment

Dr. Steven Boone is the Director of Research at the University of Arkansas Rehabilitation Research and Training (RRT) Center for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. His organization is concerned with getting, keeping, and advancing employment, and the members of his organization believe that research must lead somewhere in order to be useful. To ensure useful research, they maintain and employ partnerships with three important groups: individuals, employers, and rehabilitation service providers.

The RRT Center currently has three broad areas of research, including:
– The impact of legislation and policy on the provision of vocational rehabilitation (VR) services. The RRT Center is asking consumers and VR providers how legislation affects them.
– The impact of business practices on worker employability.
– Interventions to enhance employability and rehabilitation outcomes. This effort includes a project in Minnesota to evaluate the effect of remote interpreter and CART services, several projects involving lower functioning people who need ongoing support to retain employment, and a program in Kentucky to analyze state agencies that are trying to improve services to low functioning individuals with hearing loss.

The RRT Center also has the following special projects:
– Development of resource materials to support early intervention services to newly identified infants with hearing loss. We now have federally mandated universal infant screening to identify infants with hearing loss, but we need to establish a program to provide assistance to them and their families.
– National Survey of employment and community living needs of hard of hearing adults. There has never been a national study of this topic, and we finally got it funded. We made 68,000 random phone calls, and located 1200 people with hearing loss. Half of them are of working age. Now we’re learning about the barriers they face at work.
– A Masters level training program in rehabilitation for people with hearing loss.

The study regarding the provision of VR services to people with hearing loss has produced some results. We analyze about 45,000 cases annually. About half of them are closed, which means that the person got and kept a job.

The study regarding enhancing employability and rehabilitation outcomes has also produced some results. We have broken the employment experience into two areas, job entry, and job maintenance and enhancement, and considered them separately.

Regarding job entry, we evaluated 218 programs and found that over 80% of them needed materials related to the facilitation of job entry. Only 40% had any materials targeted to deaf and hard of hearing clients. As a result, we developed a captioned video to teach the skills that employers want. It’s entitled “Interview Training Resource for Job Applicants with Hearing Loss”, and you can get more information on our website.

Once a person has a job, the next goal is to maintain that job and obtain advancement within the organization. We conducted a study to evaluate which work situations require communications accommodations; we surveyed both workers and employers, and we learned that their perspectives are very different. For example, most employers thought that accommodations were required for performance evaluations, but very few workers did. We also determined that workers must provide specifics when requesting accommodations. As a result of this study, we developed a CD-ROM-based interactive curriculum. Additional information is available on our website.

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