An investigation of the variables related to competitive employment and earnings of vocational rehabilitation consumers with blindness or visual impairments

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Darensbourg, Brandi Lynn, 1978-

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Individuals with blindness or visual impairments as a major cause of disability are at an extreme disadvantage to obtain and maintain employment and thus may seek the assistance of vocational rehabilitation counselors. Information on these individuals, encompassing demographics, disability, public support, and vocational rehabilitation services, is collected by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and becomes a part of the RSA-911 data file. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships among demographics, service provisions, competitive employment, and earnings of vocational rehabilitation consumers with blindness or visual impairments. Using a sample of 3,610 cases from the RSA-911 data file from Fiscal Year 2006, logistic regression was utilized to examine the relationships among 20 consumer demographic and 14 case service variables related to competitive employment outcomes. With a sample of 2,320 cases, multiple regression was used to examine which 20 consumer demographic and 14 case service variables predicted weekly earnings at closure for those consumers with competitive employment outcomes. Results from the logistic regression indicated the most important consumer demographic predictors of competitive employment were age, gender, receipt of Medicaid, severity of vision loss, source of referral, and weekly earnings at application. Specifically, those aged 36 or younger who were self-referred, male, had lesser severity of vision loss, and did not receive Medicaid were more likely to find competitive employment. Among case service variables, receiving job-placement assistance and maintenance services were related to competitive employment; receipt of disability-related augmentative skills training and miscellaneous training had a negative impact. Multiple regression revealed that the consumer demographics of gender, higher level of education at closure, receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and weekly earnings at application were important predictors of weekly earnings at closure. Disability-related augmentative skills training was the only case service related to weekly earnings, with a negative impact. Based on these findings, males with earnings at application who did not receive disability-related augmentative skills training were most likely to reach competitive employment outcomes and to have higher earning potential at closure. Limitations of the study as well as implications for practice and future research are discussed.