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2020 RSA Re-allotment Project Summary

This executive summary includes snapshots of all 24 RSA re-allotment projects completed by MCB and our partners in 2020. We hope this summary provides you a glimpse into the future we see for MCB together.

MESSAGE FROM COMMISSIONER D'ARCANGELO

MCB Commissioner David D'Arcangelo In 2020 we faced unprecedented challenges. Yet, we also persevered in the face of adversity to pave a new path forward. COVID-19 offered us opportunities to formulate new visions at Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) to better serve individuals who are blind and visually impaired in the Commonwealth.

At the beginning of this year, MCB initiated its comprehensive statewide needs assessment (CSNA). This process allows us to evaluate the needs of the individuals we serve in order to provide the best programs and services. It allows us to assess and identify areas for improvement in order to foster future collaboration with statewide partners.

Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to chart the right path forward.

To that end, we asked ourselves: How can we make this process sustainable? How can we ensure that these outcomes benefit the people we serve, our employer partners, and the future of blind advocacy in the Commonwealth?

We asked ourselves simply, “What is the future of MCB, and are we prepared?”

"MCB made the most of its re-allotment: 24 innovative projects led by national and worldwide experts."

To find these answers, we went beyond the traditional framework of the CSNA. We recruited national experts in disability policy, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce and economic development to help us explore the tough questions facing policymakers and our MCB community today:

  • What does the gig economy mean for our community?
  • How can individuals who are blind benefit from a formalized apprenticeship?
  • What does it mean for MA to create work environments that feature the talents and skills our community brings to the economy in high-growth sectors?
  • What is our role in pioneering a path forward in a post-COVID recovery?
  • How can we sustain the changes created by COVID-19 to better serve?

This executive summary begins to provide these answers by including succinct snapshots of all 24 RSA Re-allotment projects completed by MCB and our partners in 2020. We hope this summary provides you a glimpse into the future we see for MCB together.  

As we like to say, “The path to prosperity is paved with perseverance.” We hope this summary serves as a first step to you joining us on this journey.

THE PATH TO PROSPERITY IS PAVED WITH PERSEVERANCE

Before we decide where to go tomorrow, we need to know where we are today. To do this, we partnered with experts across the country to launch our “Pathway to Prosperity,” a three-part framework to ensure sustainable, scalable success.

  • First, we built a strong foundation. We evaluated our core policies, programs, and services to ensure they are up-to-date and in line with best practices and industry standards. This ensures our current day-to-day operations provide a modern and first-class experience.
  • Second, we looked to the future. We studied what new and emerging trends would benefit our stakeholders and consumers. We compared those trends to our current capacity to better understand our current assets, prospective gaps, and mount the signs to signal where we need to go.
  • Lastly, we looked at how to accelerate innovation. Through this process, we received studies and plans and analysis full of new ideas and innovations. We challenged our partners to bring us information not just on what we could be doing, but the first steps to get us there.   

Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

The Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment (CSNA) meets §361.29 Section 101(a)(15) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, including an assessment of the rehabilitation needs of individuals with disabilities residing within the State, particularly the vocational rehabilitation service needs of:

  1. Individuals with the most significant disabilities, including their need for supported employment services;
  2. Individuals with disabilities who are minorities and individuals with disabilities who have been unserved or underserved by the vocational rehabilitation program carried out under this title;
  3. Individuals with disabilities served through other components of the statewide workforce investment system (other than the vocational rehabilitation program), as identified by such individuals and personnel assisting such individuals through the components; and
  4. Youth with disabilities, and students with disabilities, including their need for pre-employment transition services or other transition services

The CSNA assessed the needs of individuals with disabilities for transition services and preemployment transition services, and the extent to which such services provided under this Act are coordinated with transition services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.) in order to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.

Finally, the CSNA includes an assessment of the need to establish, develop, or improve community rehabilitation programs within the State.

Key Activities

  1. Gathered and analyzed MCB policies and guidance, information about current operations and plans, and relationships, to analyze and describe the current landscape of MCB’s programs and services.
  2. Used multiple data sources to develop the results and analysis within this report including:
  • Secondary data sources (American Community Survey (ACS))
  • Consumer and community partners surveys
  • Key informant focus groups and interviews
  • Case management data
  • Qualitative analysis (personal experiences and stories)
  1. Published findings, recommendations, and a call to action that meets the requirements of the §361.29 Section 101(a)(15) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. 

Outcomes

PCG collaborated with MCB to gather quantitative and qualitative data, including stakeholder engagement, to describe the rehabilitation needs of individuals who are blind and visual impairments, with an emphasis on targeted populations. Results and analysis indicate that participants MCB and staff services support positive outcomes for individuals who receive services. Additionally, MCB enjoys positive, strong relationships that bolster resources and support positive outcomes. Results and analysis also indicate that there are areas for growth to strengthen services and outcomes for individuals who are minorities, who live in rural areas, or who may need increased access to transportation or technology. Findings also indicate that services for youth could be enhanced and increased to reach a wider number of individuals.

MCB CSNA Report

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Closure Findings

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

Create an understanding of the features that define successful and unsuccessful case closures and identify factors leading to success in VR outcomes. This provides MCB staff with the information to identify those cases most likely to experience an unsuccessful outcome, and as such, to plan for additional resources or address program needs.

Key Activities

  1. Conducted a thorough analysis of MCB’s most recent RSA 911 data, including conducting analysis on those traits that might lead to VR success.
  2. Created and fielded a survey to understand the views and experiences of individuals with closed VR cases
  3. Conducted focus groups and interviews with MCB staff to understand more about VR experiences and program needs
  4. Published findings and recommendations in a series of complete reports

Outcomes

MCB and its staff have access to research that should help guide them in targeting resources to cases that may need more help to succeed. It reveals the characteristics of MCB consumers that have the strongest impact on their likelihood to close their cases successfully, an important finding that will help MCB identify priorities and resources when working with MCB consumers.

MCB Closure Findings Final Report

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Needs Assessment

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

Understand the current needs and resources available to active VR cases under the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, as well as the characteristics of the population. This will inform MCB staff about their current service population, services in demand, and ways to improve future services.

Key Activities

  1. Conducted a thorough analysis of MCB’s most recent RSA 911 data and active cases data
  2. Created and fielded a survey to understand the views and experiences of individuals with active VR cases
  3. Conducted focus groups and interviews with MCB staff to understand more about VR experiences and program needs
  4. Published findings and recommendations in a series of complete reports

Outcomes

PCG worked with MCB to assemble a complete report, detailing the current landscape for and needs of individuals currently in VR services. This will help MCB VR better target services for improvement and design new offerings to assist jobseekers in finding employment and meeting their needs. This report includes detailed recommendations to act on the findings.

MCB VR Needs Assessment Report

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) Needs Assessment                                                                                                       

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

Understand the current needs and resources available to active Pre-ETS cases under the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, as well as the characteristics of the population. This will inform MCB staff about their current service population, services in demand, and ways to improve future services.

Key Activities

  1. Conducted a thorough analysis of MCB’s Pre-ETS Fiscal Forecasting Report and active cases data
  2. Created and fielded a survey to understand the views and experiences of individuals who currently receive Pre-ETS
  3. Conducted focus groups and interviews with MCB Pre-ETS consumers, service providers, youth who have received Pre-ETS, and teachers of students with visual impairments (TVI)
  4. Published findings and recommendations in a series of complete reports

PCG worked with MCB to assemble a complete report, detailing the current landscape for and needs of individuals currently in Pre-ETS. This will help MCB better target programs and services to assist Pre-ETS recipients in finding employment and meeting their needs. This report includes detailed recommendations to act on the findings.

MCB Pre-ETS Needs Assessment Report Final

Study of Tax Tables and Publications

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

To gather tax information on Federal and State tax incentives or advantages for people who are blind or visually impaired and employers who hire people that are blind or visually impaired. Specifically, to understand:

  1. The challenges blind or visually impaired residents face in completing federal income tax returns
  2. How the business community could better serve people who are blind or visually impaired by providing employment or the ability to own a business
  3. How Massachusetts compares to other states in providing local and state tax incentives to individuals and businesses

Key Activities

Researched MCB’s questions and delivered the tax study to be informative and to help determine further strategies to assist the blind and visually impaired populations to experience greater independence.

  1. Gathered Federal IRS publications and forms data. The report presents a summary of relevant publications and forms, highlights key areas of tax advantages for those that are blind or visually impaired, and has provided narrative around the rules in attempt to simplify what is very complex and make it more understandable.
  2. Surveyed and interviewed municipality assessors in effort to understand what individual tax discounts or business tax incentives were offered in their locality.
  3. Surveyed selected businesses in effort to understand if employers were aware of tax deductions and credits for employing blind or visually impaired individuals, and expenses incurred for disability accommodations.
  4. Researched tax advantages provided by peer states and compared to Massachusetts to gain an understanding on how MA municipal and state tax incentives fair on a more national basis.
  5. Researched and analyzed IRS Statistics of Income Data. This information was gathered to help answer questions regarding whether individuals and businesses were taking advantage of tax deductions and credits.

Outcomes

The result of this tax study provided MCB with a comprehensive report regarding federal and state tax incentives to MCB consumers and businesses. The report provides summaries of federal tax publications and forms as they relate to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The tax study research indicates that there is a need to improve the education, and, potentially, assistance, for both individual and business tax filers. Further, it appears there is opportunity to develop strategies towards businesses that may increase the employment of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. This study provides MCB with desired information that will support their initiatives to benefit and improve the economic position of MA blind or visually impaired individuals.

MCB Study of Tax Tables and Publications Report Final

Feasibility of Apprenticeship Study

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

  1. Assess the feasibility of apprenticeships, specifically in expansion industries (Healthcare, Information Technology, and Manufacturing), for blind and visually impaired consumers served by MCB.
  2. Understand the current apprenticeship landscape for blind and visually impaired consumers, and identify best practices, opportunities, and barriers for supporting and connecting this population to apprenticeship opportunities.

Key Activities

  1. Conducted interviews with businesses, industry associations, and state labor and workforce development agencies to assess current state of apprenticeship participation for MCB consumers and people with disabilities, and to identify opportunities for MCB collaboration to connect their consumers to apprenticeship programs.
  2. Conducted a literature review of resources from government and advocacy sources to understand history of apprenticeship for people with disabilities and elements of successful apprenticeship programs for people with disabilities.
  3. Conducted a business customer survey and an MCB staff survey to understand current business and apprenticeship services, and assess knowledge of, interest in, and capacity for apprenticeship.
  4. Conducted national research on other state programs to identify case studies and best practice policies, programs, and partnerships related to apprenticeship for people with disabilities.

Outcomes

This study found that Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) are a viable model for expanding integrated employment opportunities for MCB’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) consumers.

Specifically, it identifies opportunities related to the future of apprenticeship, such as expansion into growing industry sectors, and opportunities to establish relationships with existing apprenticeship sponsors and intermediaries. Prospective barriers to success are also noted, including employer misperceptions about apprenticeship and hiring individuals with disabilities, as well as challenges related to integrated work environments and On-the-Job Training (OJT) requirements for apprenticeship.

The study provides five recommendations and guidance for implementation of each for MCB:

  1. Formalize partnerships with the Massachusetts Division of Apprenticeship Standards, MassHire, and WIOA State Partners.
  2. Leverage existing relationships with employers and industry collaboratives to pilot Registered Apprenticeship (RA).
  3. Establish and monitor apprenticeship performance metrics.
  4. Train staff and promote Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) as viable career options.
  5. Integrate Registered Apprenticeship Programs into “State as a Model Employer” (SAME).

MCB Apprenticeship Feasibility Report Final

Feasibility of e-Commerce Study

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

Assess the feasibility of MCB assisting VR consumers with establishing and operation blind-owned eCommerce enterprises on platforms such as Amazon or eBay.

Key Activities

Identified key stakeholders and their needs through surveys and focus groups:

  1. Outlined design approach to align with MCB style requirements
  2. Proposed specific messaging and engagement strategies
  3. Created document outlines and wireframes
  4. Wrote copy using tax research from other scopes and information gathered during needs assessment
  5. Created final documents

Outcomes

PCG’s study found that with some modifications to state policy, updates to programs, and utilization of existing partnerships, MCB can successfully assist consumers with establishing business enterprises through entities like eBay or Amazon.

MCB Feasibility of eCommerce Opportunity

MCB Tax Guide for Employers and Consumers

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

Develop two tax incentive guides for two different audiences: Businesses and MCB consumers. For employers, the guide will:

  1. Demonstrate the existing or potential value these tax credits bring to employers; and
  2. Aid advocacy or industry associations with information that would benefit their organizations.

For MCB consumers, the guide will:

  1. Provide MCB career counselors and other internal MCB staff with the resources and tools to communicate availability and applicability of tax credits and other incentives to MCB consumers; and
  2. Provide the tools to VR consumers to communicate what tax credits employers can take advantage of by hiring them

Key Activities

  1. Identified key stakeholders and their needs through surveys and focus groups
  2. Outlined design approach to align with MCB style requirements
  3. Proposed specific messaging and engagement strategies
  4. Created document outlines and wireframes
  5. Wrote copy using tax research from other scopes and information gathered during needs assessment
  6. Created final documents

Outcomes

Provided user-friendly, accessible guides for businesses and consumers that will help them take advantage of tax incentives for hiring individuals with disabilities. Businesses who hire MCB participants gain extensive value by having high quality workers who contribute high-quality work. Businesses can grow their business and take advantage of unique benefits, such as tax credits for hiring MCB VR consumers. MCB Consumers who are educated on the tax credits and other incentives available to them will increase their financial earnings.

MCB Tax Guide for Employers

MCB Tax Guide for Consumers

An Understanding of the Most Prevalent Essential Job Duties in Successful VR Closures

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

PCG analyzed essential job duties, reviewed administrative data and conducted a literature review to achieve the goals of the study and assist MCB with understanding:

  1. The most prominent job duties in career fields individuals who successfully close their MCB VR case are most likely to enter;
  2. The workforce barriers and workplace experiences of individuals who are visually impaired or blind; and
  3. The opportunities available to MCB to enhance service delivery opportunities for VR consumers as they prepare to enter the workplace.

Key Activities

  1. Analyzed required essential job duties of the top reported career paths of successful MCB VR consumers
  2. Reviewed administrative data of VR consumers who have obtained competitive, integrated employment
  3. Conducted a literature review to assess the employment disparities of individuals who are visually impaired within the national landscape
  4. Analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Massachusetts Department of Labor to assess the labor market conditions for blind and visually impaired individuals, and likely change in conditions for most common careers
  5. Assessed the most common essential job duties that need to be completed for each of the most common occupations
  6. Provided recommendations for MCB’s path forward

Outcomes

MCB and PCG worked together to produce a report outlining the careers and responsibilities most likely to be pursued by MCB VR consumers to help staff make training decisions and prioritize professional relationships. The report finds that MCB consumers are most likely to enter service industry careers that involve working with other people. There are also findings that show significant barriers and difficulty finding work, even during periods of high and rising employment, These findings will help MCB better understand labor market challenges and what their consumers are most likely to need as they design services in the future.

MCB Essential Job Duties Report

Feasibility Study to Evaluate the Establishment of a For-Profit Business Employing the Blind

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

Assess the feasibility of MCB developing and deploying a modernized, integrated work environment that better integrates its VR consumers into current and future workforce trends and work environments.

Key Activities

  1. Evaluated historical models of employment for the blind and visually impaired and their guiding policies.
  2. Assessed the benefits and trade-offs of organizations that affiliate with the Jay-Wagner-O’Davis (JWOD) Act AbilityOne network.
  3. Conducted a literature review and stakeholder interviews focused on blind and disability workforce policy.
  4. Developed and provided a spectrum of options for incorporating or operationalizing an enterprise.
  5. Developed and provided a matrix of benefits and trade-offs for various incorporation models.
  6. Analyzed business structures for opportunities to deploy modern, integrated workforce development strategies such as Registered Apprenticeship Programs, Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs, gig economy, eCommerce, and other “future of work” areas.
  7. Provided preliminary analysis of where MCB could leverage its VR consumers’ occupational skills to provide solutions through this new enterprise.
  8. Provided recommendations on steps MCB could take to implement an enterprise.

Outcomes

PCG provided innovative and out-of-the-box recommendations backed by research and interviews with key industry stakeholders including the potential to establish a business incubator & accelerator for blind-owned and operated businesses.

MCB For-Profit Business Enterprise Feasibility Report

The Impact of Team Sports Participation on VR Outcomes

Project Partner

Public Consulting Group, Inc.

Objectives

  1. Assess the potential benefits of team sports participation;
  2. Identify the key facilitators of and barriers to sports participation for individuals with visual impairments and other disabilities; and
  3. Formulate recommendations for how MCB can best support sports program coordinators and individuals with visual impairments to approach team sports to maximize potential long-term benefits.

Key Activities

  1. Conducted a literature review of scholarly articles relating to the benefits of and barriers to team sports participation among youth regardless of sightedness
  2. Conducted interviews of stakeholders with an interest in team activities for youth in Massachusetts
  3. Analyzed collected data to identify potential job skills gained through sports participation, and better understand the current landscape for participation by youth with visual impairments or blindness
  4. Leveraged other research being done in partnership with MCB
  5. Developed recommendations for MCB’s consideration

Outcomes

The report will help MCB inform staff and stakeholders about the potential advantages of team sports participation. It includes recommendations which will, if implemented, help to increase consumers’ access to transportation and facilitate coordination between sports program facilitators and service providers to make sports more easily accessible to MCB consumers. MCB will be able to better educate parents of youth with disabilities, and trusted information sources such as counselors and teachers, on the potential benefits of team sports participation. Finally, this report will allow MCB to consider a wider range of potential opportunities for programs to promote participation of VR consumers, with a greater emphasis on team participation to help promote the socio-emotional skills benefits, even to those for whom traditional sports are not a good fit.

MCB Impact of Team Sports Report

Pre-Ets Best Practice Guide for Consumers, Providers and State VR Agencies

Project Partner

Pink Elephant

Objectives

  1. Engage visually impaired students early.
  2. Inform teens, parents and counselors of Pre-ETS services and support.
  3. Help teens and young adults understand how the choices they make and the actions they take now contribute to their future success in finding a job and living independently.

Key Activities

  1. Develop a Pre-ETS Best Practice Guide to inform and educate Massachusetts students who are visually impaired about available Pre-ETS services from MCB and encourage them to fully participate and dream big about finding a career that suits them.
  2. The guide will be an engaging and interactive tool for the counselors to use – a unique and compelling way to introduce these services to the consumers and hopefully, drive more program enrollment.
  3. The guide will help the consumers learn how the choices they make and the actions they take now will contribute to their future success in finding a job and living independently.
  4. The guide will articulate how other stakeholders in the process (secondary audience) can contribute to a successful outcome (getting a job).to

Outcomes

  • Graphic Novel – Electronic Accessible PDF
  • Narrated audio soundtrack – MP4 and WAV files
  • QR Code – Quickly links the reader to the website
  • Website – www.mcb-thequestforindependence.com
  • Poster – Highlights five key chapters and subject areas
  • Infographic – Insert for parents or guardians
  • Social Media – Hero header, images, and MP4s
  • Key Chain – Branded keychain for future tokens to show achievements

The Impact That Inclusive Design Principles of Workplaces has on VR Outcomes

Project Partner

Institute for Human Centered Design, Inc.

Objectives

  1. To help MCB understand if and/or how the physical structures and build environment and employment environments of workplaces impact employment opportunities, success and failures of VR consumers.
  2. To give MCB a better understanding of how physical structures of employment environments and workplaces should help ameliorate physical barriers.

For MCB consumers, this research will:

  1. Provide an understanding of how employment environments that contain and embrace inclusive design principles affect outcomes as opposed to retrofitted or non-existent design principles. 
  2. Show how employment environments that are inclusively designed impact VR outcomes are as opposed to environments that are not inclusively designed.

Key Activities

  1. Identify research partners and experts in inclusive design.
  2. Identify key focus areas to research for the project.
  3. MCB/IHCD meet regularly throughout the duration of the project to discuss findings and progress.
  4. Engage partners, consumers and experts in interviews and focus groups.
  5. Create final documents

Outcomes

In the area of inclusive design, the Institute for Human Centered Design looked at the state of the art research, provided a global overview of pertinent standards and guidelines, looked at the current state of the art of inclusive wayfinding and provided MCB with the results of case studies and interviews that were conducted.  Inclusive design provides an environment for consumers with a greater opportunity to be successful in employment compared to when minimum accessibility codes are followed or when codes are not met.   Inclusive design is a difficult task for developers as there are many factors that must be met beyond accessibility.  Academic research and using proven successful methods can assist through this difficult process.   With all the benefits of inclusive design accessibility is still individualized and there may be additional steps in any environment that need to be taken to improve a consumer’s experience. 

MCB Combined Inclusive Design Report

The Implications of Increased Incidence that Cortical Vision Impairments Could Have on VR Outcomes

Project Partner

Boston Children’s Hospital

Objectives

  1. To help MCB better understand Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI) diagnosis and what are current trends in the success of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) outcomes with consumers experiencing CVI. 
  2. To assist MCB in how to prepare consumers with the CVI diagnosis to be successful in vocational opportunities.  

For MCB consumers, this research will:

  1. Assist MCB staff and partners in understanding how the CVI diagnosis affects consumers during the process of obtaining and maintain employment. 
  2. Improve VR success rates for consumers diagnosed with CVI.

Key Activities

  1. Identify research partners and experts in CVI.
  2. MCB provided multiple data sets around the CVI diagnosis.
  3. Identify key focus areas to research for the project.
  4. MCB, Boston Children’s hospital and partners meet regularly throughout the duration of the project to discuss findings and progress.
  5. Engage MCB staff in surveys to gather information.
  6. Create final documents

Outcomes

Through the initial data study, it was discovered that very few people that are currently diagnosed with CVI are in the VR program and have had little success in successful job placements.  It was also learned that 30% of MCB’s children’s cases (0-14) have the CVI diagnosis, a much larger percentage than other age groups.  It was also stated that these numbers could be even higher due to many medical professionals do not fully understand CVI and many consumers could be misdiagnosed or not diagnosed.  Education and training around CVI with MCB staff, medical professionals and partners can be used to better prepare those working with the consumer in understanding the diagnosis, registering young consumers properly and preparing them for employment through their transitions through programs at MCB. 

Understanding the Delta Between Legal Blindness and Visual Impairments

Project Partner

New England School of Optometry (NECO)

Objectives

  1. The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind’s Central Registry contains ~26,000 Consumers who are Blind.  The American Community Survey indicates that Massachusetts contains ~125,477 individuals who have a vison disability.  So, there are ~100,000 individuals in the Massachusetts that may be or could be current and/or future consumers of our agency.  An analysis of best estimates in the amounts of individuals that we could potentially serve would inform us about coming trends in our programs and service

For MCB consumers, this research will:

  1. Assist MCB in preparing resources, programs and services for clients that aligns with the needs and population of our consumers.

Key Activities

  1. MCB provided multiple data sets around the diagnosis and etiologies of the current registry.
  2. Identify key focus areas to research for the project.
  3. MCB and NECO meet regularly throughout the duration of the project to discuss findings and progress. 
  4. Data was added a few times to increase to the scope of the project.
  5. Create final documents

Outcomes

With respect to the potential predictors of legal blindness in Massachusetts, preliminary analysis is consistent that age related vision loss is the primary cause of vision impairment and increases most sharply in prevalence in individuals 85 years and older.  With the that population increasing it is expected that Social Rehabilitation (SR) cases will continue to increase. While the gap between visual impairment and legal blindness continues to be around 50%, there continues to be a potential underreporting bias in legal blindness cases.  With further support and funding, the study team suggests that additional analysis be conducted to explore those eye care providers who consistently register individuals with MCB.

The Projected Impact that Autonomous Vehicles Could Have on VR Outcomes

Project Partner

Jacobs Engineering

Objectives

  1. To investigate how the advent of autonomous vehicles (AV) could positively affect the employment outcomes of blind people. 
    1. To understand current transportation options and how AV can improve transportation options in the future.
    2. To understand current job market and how AV can assist obtaining available jobs in the future.

For MCB consumers, this research will:

  1. Allow MCB to have a voice in the development of the accessibility of autonomous vehicles.
  2. Give an overview of the current job market and transportation access in MA.
  3. Prepare for opportunities that AV will provide MCB consumers when vehicles are readily available.

Key Activities

  1. Identify key partners and companies at the forefront of AV technology, transportation in MA and Massachusetts job market.
  2. MCB assisted Jacobs with data on Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) placements and goals for clients seeking employment.
  3. Jacobs discussed the use of applications in travel with consumers.
  4. Jacobs reached out to industry experts to discuss the impacts that AV will have on people with visual impairments and progress in the technology.
  5. Create final documents

Outcomes 

The recommendations range from shorter-term, to support MCB Consumers now through education, funding and government initiatives to long term, preparing for the market penetration of VR and in support of a more connected world. The belief is that the more collaboration and support from related agencies and industries is a critical step in exploring new projects and deploying more accessible transportation solutions, leading to more opportunities of employment. 

MCB AV Project Report

Production of the MCB Career Views Podcast Series

Project Partner

Seven Letters (O’Neil and Associates)

Objectives

  1. To assist MCB and the planning and production of a Podcast focusing on Vocational Rehabilitation. 
  2. To assist MCB in setting up a system to distribute the completed podcast series.

For MCB consumers, this podcast will:

  1. Allow MCB consumers an alternative resource to information on many different vocational rehabilitation topics.
  2. Assist MCB in reaching new audiences to educate people on services provided. 

Key Activities

  1. Identify topics to be covered in the podcast series
  2. Identify partners and staff to interview and hosts for the podcast.
  3. Determine how the podcasts will be distributed.
  4. Schedule and execute interviews.
  5. Add Commissioner D’Arcangelo’s comments to each podcast and edit.
  6. Create advertising and promotional materials.
  7. Distribute podcast.

Outcomes

MCB and Seven Letter successfully created a series of podcasts highlighting the MCB VR process with partners and consumers. The podcast is distributed on many popular podcast platforms. The series will be used to assist consumers in understanding the VR process. It will also spotlight other interesting topics including autonomous vehicles, guide dogs, and more: www.mass.gov/mcb-podcast

Study of the Incidence of Addiction/Recovery and the Impact that Alcohol, Opioids and Other Drugs Have on VR Outcomes

Project Partner

Stonewall Analytics

Objectives

  1. To examine the prevalence of alcohol and drug misuse among vocational rehabilitation consumers.
  2. To understand the impact that alcohol and drug misuse has on VR outcomes. 

For MCB consumers, this research will:

  1. Help MCB understand how it can better assist consumers who may share they have difficulty with alcohol or drug usage or it is presenting a barrier in finding employment.

Key Activities

  1. MCB and Stonewall Analytics met regularly throughout the duration of the project to share information and discuss findings.
  2. A survey was created an administered to VR staff and completed on a voluntary basis.
  3. A focus group was formed to discuss VR staff’s experience with clients who have shared substance abuse challenges. 
  4. Data from the survey and focus groups reviewed.
  5. Create final report.

Outcomes

As a result of this study it is estimated that two-thirds of consumers use alcohol or drugs and it does not interfere in any way with employment seeking or job readiness.  It is estimated that 19% of consumers use does present itself as a barrier to employment.  Understanding community and state resources are valuable in recommending help if a client is in need and creating an internal team to assist in difficult cases is a suggestion as a result of the focus group.  It was also noted that with the current climate of the pandemic and counselors not currently visiting clients in their homes they are missing some of the queues that they would receive being with clients in their environment. 

Using Disability as a Qualification for Employment Opportunities

Project Partner

UMass/Work Without Limits

Objectives

  1. To investigate the types and amount of employment opportunities that Disability as a Qualification applies to. 

For MCB consumers, this research will:

  1. Highlight qualifications for employment including skills, strengths and traits that are a result of their experience of living with a disability.  

Key Activities

  1. MCB and UMass/Work Without Limits met regularly to discuss progress and findings.
  2. People with disabilities were interviewed to understand skills, strengths and traits they possessed as a result of their disability.
  3. The information was compiled and the final product was produced. 

Outcomes

People with disabilities have life experiences that can help them succeed in the labor market. These life experiences can benefit any workplace. The final document includes how a person with a disability effects three different categories, workforce, community and customer and how they positively impact each. It also includes quotes from participating consumers and a list of strengths that a person with a disability develops. 

Measuring the Impact that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has had on Vocational Rehabilitation Outcomes: a 30 Year Review

Project Partner

UMass

Objectives

  1. To provide our VR Counselors with a data driven analysis so that during interactions with our consumers they can demonstrate that the efforts to ensure non-discrimination have progressed and workplace barriers have been removed and/or diminished.

For MCB consumers, this research will:

  1. Provide analysis to demonstrate that non-discrimination in the workplace continues to improve and barriers continue to be removed.

Key Activities

  1. MCB and UMass met regularly to discuss progress and findings.
  2. A literature review was completed to understand different perspectives since the ADA was passed 30 years ago.
  3. The information was compiled and the final report was produced. 

Outcome

In their efforts to evaluate the impact of the ADA on vocational rehabilitation outcomes, researchers’ use of different data sets and conflicting methodologies have made it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the ADA’s impact on employment patterns for the disabled population.  The most promising evidence of the ADA’s impact found in our literature review and the focus group results pertained to employer attitudes and practices. The comparisons showing that federal employers and large employers, who likely have robust human resources departments with ready access to information about their Title I obligations and methods for providing accommodations appear to be promising targets for VR counselors seeking to find placements for blind and visually impaired persons.  Leading researchers in the field of blindness and employment, also suggests that employers’ perceptions about their companies’, supervisors’, and co-workers’ beliefs about hiring blind and visually impaired people are another key factor that make employers willing to hire and accommodate blind and visually impaired people.

MCB Soft Skills Online Training

Project Partner

Sandbox

Objectives

To produce a soft skills online training program to support Pre-ETS consumers seeking volunteer opportunities, internships and after school work-based activities.

Key Activities

The MCB team prepared a script so that the vendor would be able to produce an online soft skills training program similar to what we have been presenting to our interns in person and on the Zoom platform.  The team reviewed scripts for  videos, podcasts and activities with quiz content to measure learning.

The team then evaluated the visual and audio content for presentation in an online format.

Outcomes

MCB will be able to offer an online course on acquiring vital soft skills training that will enable consumers to successfully interact with colleagues at professional work sites: www.mass.gov/blindness-soft-skills-online-training

MCB Employer Challenge

Project Partner

Work Without Limits (WWL)

Objectives

  1. The #MCBEmployerChallenge asks MA employers to Do One More Thing to reduce stigma and increase employment for people who are visually impaired in the Commonwealth. 

For MCB consumers, this project will:

  1. Increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Key Activities

  1. MCB and WWL developed a year-long campaign, the #MCBEmployerChallenge, to encourage MA employers to take advantage of the free employment services offered by MCB with personalized support, individual assessment, customized consultation, ongoing communication, and collaboration with low and no vision individuals and key business stakeholders throughout the pre and post-employment process to do one more thing to develop employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. 

Outcome

MCB launched the #MCBEmployerChallenge in late 2020 with ongoing facilitation in 2021 to reach out to MA employers online and via the MCB Employment Services team to encourage enrollment and participation. 

MCB What's Your Vision? PSA Campaign

Project Partners

American Institute for Research (AIR) and Concepts, Inc. 

Objectives

  1. To develop and implement a public awareness campaign emphasizing the importance of ensuring Massachusetts residents who are blind or visually impaired have the opportunity to put their skills and talents to work for the Commonwealth’s employers and economy, and MCB’s role in delivering on this goal.

For MCB consumers, this project will:

  1. Challenge common misconceptions about the skills and talents of people who are blind among multiple audiences. 

Key Activities

  1. Research was conducted via intake meetings with MCB staff and stakeholders as well as an analysis of consumer data from recent years.

  2. Adaptation using this research developed potential creative approaches and the production of a variety of media assets including print ads, still images, a brochure, posters, and multiple PSAs. 

  3. An implementation strategy was created to launch the campaign along with evaluation tools to assist in measuring its reach.                                            

Outcome

The result was What’s Your Vision?, a campaign centered on a public service announcement (PSA) featuring several MCB consumers and other stakeholders sharing their vision for the future. Additional assets, including print ads and video interviews, further explain how MCB’s vocational rehabilitation services have helped people achieve their employment or workforce goals. The What’s Your Vision? PSA was filmed on the campus of the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass. in July 2020. Initial plans were adjusted to respond to constraints and align with safety and health protocols related to COVID-19.  The campaign launched in October 2020, in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, with dissemination of the PSA, interview videos featuring campaign participants, mailers, print advertisements, social media messaging, and outdoor media.

2020 MCB Re-allotment Project Presentations

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