In the studio today is Kendra Farrow, Project Director with the Older Individuals Who Are Blind – Technical Assistance Center at the National Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision Mississippi State University.
Kendra and Carol discuss the question, “Why not ask the Older Individuals who are Blind right up front if they want to work?" Are we missing the boat with these talented individuals who are commonly not given the option for VR services that can benefit them? Whether it’s training, job development and placement, or job retention, VR services in conjunction with IL services, can lead to successful employment outcomes for Older Individuals who are Blind and contribute to their sense of purpose and meaning.
Kendra: When somebody who is 55 or older loses vision and they call about services and they say, well, how old are you? And if they're over 55, they're just pushing them into the older individuals who are blind program. They aren't necessarily then offered the services that they could benefit from. We're cutting ourselves short, and it's a very easy closure once the person has regained their confidence with the older blind program and learning some skills, once they start seeing I can do these things, maybe I want to go back to work now that I have some confidence again.
Intro Voice: Manager Minute brought to you by the VRTAC for Quality Management, Conversations powered by VR, one manager at a time, one minute at a time. Here is your host Carol Pankow.
Carol: Well, welcome to the Manager Minute. Joining me in the studio today is Kendra Farrell, Project Director with the Older Individuals who are Blind. Technical Assistance Center that is housed at the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University. Holy moly. That's a mouthful. So, Kendra, how are things going in Mississippi?
Kendra: Oh they're good.
Carol: Awesome. Thanks for joining me today. So for our listeners, I want to give a little background. The Technical Assistance Centers that are funded by RSA, we hold a regular TAC collaborative meeting so we can leverage resources and keep each other informed so we can serve all of you better. And in a recent collaborative meeting, I asked the group for any possible ideas where we could collaborate on a podcast. And sure enough, Kendra brought up an interesting conversation that she had with a group of experts that was talking about eligibility for the OIB program, and that led to a deeper discussion about a place where VR might be missing the boat on serving a very important group of people. So, of course, my background as a former director of a blind agency, it really resonated with me, and I wanted to let our listeners in on the conversation. So let's dig in. So, Kendra, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and how you came to be the director of the OIB TAC?
Kendra: Yeah, I started out my career working in direct services, providing vision rehab therapy services to individuals of all ages at a nonprofit agency. And after doing that for 14 years, I saw a job posting with the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision. We call it the NRTC for short, and they gave me a job. I was hired on a research grant related to employment for people who are blind or have low vision. And once we got started with that a little bit, there was the opportunity to apply for the grant to have the Technical Assistance Center for Older Blind services. And my colleague and I said that we kind of felt like maybe we were doing a disservice to the field if we didn't apply because we have a long history at the NRTC of doing like some external program evaluations for older blind programs. I think we had conducted program evaluations for, I think it's over 25 of the states over the years. Since I've been here, we've only worked with maybe 5 or 6, so not