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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Center awarded $4.25 Million

The Mississippi State University Rehabilitation, Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision recently won a competitive five-year grant for $4.25 million.
The grant, awarded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, will award $850,000 per year until 2015, allowing the MSU team to complete six different major research projects which will explore options for helping blind and visually impaired individuals.
Adele Crudden, a member of the MSU team and professor of social work, said the grant puts out a call for research proposals and offers the grant money. The organization funds a number of RRTCs that target different disabilities, but the MSU team is the only one that explores blindness and low vision. The NIDRR details their research expectations but currently allows much more freedom than in years past.
“There is room for a lot of creativity,” Crudden said of the options now available.
She said the MSU team brainstorms, and each member takes a part of the project they are responsible for but continues to work together with the larger group while tackling his or her particular task.
Crudden said her project involves devising new interventions to address transportation solutions for people who are blind. She said this particular project is important because of the lack of transportation available in rural areas, like much of Mississippi.
Another of the six projects relating to employment outcomes analyzes the abilities of people who are deaf or blind to run small businesses.
B.J. LeJeune, a principal investigator on the MSU team, said this competitive grant has been contested every five years since 1981. Three years ago, the NIDRR moved away from this particular emphasis but now is offering the grant again.
“[To earn this grant], we had to prove to the NIDRR we have a rich history of research at MSU,” LeJeune said of the process.
She, like Crudden, said another exciting aspect of earning this grant is now the NIDRR is open to more creative ideas on part of the research and training centers, whereas in the past, it gave more strict guidelines on what research it wanted to see completed.
LeJeune said these study samples take place on the MSU campus, but the focus groups and implementation of the research happen elsewhere.
She said this research is particularly important, because the state of Mississippi fluctuates in leading the national levels of blindness for the country annually, and the prevalence of blindness makes this an important issue for Mississippians.
Brenda Cavenaugh, the interim director of the MSU Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, said the grant was earned through nine months of night and day labor.
“Just to develop a proposal takes a tremendous amount of time,” she said. “There is a team effort to make a cohesive proposed plan of research.”
Cavenaugh said the money will be used on the six major research strands as well as other training projects and activities the Research and Training Center does. She said she is thrilled with the award of this grant.
“We are excited and relieved. Without external funding, our research would cease to exist,” Cavenaugh said.
She said the team is looking forward to implementing its research agenda and to seeing its impacts that will improve the employment outlook for blind and low vision individuals across the country.

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Center awarded $4.25 Million