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STARKVILLE, Miss.–A major research grant to Mississippi State’s National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision is expected to have a national impact on services for persons with combined vision and hearing loss.

The university center recently received more than $300,000 to conduct and analyze three national surveys for the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. The HKNC is located in Sands Point, N.Y.

Funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust of New York, the project will continue through September 2015 and represents the most recent partnership between the two entities.

The surveys will focus on the needs of adults 55 years of age and over with both vision and hearing losses, and the availability of mental health and support services providers for the entire population of deaf-blind people in the U.S.

“The surveys will examine where the needs are in terms of training and what professionals need to know in order to work with the population,” said research professor Michele McDonnall, NRTC’s interim director.

“This is a great opportunity for us to continue to work with the HKNC, as well as do some more research in the area of deaf-blindness,” she added.

Established at MSU more than three decades ago, the research and training center is the only U.S. Department of Education-funded program focused on employment outcomes of persons with blindness or low vision. Its professional staff regularly provides technical assistance to consumers, families and professionals throughout the country.

McDonnall said research projects over the decades have provided invaluable information used by professionals ranging from direct-service practitioners to state and federal agency program administrators.

“We offer vision specialist graduate certificate training, annual K-12 teacher workshops and educational outreach to school districts in North Mississippi,” she said, citing just a few of services current provided.

Authorized by a 1967 congressional act, the HKNC serves both deaf-blind youth and adults. The center also operates a national residential and training facility at its Sands Point, N.Y., headquarters.

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