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Deaf in the world of work : A study of a group of deaf graduates and leavers from the Jericho Hill School, Vancouver, British Columbia : their employment problems and experiences Jones, Clifford Stewart


Little is known about the deaf as a group. Most of the studies that have been done concerning their problem have been about the medical, educational and psychological aspects of their disability with very little emphasis on their vocational and social problems and needs. The study began from two basic hypotheses: first, that there is a correlation between deafness and unemployment status, with a disproportionate number of the deaf being found in low status, low paying jobs, and secondly, that the deaf in British Columbia at the present time, are receiving a limited amount of services. The particular focus of the study was the problems and experience of a sample of young deaf adolescents and adults in training for, finding and holding jobs. The sample group chosen was the total group of graduates and school leavers from the Jericho Hill School for the Deaf, Vancouver, British Columbia, a residential School which takes pupils from all socio-economic levels, including day pupils, for the period July 1956-July 1965. A schedule of research questions was devised which included investigation of the following areas: (1) what vocational assessment, counselling and placement services were available to and utilized by the sample group (2) what jobs they obtained and how they obtained them (3) what their attitudes were to their jobs and fellow workers (4) what job aspirations they had and whether they attained them (5) what opinions they had about the kinds of help they needed (6) what their intelligence quotients were, as a crude index of their capabilities to cope with further training and education. A research design of a diagnostic descriptive type was next devised, which comprised a number of steps, including (1) the interviewing of experts in the field (2) the devising of a questionnaire to be sent to the school graduates (3) the interviewing of a sample of respondents willing to be interviewed (4) the relation of the insights and information obtained, to the determining of what services should be recommended in order to provide more adequate services for the deaf. Of the total group of 78 school leavers, 38 responded to the questionnaire of whom 14 were interviewed. Twenty-two of the 38 respondents were employed. The major findings of the study were that; the employed deaf in the sample group who have received no further education or training are working in low paid, low status jobs, regardless of the level of their intelligence or desires for further training. This is one-half of the total sample group. Of those who obtained vocational training including on-the-job training, it would be true to say that this did improve their economic status. However there is a tendency for this group to be frozen in bottom level positions with few prospects of advancements. Of the small group proceeding to advanced education at Gallaudet College, it is as yet too soon to say what their vocational prospects will be. An additional finding was that most job placement was done by families, friends and Jericho Hill School, with very little by community agencies. A lack of spacific services indispensable to the deaf, was found, particularly in relation to use of interpreters. A further finding was the "orality" of deaf people in the sample interviewed as defined by ability to use speech in everyday living at a level intelligible to strangers, was far below this standard, with one exception. An additional finding was that the inability to achieve a satisfactory level of orality appears to be related to feelings of failure and inferiority in the deaf and to interfere to some extent with the deaf person's concentration on the acquisition of written skills. There was considerable evidence that social and recreational activities play a specially important role in the lives of deaf people, and may even determine the location of the jobs they seek. As many are unable to enjoy an outlet for their frustrations and tensions by communicating orally with their fellow workers, it is important to them to be with other deaf people for some of their recreation, because with such a group they are released from the constant strain of lip reading or writing everything down. In contrast to the findings of two American studies, there was little, if any correlation found between such factors as type of job obtained and lip reading ability and preferred methods of communication used at work. Nor was there any correlation between these factors and income obtained, job stability and attitudes to the job and to fellow workers. Total or partial deafness, day or residential status did not appear to affect any of the factors mentioned either positively or negatively. This may have been due to the size of the sample group and two other factors, first, that almost all the group became deaf before the age when speech patterns are normally acquired, or were born deaf. Secondly, the sample contained no respondents in the managerial, technical or professional classes, and few in the craftsman class. A number of specific recommendations were made. Some of these pertained to the establishment of the necessary services, especially those of assessment, counselling, placement and follow-up services. Some pertained to an expansion of the roles of government and private agencies, and some pertained to educational practices in the field of education for the deaf. Special emphasis was placed on the improving of ways of determining much earlier in the education of the deaf child than is currently the practice the level of orality he is likely to reach, so that vocational and educational plans for him can be adapted to his needs. A further recommendation was that it is important to include in the educational programmes for parents of deaf children, opportunities to meet with the adult deaf. In the area of prevention, routine use of hearing tests for the newborn was emphasized.

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