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Please be sure to answer each question fully and include references to your textbook and at least 2 supplemental resources. Each response should be at least 500 words in length.
- What specific challenges do older adults face? According to Congress and Gonzales how do race, class, or gender identity affect these challenges? What factors do human services providers need to pay specific attention to when assessing older clients?
- According to Connolly and Ward why is it important for a rights-supportive approach to disability practice? Be sure to discuss normalization and person-centered approaches, which embody the values of a human rights approach to disability. Why are choice and empowerment an important aspect of disability practice? How does it further assist the individual in living to their fullest potential?
Chapter 19 Reading:
Working with Deaf Clients: An Interview with Valentino Vasquez and Johanna Larson
Valentino Vasquez, MA, is a third-generation Latino who was born deaf in a Spanish-speaking extended family. His wife is deaf and their two children are hearing. As a child, he attended a deaf and hard-of-hearing program within a mainstream public school and attended Gallaudet University for several years. He teaches
American Sign Language (ASL)
courses in the Communication Disorders and Sciences program at the University of Oregon. He is involved with organizations supporting the Deaf community, both on-campus and off.
Johanna Larson, MS, is a native ASL speaker whose second language is English. She is the eldest hearing daughter of profoundly deaf parents in an extended Northern European American family with many other deaf members. Her father became deaf from spinal meningitis at age 3. Her parents met at Gallaudet University. She teaches basic linguistic principles of ASL, as well as Deaf Culture and Community Studies in the Communication Disorders and Sciences program at the University of Oregon.
Would you give a brief overview of “Deaf Culture,” including your participation and relationship to Deaf culture?
This really relates to language as well as identity, including values, perceptions, and beliefs, as well as social customs. In Deaf culture, the language is ASL—using a manual communication as opposed to a spoken language communication. I participate in Deaf culture through the Oregon Association of the Deaf, Oregon Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and socializing with members of the Deaf community. Sometimes Jo and I will host Deaf events, such as performers or speakers. We reach out to the Deaf community and invite them to attend these events, and that becomes part of our Deaf community and therefore our Deaf culture.
One example of Deaf culture would be social customs. For example, when an event is over, people often notice that Deaf people stay well after closing hours. The lights will go off and people will say, “You all need to leave,” and Deaf people tend to stay, whereas hearing people will leave on time. Deaf people often will go out of the building, but then we’ll stand outside under the street lights and continue the conversations. It’ll whittle down until the last person is there. That’s a really big part of Deaf culture.
I’m involved with the Deaf community here in Oregon with a few organizations that support the Deaf, for example, the Oregon Association for the Deaf (OAD) and the Oregon Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (ORID). Here on campus at the University of Oregon, I’m involved with the Disability Studies Advisory Board, which advises and suggests courses that can be used for a Disability Studies minor. The ASL sequence and the ASL culture course is part of that minor.
How do you see Deaf culture as similar to, or different from, an ethnic culture?
There are obviously some similarities with ethnic cultures, such as language. Another aspect of ethnicity is appearance, such as skin color and that sort of thing, but often it’s really just the language aspect, and then that goes into culture, whether that be literature, sports, music, values, perceptions, beliefs, etc. The only real difference is the spoken language and the manual language of sign.
What are some ways that Deaf culture interacts with your ethnic culture? How did your family communicate with you when you were a child?
Mostly it was gesturing with my Spanish-speaking family. My parents did know fingerspelling and some Signed Exact English. It depends on people’s educational background as well as whether they have a hearing family or a deaf family. My parents both tend to use “Spanglish,” going back and forth with a mix of Spanish and English, but in my signing, I don’t tend to do that. I do use gestures to communicate Spanish language, but I use a different language—I use ASL when communicating English concepts. For example, the sign for “present” in Spanish sign would be equivalent to “spanking” in English. In my signing, there’s not really anything with a Spanish influence. There are deaf families from Mexico where the parents and the kids are deaf, and when they come here to America, they do have some accents in their signing, but I don’t.
What should human services providers and counselors know about working with a deaf person or his or her family? What kinds of concerns and needs might a deaf person bring to a human services provider?
It’s very important for them to know that one deaf person is not representative of all deaf people. They’re all individualized—their background in their family, their educational background, their upbringing, the various external factors that affect who they become and how they grow up. What’s really important to be aware of is the deaf person may not solely use ASL, maybe they don’t fully identify as 100% Deaf, or there may be a balance. They could feel that they are bilingual and/or bicultural. They could be hearing-dominated biculturally, which means they are deaf and they use ASL, but they’re comfortable socializing with the hearing community as well as with the Deaf community, but they tend to socialize with more hearing people because that’s their comfort zone for various reasons. Whereas there are some deaf people who are dominant bicultural deaf, who tend to socialize more with other deaf people and less with hearing people. Some people have a balance and can go between the various cultures, deaf and hearing. There are a variety of people who have various psychological experiences and other factors that have influenced their lives.
Human service providers also should be aware of interpreting needs. There needs to be an interpreter, and the interpreter has to be a good fit for that deaf person’s language needs. If the deaf person is an ASL-dominant user, versus an English-dominant user, it’s important to be sure the interpreter can provide the appropriate language for that particular deaf person. The deaf person’s background and upbringing may also matter—whether they were born into a deaf family or a hearing family and whether they went to a Deaf school or a mainstream hearing school.
It’s important for people in all service fields to remember the power dynamic, especially if there is an interpreter involved in the meeting. Simple things, like speaking directly to the deaf person as opposed to through the interpreter and not speaking about the deaf person, but rather to and with the deaf individual.
And then there is terminology. We have been using the term
with a capital D, deaf and hard-of-hearing rather than hearing impaired or exhibiting a loss of hearing, with the exception of those who lose their hearing later in life. The latter is not a cultural difference, but a physiological difference. Those who identify as a culturally Deaf person, predominantly use ASL, those politically and socially active in the Deaf world would call themselves big D or capital D Deaf. Those who have hearing loss, for whatever reason, and don’t identify as a member of the Deaf culture, but as a member of the hearing culture who has experienced some audiological hearing loss would be small d deaf.
National Association for the Deaf (NAD)
and the American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA) have talked about using different signs to differentiate between big D and small d deaf. There is no standardized ASL that makes this differentiation yet. For people who are culturally Deaf, they’re talking about changing the sign from “deaf,” a gesture from the ear to the mouth to a gesture from a pointer finger at the eye to the “5 handshape” [the technical term for a particular ASL hand position]. People who are culturally big D Deaf use that sign because deaf people rely on their eyes to communicate. They use their eyes for life, for behaving, for everything. They are always visual. They’re in an eye-centric world, so pointing to your eye and going to the 5 handshape represents using your eyes and hands. People who are little d deaf tend to sign “deaf” with a “d” from the ear to the mouth to show their hearing and then going to the mouth for speaking. That’s been a topic for discussion lately, to develop this new sign for Deaf to show it’s our language and our culture. It’s an interesting discussion about having two different signs.
The old sign is going from the ear and closing.
Interpreters follow a code of professional conduct or code of ethics that I think people need to be aware of. First of all, you want to make sure you have a qualified interpreter, and that is defined in a variety of ways in different states, so make sure, if at all possible, that the deaf individual or client can meet with the interpreter for a few moments beforehand to make sure they can establish effective communication. The most important standard is confidentiality. The role of the interpreter is as a conduit of information between all parties at the table. An interpreter should not interject or offer any opinion, counseling, or advice. There are many other rules, but those are the two primary ones that all people should feel confident in, provided they have a qualified interpreter. Depending on the event or situation, my strongest suggestion would be to use a qualified agency so the human services provider and the client don’t need to go over the ethical considerations of the interpreter’s role in depth.
The Oregon Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (ORID) has a lot of focus on educating people about interpreting and the need for Certified Deaf Interpreters [who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing] to help facilitate communication between a Deaf person and other parties, and a hearing, qualified interpreter. Sometimes there will be two interpreters—one is a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) standing on the platform at an event, and then off-screen is a hearing interpreter. There are other times where there’s one interpreter who is hearing, so it goes back and forth between having a CDI or not. If a qualified hearing interpreter goes to a meeting and decides that communication is not effective, then it’s helpful for them to be able to pull in a CDI.
It depends on what the person wants to share, especially, as Jo mentioned, talking about power dynamics or the client’s coping skills in various situations, whether it be with their family, within their community, or their place of employment or school. They might be analyzing their self-identity: Who am I? Am I okay? Are people looking at me funny? Am I different? Struggling with other people’s perceptions plus marriage and relationship issues can be difficult.
It depends where the Deaf person is, what services are already provided, and the awareness of the community. Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents so it’s often a catch-up game in terms of language options. One of the things human services providers may see in a variety of settings around the country, though not everywhere, will be more isolated deaf individuals who don’t have strong community ties because the Deaf-supportive community is so dispersed.
It took many, many years for us to have ASL accepted as a language option for the university’s undergraduate second language requirement, which used to be entitled the “foreign language requirement.” Now we have a two-year sequence and some ancillary coursework, including American Deaf Culture. Our Communication Disorders and Sciences program trains professionals in speech-language pathology and audiology. This is a better fit than previously, when they would take ASL through a linguistics class, for example. I believe that didn’t work well in terms of the professional educating children and adults in ASL. The first professionals that most hearing parents of deaf children go to are in the audiology or speech-language pathology field. I have always hoped that this shift in ASL training might change things for the better.
What resources or activities would you suggest for a human services provider to learn more about Deaf culture and clients?
It varies from state to state. The top two priorities would be to have a statewide commission for the deaf and hard-of-hearing as well as statewide services that could provide various resources and networking opportunities. Contacting them would be very beneficial. In addition, having state agencies for the deaf.
Some of these resources can be brought back to people who work in the human services or counseling community. Just being able to connect with them and ask people for resources and maybe meet some Deaf people to talk about interpreting issues that might arise. Maybe having someone come to their place of employment and give a presentation, pass out some paperwork, provide some resources that people can read that would help human services providers more clearly understand the state agency, the commission for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, or the state organization for the Deaf.
In addition to the state, there are often county and city resources available. It would behoove everybody to know what their resources are so if they need to hire an interpreter, it’s not a mad scramble at the last moment. They also should verify that there’s money in the budget because all human service agencies that receive federal funds are required to pay for the interpreter, which sometimes puts the onus on the Deaf person, though it shouldn’t. As is true for many other cultures and communities; if people, especially undergraduates, can go to events where they’re in the minority to learn what that feels like and watch how Deaf people interact, even one time, that will really help to make services more accessible. They’ll think about how they apply that to their own services. And, of course, taking any coursework in American Sign Language and/or American Deaf culture, and working as a professional with Deaf clients!
There are a lot of articles available to counseling and human service providers working with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing population. I encourage professionals to read and collect that information.
My biggest plug is to make sure that coursework at post-secondary institutions always include something about deafness and Deaf culture from a knowledgeable professional. Don’t lump deafness and Deaf culture under general Disability Studies—there are more factors involved in that.
Gallaudet University and National Technical Institute for the Deaf have research, readings, articles, publications, and other resources for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing population. They offer undergraduate and graduate programs in counseling and human services fields as well.
This chapter includes an interview with Mr. Vasquez and Ms. Larson focusing on their experience as members of the Deaf community. They both give insight to how human services providers can improve the quality of their services with intentionality and curiosity. They both suggest counselors know their resources and seek literature regarding the Deaf and hard-of-hearing population.
Readings and Resources
Textbook or eBook:
Diller, J. V. (2018). Cultural diversity: A primer for the human services (6th ed.). Cengage Learning.
· Chapter 19: Working with Deaf Clients
Articles, Websites, and Videos:
Gonzalez and Congress (2013) examine ethnical diversity among older adult populations and review implications on social work practice, offering strategies for working with these populations.
· González, M. J., & Congress, E. P. (2013). M
ulticultural Perspectives in Social Work Practice with Families
. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Connolly and Ward (2008) examine disability and ableism and situate the needs of people with disabilities into a larger human rights perspective.
· Connolly, M., & Ward, T. (2008).
Morals, Rights and Practice in the Human Services : Effective and Fair Decision-making in Health, Social Care and Criminal Justice
. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Thyer (2010) views visual impairment as an area of diversity and offers strategies for working with diverse individuals with visual impairments in a social work setting.
· Thyer, B. A. (2010).
Cultural Diversity and Social Work Practice
. Springfield: Charles C Thomas.
The American Psychological Association discusses aging and aging myths while providing a snapshot on health in older adult populations.
· Older adults: Health and age-related changes. (2020). American Psychological Association.
Intergenerational therapy acts as therapy for young and old.
User: WOWT 6 News – Added: 5/12/16
A disability advocacy case manager describes her job and how she helps her clients connect to services.
User: Pinellas County – Added: 8/18/15