Developing vocational and independent living skills is critical to the ultimate work and day-to-day success of people with hearing impairments. It is crucial that reliable and valid assessment data be gathered to guide and structure focused and effective instructional programs in these areas (DeStefano, 1987; Frey, 1984; Marut & Innes, 1986; Shiels, 1986; Sligar, 1983). Unfortunately, few instruments are designed specifically to assess the transition skills of adolescents and young adults with hearing impairments (Reiman & Bullis, 1987). Typical practice is to administer traditional psychometric tests (e.g., IQ tests) or functional measures designed for other populations (e.g., vocational skill tests developed for adolescents with learning disabilities). People who administer such measures (interpreters or clinicians) possess varying levels of sign language competence (Levine, 1974; Stewart, 1986). Based on the lack of other assessment alternatives, this approach is logical, but the veracity of data gathered in this manner--and subsequent intervention decisions based on these results--are questionable for two primary reasons.
First, deafness is a condition defined by its unique expressive and receptive communication modalities that differ significantly from those of our English-based hearing society. Many deaf people use a bona fide language (American Sign Language or ASL) that has no structural relationship to English; that relies on visual rather than auditory encoding and decoding; and that has a rule-governed phonology, syntax, and morphology (Reiman & Bullis, 1989). Educators conducting any assessment of deaf people's transition skills should consider this fundamental communicative difference. Can the deaf person use an interpreter in an effective manner in a job interview? Does the individual know his or her legal rights when interacting with a police officer? Can the person formulate a strategy to communicate effectively with coworkers? Questions such as these are highly relevant to successful work and living experiences. A review of published research on measurement procedures with this population, however, reveals that tests designed for other populations do not address these crucial skills in any systematic way, nor have investigations delineated the particular skills and content necessary for deaf people to succeed in work and living endeavors in the community (Bullis & Reiman, 1989; Reiman & Bullis, 1987).
Second, any time the administration procedures of a standardized assessment tool are altered, the validity of the resulting assessment data must be questioned. For example, consider a measure of functional skill knowledge that was devised for use with and standardized on a group of adolescents other than persons who are deaf (e.g., learning disabled). If that tool is administered using sign communication in place of verbal instructions, such substitution violates the standardization procedures of the measure and technically invalidates the tool (American Psychological Association, 1985; Gerweck & Ysseldyke, 1979; Yoshida & Friedman, 1986). Consequently, the resulting data are suspect because of the absence of psychometric standards of the measure for that type of application.
There is, then, a pressing need to develop language-appropriate, content-relevant, and psychometrically sound measures of transition skills for deaf persons. The purpose of this article is to describe the development and initial standardization data of such an instrument, the Transition Competence Battery for Deaf Adolescents and Young Adults (TCB) (Reiman & Bullis, 1990).
PRELIMINARY DEVELOPMENT PROCEDURES
Three fundamental assumptions guided the development of this test battery. First, it was, and is, our belief that one of the major stumbling blocks in conducting research or understanding investigations of this group, is that all too often the deaf population is regarded as homogeneous. …