Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Conditions Influencing the Availability of Accommodations for Workers Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Conditions Influencing the Availability of Accommodations for Workers Who Are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing

Article excerpt

Since passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA; Public Law 101-336), growing interest has been placed upon the extent to which employers provide accommodations to workers with a hearing impairment (either deaf or hard-of-heating) or any other disability. Reis (1994) reported that the aging of the national population has been a major factor in the increased prevalence of hearing loss. The same report, based on a 1990-91 National Health Interview Survey, stated that 20.3 million Americans had hearing impairments. Among this total (10.6 million were of working age, 18-64), many could benefit from some type of accommodation to assist in full productivity at work.

Despite this information, recent studies reveal a paucity of workplace accommodations to compensate for loss of hearing (Glass & Elliott, 1993; Hetu & Getty, 1993; Scherich, 1996; Schroedel, Mowry, & Anderson, 1994). Scherich (1996) asked 201 deaf and hard-of-hearing workers and 51 employers about the availability of three classes of accommodations: communicative devices (such as phone amplifiers), support personnel (e.g., interpreters), and job restructuring. She found that communicative devices were most readily available (70% availability as reported by employees; 88% as reported by employers). Accommodations involving job restructuring were least available (25% availability as reported by employees; 35% as reported by employers). Glass and Elliott (1993) surveyed 1300 workers who experienced hearing loss during adulthood. Although more than half of these individuals worked in professional and managerial jobs, only about 25% reported a job accommodation. Other studies likewise reveal a shortage of job accommodations for workers with hearing impairments (Hetu & Getty, 1993; Schroedel, Mowry, & Anderson, 1994).


The purpose of this paper is to facilitate efforts to increase the availability of accommodations for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The current study was designed to build on prior studies of the availability of accommodations in two ways. First, it was designed to document the frequency of availability of specific workplace accommodations for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Information of this type is needed to create a baseline for future efforts to document increases in the availability of accommodations and to facilitate efforts to justify a request for an accommodation or decisions regarding the provision of accommodations. Second, the study was conducted to identify specific employee and employer attributes that are related to the availability of accommodations. Ideally, the worker who is hearing-impaired will work with his or her supervisor to get an accommodation. Such collaborative efforts are a legal requirement as specified by the ADA. The availability of accommodations, therefore, is likely to be related to attributes of employees and employers. Limited attention has been paid to identifying covariates of either the availability of, or the need for, accommodations for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Employee Attributes

Current theory and research suggest that employers favor higher-status workers over lower-status workers in provision of accommodations (Stone & Colella, 1996; Scherich, 1996). Status in a workplace refers to an employee's relative position or rank in the organization, usually in terms of the hierarchy of authority. Higher-status employees tend to have higher rank relative to other workers, and may be in a managerial position or some other prestigious position. Lower-status employees tend to be in lower-level positions or in less prestigious positions. Stone and Colella (1996) theorize that the perceived status of a worker with a disability will have an influence on other employees' reactions to him or her; specifically, they predict that higher-status workers with disabilities will be treated more favorably by supervisors and coworkers than those with a lower status. …

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