Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

The Use of Modern Information and Communication Systems and Technology and Experienced Stress at Work in Mixed Deaf-Hearing Teams

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

The Use of Modern Information and Communication Systems and Technology and Experienced Stress at Work in Mixed Deaf-Hearing Teams

Article excerpt

IN PREDOMINANTLY HEARING ENVIRONMENTS, where there are multiple information streams in different languages, deaf people usually run the risk of information deprivation because they do not have full access to prevailing communication modes and channels. Pilling and Barrett (2007) wrote about the fact that technological developments can lead to both inclusion and exclusion for people who have a disability. Especially for deaf people, recent technological improvements also create new opportunities. In mixed deaf and hearing teams it has been documented that a positive attitude toward the use of sign language is one of the most important aspects in creating a positive collaborative environment (Young, Ackerman, and Kyle 2000). Van Herreweghe (2002) has shown that in mixed deaf-hearing professional meetings the information flow and working conditions improve if a deaf person chairs that meeting in sign language with interpreters. However, awareness of linguistic and cultural differences and (varying) signing skills in a team do not guarantee that all of the team members have equal access to the information they need in order to do their jobs satisfactorily.

In the Institute of Sign, Language, and Deaf Studies (ISLD) and in the Deaf Studies Research Unit of the Department of Education, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, we have two teams of altogether sixty- two employees. The languages used at the institute are Dutch, written and spoken, and Dutch Sign Language (Nederlandse Gebarentaal; hereafter NGT). Often simultaneous communication occurs, which we call Sign-supported Dutch (Nederlands met Gebaren; hereafter NmG). New team members are expected to take three NGT courses if they are not fluent in that language. For most of the deaf team members, written Dutch is considered to be a second language skill. Interpreter services during the team meetings are extensively used both by hearing and deaf team members.

In both teams the following language policy applies. During informal settings (e.g., in the teachers' room during coffee breaks, in the hallways, at social events), either NGT or NmG is used. During more formal settings, Dutch or NGT are used while quahfied interpreters translate. In practice, the languages used during official meetings are spoken Dutch, written Dutch (via a speech-to-text interpreter), NGT, and NmG, with highly varying degrees of fluency. Considering the availability of interpreters and the multhingual policy, most conditions for successful collaboration and ftill access seem to be met. liowever, as a consequence of modern technologies like cell phones, texting, mobile videophones, MSN, the Internet, and intranet systems like First Class Client, SharePoint, and Blackboard, face-to-face contact in the team might be decreasing. This can prove to be an extra factor in the accessibility of information exchange between team members and of informal exchanges in particular.

All of these factors lead us to the hypothesis that the use of modern information and communication systems and technologies (ICST) will decrease the commonly described communication problems that exist in mixed deaf and hearing teams. Also, we suggest that better access to information will decrease the level of stress that deaf people experience as a result of information deprivation.

The Deaf Studies Research Team is interested in how the deaf and hearing team members actually experience the multilingual environment and the deaf/hearing collaboration in relation to the experience of stress. We have conducted an explorative study on how the deaf, hearing, hard-of-hearing, and deaf blind employees who work in the undergraduate and master's degree programs and on the research team itself experience the working conditions of this educational and research environment. We discuss the data that we collected through a questionnaire that was presented in Dutch and NGT. The main focus is on the contribution of job demands and job control to experienced stress and on the hypothesis that feelings of stress may be induced by the workplace when it is a complex language environment. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.