Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Attitudes toward the Capabilities of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults: Insights from the Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Attitudes toward the Capabilities of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults: Insights from the Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Article excerpt

All environments contain barriers and facilitators, especially for people with disabilities. The complex interaction among personal characteristics, activities, and environment means that each individual with a disability will have a unique experience of the way that disability is realized in his or her life (Schneidert, Hurst, Miller, & Üstün, 2003)- A simplified view of this interaction is that in situations in which there are no barriers, a disability may have no impact on an individual's daily life (Noreau & Boschen, 2010; Schneidert et al., 2003). An example of this occurred in Martha's Vineyard, where the community's familiarity with deafness and use of the Island sign language "eliminated the wall that separates deaf people from the rest of society" (p. 4) and allowed Deaf1 and hearing people to fully participate in all aspects of community life (Groce, 1985).

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and HealthChildren and Youth (ICF-CY; World Health Organization, 2007) is a conceptual model of health, functioning, and development describing body structures, body functions, activities, participation, and environmental and personal factors. The role of environ- ment in the experience of disability is explicitly considered within the ICFCY, especially the role of people's attitudes. Attitudes are "the observable consequences of customs, practices, ideologies, values, norms, factual beliefs, and religious beliefs. These attitudes influence individual behavior and social life at all levels, from interpersonal relationships and community associations to political, economic, and legal structures" (World Health Organization, 2007, p. 207). The attitudes of others affect the lives of people with disabilities and may create significant, intangible barriers or facilitators that can have a greater impact on participation than the disability itself (Bilbao et al., 2003; Coryell, Holcomb, & Scherer, 1992; Guscia, Ekberg, Harries, & Kirby, 2006).

Attitudes Toward Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults

The majority of d/Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children are born to parents who may have little or no prior knowledge of deafness (Mitchell & Karchmer, 2004). Parents of DHH children are thrust into situations that may challenge their existing attitudes toward DHH people and what it is possible for DHH people-and their DHH child-to achieve. Therefore, the attitudes of parents of DHH children toward DHH adults presents an interesting situation in which established attitudes may be challenged as these parents plan for the best possible future for their children. Children with disabilities are sensitive to people's reactions toward them, which have an impact on the children's self-perception (Weisel & Gali Cinamon, 2005). Hadadian (1995) found that for DHH children, poor attachment is related to less positive parent attitudes toward DHH people. Negative attitudes may come in many guises for DHH people. Negative attitudes may be overtly hostile, but also exist more subtly in stereotypes, derogatory terminology (e.g., deaf and dumb), negative metaphors (e.g., It fell on deaf ears), and inaccurate beliefs (e.g., that deaf people are quiet; Nikolaraizi & Makri, 2004/2005; Power, 2006).

In addition to confronting attitudinal barriers in their environment, DHH people may overestimate the magnitude of negative attitudes (Stinson, 1994). Studies by Schroedel and Schiff (1972) and Furnham and Lane (1984) found that DHH people rated the attitudes of hearing people to be more negative than they actually were. A more recent study, by Nikolaraizi and Makri (2004/2005), considered opinions about the capabilities of DHH people within four groups: DHH people who used Greek Sign Language (GSL), DHH people who did not use GSL, hearing people learning GSL, and hearing people who did not use GSL. The groups with the most positive attitudes were the DHH users of GSL, followed by hearing users of GSL. …

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