Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Measuring the Attitudes of Human Service Professionals toward Deafness

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Measuring the Attitudes of Human Service Professionals toward Deafness

Article excerpt

THE ATTITUDES TO DEAFNESS SCALE is a 22-item measure of attitudes toward people who are deaf designed for use with human service professionals. Attitude statements were generated from personal accounts by deaf people in the literature and from a focus group in which deaf people discussed their experience of hearing people's attitudes toward them. A 60-item scale was administered to a group of 121 clinical and forensic psychologists during their training. Item analysis was conducted to select items that effectively distinguished participants with a positive attitude from those with a negative attitude toward deaf people. The scale may be used in any context where a professional group comes into contact with people who are deaf.

There are few instruments designed to assess attitudes toward people who are deaf (Berkay, Gardner, & Smith, 1995). In the present article, we discuss the currently available tools as well as the need for an instrument relevant to human service professionals in particular. The Attitudes to Deafness Scale (Cowen, Bobrove, Rockway, & Stevenson, 1967) is the most widely used measure and was developed by adapting a scale designed to measure attitudes to blindness. By adding a further 20 items, Cowen and colleagues hoped to customize the measure so that it would also pertain to deafness, but they did not consult people who were deaf for their experiences or views. While its items relate to hearing people's attitudes toward deaf people in terms of ability and equality, they make no reference to cultural or linguistic issues. Cowen and colleagues ascertained its validity by asking five "clinically trained judges" to indicate whether the items reflected a positive or negative attitude toward deafness. We take the view that it is more appropriate to consult with a group of deaf people to establish a measure about issues of which they have direct experience: It is arguable that omitting to do this in itself reflects an undesirable attitude toward people who are deaf.

Although not specifically designed to address deafness issues, the Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons Scale (Furnham & Lane, 1984) has also been adapted for this purpose. In the adaptation of measures that have been developed for use with people with other kinds of disabilities, there is an assumption that attitudes toward people who are deaf involve the same issues and constructs as attitudes toward people with disabilities in general. This assumption has been challenged by Kiger (1997), who examined attitudes toward people who are deaf and concluded that these attitudes are structurally different from attitudes toward groups with other disabilities. In considering the structure of attitudes toward people who are deaf, Kiger looked at stereotypes, emotions, and values as separate components of attitudes. Participants in Kiger's research were asked to list several characteristics they felt described a "typical" deaf person, and then rate each descriptor on a scale, in terms of whether they perceived it to be a positive or negative characteristic. Second, participants were required to list their feelings regarding "typical persons who are deaf" and then evaluate them as positive or negative. Third, participants were asked to "indicate the values, customs, and traditions whose attainment is either facilitated or blocked" by typical persons who are deaf. Responses to each of the components were scored and combined to give an attitude score. Comparing the structure of these scores with the structure of scores relating to attitudes toward people with other disabilities, Kiger concluded that "the structure of attitudes towards persons who are deaf [is] systematically different from the structure of attitudes towards persons with other disabilities" (p. 559).

Berkay, Gardner, and Smith (1995) developed a measure to assess hearing people's beliefs about deaf adults, called the Opinions About Deaf People Scale. The main construct within the measure is the comparison of deaf and hearing people's capabilities: that is, whether deaf people are perceived to be equally capable as or less capable than hearing people. …

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