A shift in perspective moves away from a medical view that describes Deaf and hard of hearing people as having “hearing loss” and moves to a positive perspective that recognizes a collective minority. Positive attitudes in the workplace respect the variety of cultures and expression within a culture. They encourage environments that promote the minority culture as a rich resource in our society. This rich resource is known as “Deaf-Gain” and the collective identity is known as “Deafhood”.
As individuals from birth or later in life develop their identity as members of a Deaf cultural minority in society, their collective existence referred to as “Deafhood” emerges as a resource for the individual and also for society. Ladd (2003) identifies stages progressing from a deficit, medical perspective to a social welfare perspective and then to a human rights perspective, to a linguistic minority perspective and finally to a “Deafhood” perspective. Deafhood includes identification with a collective culture, history, literature and arts that enriches the individual and society. Figure 1 shows the stages that people go through in identifying individuals from a medical “Deafness” perspective to a collective culture or “Deafhood” perspective.
Many Deaf individuals use sign language as a first language and English as their second language. Like many individuals with 2nd language acquisition, there are varying degrees of literacy in the multiple languages we know. That is true for Deaf individuals and their written English as a 2nd language. There is also a history of access issues in schools that has negatively impacted literacy of Deaf and hard of hearing youth. Research has shown that academic and literacy levels of Deaf children with Deaf parents is higher than those with hearing parents. This supports the benefits of an accepting and fully accessible and engaging environment that accepts Deaf culture and sign language. Please refer to Canadian Hearing Society’s School to Work Transition Project, Barrier Free Education Initiative.
Attitudinal Barrier Prevention in the Workplace