Graduate project

The hard-of-hearing vocational rehabilitation client : who should serve them

Most, if not all, state vocational rehabilitation agencies have incorporated the use of Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf (RCD's). California has 41 such counselors who serve those hearing-impaired people who rely on sign language primarily to communicate. Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf also provide services to those persons who make up the vast majority of hearing-impaired people, the hard of hearing. The large number of these hearing-impaired people, over 18 million nationwide, has resulted in many general caseload counselors serving hard of hearing and even deaf clients, too. It is now recognized by many in the field of rehabilitation that hard-of-hearing people have unique needs that require specialized skills and knowledge. This, along with a shortage of RCD's to serve all hearing impaired people, raises the question as to who should serve the hard-of-hearing client. Thirty-eight respondents to a 17-item questionnaire strongly voiced the opinion that RCD's are most able to provide services to hard-of-hearing clients. Evidently the general counselors did not feel confident in their ability to serve hard-of-hearing clients due to a lack of training and experience in this particular area. In service and/or on-the-job training were seen as the best way to train counselors to work with hard-of-hearing clients. It was concluded that RCD's should be used to provide services primarily to those clients who must use sign language to communicate. A number of general counselors need to be trained to work with the hard-of hearing client so as to have at least one such counselor in each Vocational Rehabilitation field office. A specialist should be available in each district for consultation also. Action needs to be taken to develop and implement this type of in-service training.