Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Social Work

Abstract

This study examines the experience of hearing managers of Deaf employees in the restaurant sector, specifically as it relates to accommodation and social integration. Deaf workers who use American Sign Language differ from their hearing peers with regard to communication style, language choice, and need for accommodation. Responsibility for social integration and logistical accommodation falls largely on managers, who may be unfamiliar with the needs and capabilities of Deaf workers. The aim of this study is to generate knowledge about the accommodation and social integration experiences of managers with Deaf workers that can benefit those unfamiliar with these phenomena. The literature on employment issues for Deaf populations rarely includes the perspectives of hearing managers who supervise them. Managers are rarely equipped with the tools to help hearing and Deaf team members perform and integrate with others in optimal ways. Research on their experience is thus needed to inform the creation of such tools.

Using a phenomenological approach, this study applies stigma theory to frame issues of workplace accommodation and social integration. Hearing managers of various high-volume restaurants (N=6) and their Deaf employees (N=6), participated in in-depth semi-structured interviews. Site observation was also conducted at two of the restaurant locations from which data was collected. Data was analyzed through a systematic coding process, which both identified and compared themes in the experiences of managers and workers.

Managers displayed lack of knowledge about accommodation but did make concrete strides to facilitate social integration of Deaf workers. Managers often felt satisfaction with the performance of Deaf workers, though at times managers under-estimated worker abilities. While minimal accommodation did occur regularly at restaurant sites, said accommodations were not considered optimal by Deaf employee participants. Regarding social integration and personal attitudes toward Deaf people, hearing managers reported almost no reluctance or interpersonal tension.

Despite minimal access to American Sign Language, Deaf workers expressed positive feelings toward both their managers and their places of employment, echoing, to some degree, the positive nature of the experience articulated by managers. Several expressed preference for different or more frequent accommodations (namely, American Sign Language interpretation), but results indicated few problems with social interaction or personal animosity.

Knowledge gained in this study has implications for current and prospective hearing managers, Deaf workers, and social workers/advocates who work in employment support. Managers can learn about accommodation needs and socialization patterns of Deaf workers through the experiences of managers who have been through the process. Deaf workers can gain a better understanding of the perspectives of managers as stakeholders, and service professionals can use information to design educational and supportive resources to help managers make changes and improvements in accommodation and social integration.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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