Program by Deaf Litercy Initiative
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Research – Deaf Workforce Reality

The unemployment rate of Deaf Canadians is significantly higher than the general population (CAD, 1998). Deaf individuals have IQ levels similar to the general population (Vernon, 2005). Considering the comparable IQs it begs the question: Why are so many Deaf Canadians unemployed or underemployed?
The research is going to address the employment needs of Deaf Canadians. The research is attempting to determine what factors

  • need to be changed to help improve the employment opportunities of Deaf Canadians
  • are currently in place that help with the employment success of Deaf Canadians
The project focuses on five groups

  • Deaf Community Members
  • Deaf Adult Literacy Programs
  • Employment Service Providers
  • Employers
  • Learning Centres

The input of each of these groups is important to the study however the main focus is on Deaf Community Members. Within Deaf Community Members participants with the following criteria were chosen

  • Deaf
  • Aged 15 years and older
  • Use ASL as their primary means of communication

  • It is estimated that there are approximately 310,000 culturally Deaf Canadians (CAD, 2007)
  • Deaf Canadians have unemployment rates that are significantly higher than the general population (CAD, 1998)
  • Only 5% of the Deaf population feel that they have a comfortable level of income (Kerr & Roots, 1998)

The high rate of unemployment causes two major problems:

  1. unemployed individuals need some form of financial support which drains government resources
  2. unemployment and underemployment increases the likelihood of depression and other mental illnesses (Dooley, Prause, Ham-Rowbottom, 2000).

  • Determine ‘why so many Deaf Canadians are unemployed and underemployed’
  • Inform the federal, provincial and municipal governments on the factors that are attributing to the underemployment of Deaf Canadians
  • Inform: employers, learning Centres, Deaf Adult literacy programs and the Deaf community on the factors that are attributing to the underemployment of Deaf Canadians
  • Determine what the Deaf Literacy Initiative can do to help improve the unemployment of Deaf Canadians

  • 5 research groups were selected
  • interviews and/or surveys were conducted with each group
  • interviews with Deaf participants were conducted by Deaf research assistants
  • interviews with Deaf participants were translated and transcribed into written English
  • interviews with hearing participants were conducted by the researcher or hearing research assistants
  • interviews with hearing participants were transcribed into written English
  • surveys were analyzed with SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences)
  • interviews were analyzed using the constant comparative method of analysis
Five key factors were revealed that influence the employment of Deaf Canadians

  1. Deaf Employee Attitude
  2. Employer Attitude
  3. Communication
  4. Accommodations
  5. Interpreters
The Project Advisory Committee (PAC) was established to provide feedback and guidance for the ‘Deaf Workforce’ project. The PAC members consisted of Deaf professionals from

  • British Columbia
  • Alberta
  • Ontario
  • New Brunswick

The research findings were presented to the PAC members on March 4, 2011. The PAC members’ primary recommendation is a development of a Deaf lead Non-governmental organization (NGO). The focus of the NGO is on

  • Employment
  • Literacy
  • Essential Skills

The mandate of the NGO includes

  • Research
  • Education
  • Partnerships
The PAC recommended a three-staged approach to implement the recommendations. Stage 1 – The Establishment of a Professional Advisory Committee This committee would consist of

  • Deaf professionals with expertise and experience with Deaf employment, research and Adult literacy needs
  • Representation from each province and territory

The purpose of the PAC would be to plan, organize and host a National Deaf Employment Conference that addresses all of the recommendations made in this report. Stage 2 – National Deaf Conference. The National Deaf Conference will address the ‘recommendation’ topics from the ‘PAC 2010-2011 Deaf Workforce’ meeting. The topics addressed include

  • research
  • education
  • partnerships

Participants in the conference would include

  • Deaf practitioners
  • Leaders within the Deaf community
  • Employment Service Providers
  • Employers

The purpose of the National Deaf Employment Conference would be to develop the action plan for a Non-Governmental Organization. Stage 3 – The Establishment of a NGO The Non-governmental organization would then focus on the recommendations from the National Deaf Employment Conference and develop an action plan to address each of the topics discussed.