Semester of Graduation

Spring 2019


Master of Social Work (MSW)


School of Social Work

Document Type



D/deaf and hard of hearing people have lower health literacy and higher rates of misdiagnosis of serious illnesses than their hearing counterparts (Sheier, 2009). This is, in part, a result of the inaccessible and culturally incompetent care provided to d/Deaf and hard of hearing individuals (Kuenburg, Fellinger & Fellinger, 2016; Hoang, LaHousse, Nakaji & Sadler, 2010 Sheier, 2009). Inaccessible and culturally incompetent care may be byproducts of human service providers’ attitudes towards d/Deaf and hard of hearing people (Ulloa, 2014; Cooper, Mason & Rose, 2005), and providers’ level of competence with properly caring for d/Deaf and hard of hearing clients (Hoang LaHousse, Nakaji & Sadler, 2010). This exploratory study aims to understand how social workers’ attitudes towards deafness relate to their competence, as well as to their experience, with working with d/Deaf and hard of hearing clients. Additionally, I explore how certain demographic and professional characteristics are related to social workers’ attitudes, competence, and experience. I found that social workers attitudes and competence were significantly correlated (0.388, p=0.001). Gender also had a relationship to attitudes toward the D/deaf, 75.2% of female social workers had positive attitude scores, while 24.8% of male social workers had positive attitudes. Experience with d/Deaf and hard of hearing clients and utilizing interpreters were significantly related to social workers self-reported competence scores, where social workers who utilized interpreters for their d/Deaf clients had higher competence scores falling within the ranges of moderate to expert. Finally, I found that receiving education about d/Deaf and hard of hearing issues was significantly related to social workers self-reported competence where 82.9% of social workers who had learned about d/Deaf issues had competence scores that ranged from moderate to expert scores. Implications for social work practice are discussed, namely d/Deaf education programs, as well as policies that could improve access to care by expanding access to interpreters and hearing devices. Future considerations for research could include qualitative studies with disabled social workers, or d/Deaf people to better understand d/Deaf cultural competence from a sociocultural viewpoint.

Committee Chair

Scott, Jennifer