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January 24, 2003

UA Receives Grants To Study Hearing Loss In Minorities

From: Morning News, AR - 24 Jan 2003

$99,000 will pay for research into rehabilitation services

The Morning News/

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two grants made to researchers at the University of Arkansas could lead to improved services nationwide for minorities with hearing loss.

The UA Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Persons Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing has received grants totaling $99,650 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to conduct studies about rehabilitation services for individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to improve rehabilitation services for two under-served groups," said Douglas Watson, rehabilitation professor and director of the research and training center. "Effective rehabilitation services improve life for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and can also have a tremendous impact on their families, co-workers and communities."

The UA research is funded under Section 21 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992. Given evidence of lower rates of acceptance, reduced training opportunities, higher percentage of unsuccessful closures, and lower amounts spent on minority consumers, Section 21 promotes projects designed to study and improve services for minorities within the federal and state vocational-rehabilitation system.

The first study, with researcher Katrina Miller, assistant professor of rehabilitation, will focus on services received by Native Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. Research shows that American Indians and Alaska Natives receive less rehabilitative service than other groups, despite having a higher rate of disability. Watson said that a primary reason for this gap is a paucity of identification and outreach services to the disabled American Indian community. He added that it is important for rehabilitation counselors to be aware of American Indian culture, as well as the multiculturalism of American Indians and Alaska Natives, when providing outreach services.

UA researchers have assembled a team of rehabilitation professionals skilled in working with American Indians and Alaska Natives to develop a handbook of guidelines for serving this population. The five members of the Native American Prime Study team will meet later this month in Little Rock to begin their work. When the study is completed, training material will be disseminated to encourage collaboration between programs serving American Indians and Alaska Natives on a national level.

The second study will examine rehabilitation services for blacks with hearing loss to determine whether significant differences exist in the rehabilitation outcomes of black and white consumers. Rehabilitation researchers Kathy Wheeler-Scruggs, research assistant professor, and Michelle Capella, assistant professor, will analyze data and case-file records from the Kentucky Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to obtain information about services and consumers.

This spring and summer, interviews will be conducted with former rehabilitation consumers to compare perspectives on services received, services needed, counselor relationship, counselor competence, fair treatment, and employment.

The UA Research and Training Center for Persons Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Little Rock has undertaken more than 38 research projects in its 20-year history. During the past five years, researchers have examined pathways and barriers to success in the workplace and have designed innovative resources to increase workforce participation by workers with hearing loss.

More than 150 students have graduated with a master's degree specializing in rehabilitation of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

© 2002 copyright The Stephens Media Group.