Developing Consumer and System-Level Readiness for Self-Advocacy: Perspectives of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors of Postsecondary Deaf and Hard of Hearing


Effective self-advocacy skills have been shown to positively influence lifetime outcomes of d/Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) individuals. The literature suggests that many DHH individuals may be underprepared to effectively self-advocate in postsecondary settings due to a lack of effective training and opportunity. Vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) who work with and serve DHH consumers are in a unique position to support their clients’ self-advocacy skill building, especially during the transition into the workforce and other postsecondary settings. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how VRCs promote the self-advocacy knowledge and skills of their DHH consumers within postsecondary employment and educational contexts. Additionally, this study explored how VRCs facilitated self-advocacy opportunities for their clients at broader systems levels. Using a grounded theory approach, data from semi-structured interviews with 10 VRCs working specifically with DHH clients were analyzed. Selective coding procedures revealed 16 thematic strategies used by VRCs at both the individual and systems levels, including defining of necessary self-advocacy skills, linguistic skill building, provision of full communication access, comprehension monitoring, both informal and formal self-advocacy assessments, direct modeling of advocacy skill, self-advocacy skills programming and counseling, an overall gauging of client “readiness to advocate,” identification of advocacy opportunity at the system level, and employer education. Implications and future directions are discussed.


Schoffstall, S., Cawthon, S., Leppo, R., & Wendel, E. (2015). Developing consumer and system-level readiness for effective self-advocacy: Perspectives from vocational rehabilitation counselors working with deaf and hard of hearing individuals in post-secondary settings. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 27(4), 533–555. doi:10.1007/s10882-015-9435-3