The employment of individuals with hearing impairment in the KwaZulu-Natal private sector: current employers’ perceptions and experiences.
Doolabh, Nishita Ashwin.
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Background: Despite policies and legislation mandating the employment of persons with disabilities, individuals with hearing impairment continue to face barriers and challenges accessing the labour market and have typically experienced higher rates of unemployment or underemployment. In South Africa, the majority of individuals with disabilities remain dependent on social-welfare to meet basic needs and as a result, their potential remains grossly untapped. Misconceptions regarding the capabilities of hearing impaired individuals have resulted in the occupational marginalization of this population. Objective: This study aimed to investigate employers’ perceptions and experiences in recruiting and retaining individuals with hearing impairment in KwaZulu-Natal Provinces’ private sector. Method: A descriptive survey with quantitative methods of analysis was used to obtain information from employers, human resource personnel or management in various industries who have employed individuals with hearing loss. The Chronbach Alpha suggested that the self-administered questionnaire had good internal consistency (p = 0.858). A total of 30 responses were obtained from the 19 companies who agreed to participate. Results: Approximately 75% of participants indicated either a medium or low level of awareness regarding disability. Legislation such as the Employment Equity Act (EEA, no 55 of 1998) and the Skills Development Act (SDA, no 97 of 1998) were considered the most useful legislature, as indicated by 66.7% of participants. Those who indicated that external services or resources, such as the KZN Blind and Deaf Society and eDeaf were used during recruitment and retention were more likely to report to the benefits of employing hearing impaired individuals, this being statistically significant (p < 0.001). Less than half of the participants reported that reasonable accommodations were provided for their employees, and half indicated that they were willing to provide sign language interpreters. Most participants (70%) suggested that communication difficulties, particularly in meetings, contributed towards poor employment rates amongst individuals with hearing impairment. Communication difficulties were further endorsed by 73.3% of participants as a major challenge when recruiting and hiring persons with hearing impairment. Other concerns related to the safety of employees and attitudes of co-workers. Conclusion: The findings suggest that a lack of familiarity of disability and disability legislature can manifest in reliance on erroneous stereotypes that individuals with disabilities are poor job performers and incapable of working independently. However, with the use of reasonable accommodations which includes sign language interpreters and desensitization workshops, employers were able to successfully integrate hearing impaired employees into the workforce.