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Soc Sci Med. 1984;19(6):219-27.

Analyzing surveys on deaf adults: implications for survey research on persons with disabilities.


Differences in operationalizing definitions of disability, variations in methods of data collection and diversities in salient characteristics of disabled persons are generic problems in conducting social research surveys with persons who have disabilities. These problems are of concern not only to social scientists seeking to improve survey methods, but they also have practical significance to decision makers needing high quality information to guide social policies that influence the provision of health care, education and social services to persons with chronic impairments. Reports of 41 surveys on deaf adults in the United States and Canada conducted between 1959 and 1981 were analyzed to determine how rates of response, a key indicator of reliability of survey data, are affected by three methods of data collection, degree of verification efforts, scope of the sample and socio-demographic characteristics of those in the survey populations. Measurable results are provided so that planners of future surveys can correct for anticipated rates of sample attrition under various survey conditions. Other data indicate that trade-offs can be made between changes in the size of the sample and method of data collection to lead to more effective surveys. Important terms such as deafness, deaf population and deaf community are discussed as these relate to interpreting the results of survey studies on deaf adults. Discussion is also given to conducting social surveys with groups of individuals having other disabilities besides loss of hearing.

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