Original Research

‘The world is not only for hearing people – It’s for all people’: The experiences of women who are deaf or hard of hearing in accessing healthcare services in Johannesburg, South Africa

Khetsiwe P. Masuku, Nomfundo Moroe, Danielle van der Merwe
African Journal of Disability | Vol 10 | a800 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v10i0.800 | © 2021 Khetsiwe P. Masuku, Nomfundo Moroe, Danielle van der Merwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 September 2020 | Published: 20 July 2021

About the author(s)

Khetsiwe P. Masuku, Department of Speech Pathology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nomfundo Moroe, Department of Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Danielle van der Merwe, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Despite legal and adopted frameworks purporting access to healthcare and rehabilitation services, which are both a human right and key to developmental issues, women who are deaf and/or hard of hearing (HoH) are still excluded and experience barriers when accessing healthcare services. Largely, this is attributed to communication barriers between healthcare professionals and women who are deaf and/or HoH. There have been limited research studies carried out on women with invisible disabilities, such as deafness, especially amongst African women.

Objectives: This study sought to gain insights into the communication experiences of women who are deaf or HoH when accessing public healthcare services in hospitals in Johannesburg.

Methods: A qualitative research study employing semi-structured interviews with 10 African women who are deaf and/or HoH residing in Johannesburg, South Africa and attending government healthcare facilities was conducted. Participants were purposively selected. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Data revealed the following themes: communication barriers resulting in compromised quality of care and infringement on participants’ right to confidentiality; accommodation that is not accommodative and negative attitudes of healthcare professionals.

Conclusion: The findings of this study confirm the alienating, exclusion, marginalisation, discrimination, invisibility, lack of independence and autonomy of women who are deaf and/or HoH when accessing healthcare services. Therefore, this study argues for a need for the conscientisation of healthcare professionals on communication needs of persons who are deaf and/or HoH. This has implications for the implementation of training programmes that will address communication, reasonable accommodation and attitudes of healthcare professionals.


Keywords

access; healthcare; women; deaf; South Africa

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