Original Research

The matrix of linguistic exclusions impeding career construction for D/deaf learners

Unati Stemela-Zali, Harsha Kathard, Maximus M. Sefotho
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a935 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.935 | © 2022 Unati Stemela-Zali, Harsha Kathard, Maximus Monaheng Sefotho | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 August 2021 | Published: 13 June 2022

About the author(s)

Unati Stemela-Zali, Department of Rehabilitative Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa
Harsha Kathard, Department of Disability Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Maximus M. Sefotho, Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: The purpose of this study was to explore how D/deaf learners in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa constructed their careers and what types of support were available for them to do so. The study found that among the support required, support for their linguistic development, and particularly sign language acquisition, was critical in home, school and community contexts.

Objectives: The objective of this paper is to highlight the multiple linguistic exclusions faced by D/deaf learners in the Eastern Cape, which negatively impact their career construction.

Method: Savickas theory of career construction framed this analytical-qualitative case study. The study was conducted in two out of four schools for the D/deaf in two districts of the Eastern Cape, South Africa.  Data was gathered via four participant groups viz. Deaf learners, their parents, teachers and officials of the Department of Basic Education, as well as through documents reviews.

Results: The results indicated that multiple linguistic exclusions for these learners begin  early in their lives and continue into their school years and beyond. These experiences at home, school and in social contexts combined, impact negatively the process of career construction and its prospects.

Conclusion:  The study concluded that linguistic exclusions are exposed by the study  are  created by a combination of systemic factors which impede the career construction of d/Deaf learners.  Implications and suggestions for advancing their linguistic inclusion are discussed. 


Deaf; sign language; education; exclusion; inclusive education; careers


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