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Abstract

This article presents results from a service evaluation of a life skills programme for Deaf adults that had been operating as a pilot for three years in Dublin until June 2013. The remit of the programme was to provide a short-term residential intervention service for Deaf adults who were perceived to be vulnerable and isolated from their community. Over the course of its three years in operation, the programme had seventeen Deaf participants. The literature on life skills and Deaf adults is sparse. Studies have tended to concentrate on barriers young people with disabilities face, and within that literature young Deaf people are rarely discussed (Stewart et al., 2013). However, there are particular barriers to the transition to independent living for this population. Acquisition of life skills can be compromised by a number of factors including: lower expectations during their school years, barriers to incidental learning opportunities, poor communication at home, learned helplessness, and poor literacy and numeracy skills. Furthermore, existing mainstream services providing life skills programmes to other adults with disabilities frequently do not have the skill-set to work with Deaf adults, nor do they have communication competency in Irish Sign Language that would facilitate their inclusion in these services. Given the increased move to mainstream services and the closure of congregated settings for adults with disabilities in the wake of the congregated settings report (Health Service Executive, 2011), there is a need now to examine the availability of appropriate services to facilitate the transition to independent living for vulnerable adults with disabilities. This article presents case study data from five participants based on interviews with participants, parents and staff. It also features quantitative results from a retrospective life skills inventory. Overall, gains were made across a range of life skill areas, in particular food management, housekeeping, emergency and safety, and transportation. However, gaps persist particularly in relation to health, sexual health, knowledge of legal rights, and knowledge of housing issues such as renting.

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