Chapter 6 of Illusions of Equality continued…
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This demonstration of mass support overcame any opposition state bureaucrats or legislators may have harbored regarding hiring personnel familiar with sign language. In May 1937, state residents celebrated legislation that authorized the hiring of four job placement specialists for deaf and hard of hearing adults. By 1938, employment specialists consulted with deaf adults across the commonwealth. Working directly with state vocational rehabilitation services, deaf Pennsylvanians had established a new model that would serve as a blueprint for other states in the coming years.

By the end of the 1930s, nearly all bureaus -- and a growing number of services for deaf adults -- were uneasily dovetailed into state vocational rehabilitation programs for disabled groups. At the 1940 NAD convention, leaders including Marcus Kenner, Tom Anderson, Warren Smaltz, and Petra Fandrem urged deaf people to take advantage of these changes and to use vocational rehabilitation services. Many adults nonetheless remained apprehensive about too strong a linkage between the deaf community and people with disabilities. Unable to control the nature or terms of much needed assistance, they continued to slight their association with other "handicapped" adults and a greater reliance on the state.

Despite the addition of two new state bureaus in the 1930s, the nation's small number of deaf labor bureaus was vulnerable. The bureaus served as poorly funded outposts that never approximated the ambitions of their supporters. More important, the limited assistance provided by these bureaus could not fully compensate for the broad educational and vocational deficiencies that hampered most deaf adults in their search for meaningful and remunerative employment. At the close of the decade, few working adults thought the future looked bright.

Most deaf students and adults existed in a perilous position throughout the Depression. Many educational problems were so widespread that they seemed insurmountable. Vocational and aca- demic instruction generally was inadequate as industrial changes and budget cutbacks frustrated the most progressive administrators. In the classroom, oralist ideology and practices were weakened but not thwarted by the episodic challenges presented by deaf adults and their few hearing supporters. Not surprisingly, amid the national economic downturn, deaf leaders and hearing professionals scarcely addressed inferior instruction for females or students of color. Even outside of these two groups, however, only a tiny percentage of such students graduated and advanced to Gallaudet College, and a small minority secured positions as trained artisans. Most female students and many of their male peers left school bound for marginal industrial, agricultural, and domestic positions.

Deaf adults also clashed with state and private employers over their rights and identity. Next Page

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