Theses Doctoral

Empowerment-Based Practice Toward Vocational Rehabilitation Among Adult Leaners Who are Deaf-Blind

Ruzenski, Susan M.

Traditionally vocational rehabilitation has as its goal providing services to support individuals with disabilities to achieve outcomes that relate to employment and independent functioning so that they may live self-sufficient and empowered lives. The current research discusses models of empowerment among varied marginalized groups identifying its components and dimensions, but little is known about how learners perceive and experience empowerment. This qualitative case study brought the voices of 18 adult learners who are deaf-blind into the conversation and examined the instructional practices and experiences that were reportedly empowering among learners while participating in vocational rehabilitation. The study revealed learners’ interpretations of their experiences, motivations, insights, and challenges during their vocational rehabilitation journey. The study illuminated how learners perceived empowerment and identified six elements of the experience. In addition, learners shed light on six elements of the learning context that were worthy of consideration among learners and practitioners for optimizing the learning experience. Emergent themes surfaced regarding the relationship between empowerment-based practice and transformative learning. The change reportedly undergone by learners encompassed the whole person: affective, cultural, social, practical, political, and spiritual domains. Preliminary investigation into the distinctive pathways to empowerment among deaf-blind adult learners provided a unique perspective by learners on how they made meaning and navigated their new reality of combined vision and hearing loss. Recommendations to practitioners and learners are derived from the 18 voices of learners who participated in the study. The study also revealed a need to further investigate the link between transformative learning and empowerment-based practice and how these two theoretical frameworks might inform one another with implications for practice.


  • thumnail for Ruzenski_tc.columbia_0055E_10851.pdf Ruzenski_tc.columbia_0055E_10851.pdf application/pdf 2.12 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Bitterman, Jeanne E.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 1, 2019