Psychologist’s Discrimination Against Deaf Student

A news report by Only Forex Trading (2013) tells about a group of deaf customers who were discriminated against in a Starbucks coffee shop. It is stated that the people were laughed at, and the police were called to kick them out. In our opinion, the situation was extremely unpleasant and outraging for the group of deaf people; they even filled a lawsuit against the shop. The situation might have had rather severe psychological consequences for the clients, for instance, the deepening of an inferiority complex related to their hearing impairment.

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A similarly outrageous situation might happen in an office of a psychologist visited by a student with an auditory deficit to receive some psychological advice. If the psychologist is ethically poor and unprofessional, they might become irritated because of the student’s impaired ability to communicate, and demonstrate their annoyance openly (for instance, by shouting angrily rather than speaking calmly, but loudly, or using some other means of communication).

According to American Psychological Association (2010), psychologists must respect the dignity of everyone, respect the differences based on disability, and attempt to eliminate biases towards any groups, including disabled people. They must not engage in any discriminative behaviors towards disabled individuals. Psychologists also must take reasonable steps in order not to harm their customers. Therefore, discriminative behavior towards a student with an auditory impairment is completely unacceptable for a professional psychologist (and anyone else, of course).

If the deaf student decided to complain about the psychologist’s discriminative behavior, the psychologist might be sued according to anti-discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, n.d.). Such behavior might lead to the psychologist losing their position and possibly suffering from other penalties regarding their professional status.

As a specialist in general psychology, I might have to work with people from different social groups. While dealing with a transgender person, it is easy to unknowingly offend them if one is not aware of the specifics of this social group and has not realized all the basic gender stereotypes that are usually true for cisgender people, but are not true for transgenders.

For example, it is possible to offend a transgender person by asking them about their surgical status, about their “real” name, or even by using wrong pronouns. Such types of behavior can easily be understood as discriminative.

If one acts in the described ways, they adhere to the stereotypical model of gender behavior, according to which there are two genders (male and female), and assume that everyone, including the transgender people, must fit into that model. Thus, they give privilege to that stereotypical model, and deprive the transgender people of their right not to conform to this model.

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Asking about the surgical status, the “real” name, or using the wrong pronouns means that the person refuses to acknowledge the fact that the transgender person does not fit the stereotypical model. If the person persists in their attitude, they exercise power over the transgender person by using their privileged situation where the transgender person cannot oppose such behavior in an effective way.

In order to avoid such situations, it is necessary to educate oneself and make oneself aware of the specifics of dealing with this social group; noteworthy, this has been a trend among healthcare professionals for some time already (Makadon, Mayer, Potter, & Goldhammer, 2010, ch. 15). Burdge (2007) states that “social workers should reject a dichotomous understanding of gender in favor of more accurate and affirming conceptualizations of gender” (p. 243); the same should be true for psychologists.


ADA. (n.d.). The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and revised ADA regulations implementing Title II and Title III. Web.

American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct, including 2010 amendments. Web.

Burdge, B. J. (2007). Bending gender, ending gender: Theoretical foundations for social work practice with the transgender community. Social Work, 52(3), 243-250. Web.

Makadon, H. J., Mayer, K. H., Potter, J., & Goldhammer, H. (2010). The Fenway guide to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health. Web.

Only Forex Trading. (2013). Deaf customers sue “Starbucks,” claim they were mocked. Web.

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