It’s International Week of the Deaf and we’re celebrating how amazing sign language is

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During the International Week of the Deaf 2017, we want to send the message loud and clear that sign language deserves worldwide recognition, facilitation and promotion.

We support projects to give deaf children access to sign language from birth. The vast majority of 32 million deaf children worldwide live in developing countries. At least 80% of deaf children in developing countries have little or no language when they start primary school. In a pioneering project in Kenya, we’ve made sure deaf teachers are seen as role models and teach sign language to children, teachers and parents

Our teams and partners across East Africa, South Asia and Latin America have shared stories to demonstrate how sign language has a huge impact on inclusion, as part of our International Week celebrations. You will find out how important sign language for deaf children and young people across the world.

With sign language, I can… go to school

Fima from Bangladesh 6-year-old Fima was born deaf but did not learn sign language until she was three years old, when DCW brought her to their Early Childhood Deafness (ECD) centre in Bangladesh. Her deafness was not formally diagnosed as Fima’s parents didn’t have the money to go to the doctor. The family saw her as a financial burden and the community feared her, believing disability to be punishment for wrongdoing in a past life, so Fima grew up very isolated.

ECD centres provide early intervention vital for deaf children to acquire language. Centres are funded and led by DCW partner organisations.

Fima was initially wary of everyone at the ECD centre as she didn’t know how to communicate with them, but after a few months, she started to become more confident and play with other children.
Two and a half years on, she is using Bangla Sign Language to communicate with her family and friends - something many deaf children never manage to do. Fima happily signs about her favourite foods, animals, vehicles etc. She can count in Bangla, English and sign language and can even write the numbers 1-30; her illiterate parents would not have been able to teach her this, so without the ECD centre she would never have accessed education.

Thanks to the ECD centre teaching Fima and her parents to sign, this year Fima is starting primary school. Early intervention from experts at ECD centres is having a clear positive impact across Bangladesh, as the number of deaf children enrolling in primary school has doubled .

With sign language, I can… earn my own money

Frank from Peru Like many deaf young people in Latin America, Frank didn’t know how to read or write, and had only learnt maths to a basic level which wasn’t good enough to get a job. When he joined one of DCW’s deaf youth groups, he discovered Peruvian Sign Language and for the first time was able to communicate fully.

Paz y Esperanza provides sign language teaching and training for deaf children, their families and local communities, so they can not only learn sign language but one day hopefully become trainers themselves and help to improve communication for other deaf children.
When he first joined the group, Frank was very quiet, too nervous about his communication skills to contribute to conversations. Over time, as he learnt more signs, he came out of his shell and started communicating with his peers.

Frank tried new skills such as carpentry and discovered a talent for decorating cakes! He now works in a cake shop, decorating the cakes with his own designs.

Thanks to Paz y Esperanza teaching him to sign, Frank has successfully joined the world of work and is earning money to support himself and his family - an opportunity many deaf young people do not get.

With sign language, I can… help other people

Tanzania head masterHeadmaster of Moshi Technical Secondary School, Erasmos Kyara, is passionate about making sure deaf children have equal access to education. Over 1,000 of his students have disabilities, and Erasmos has been at the frontline of a recent DCW project to make lessons more inclusive for deaf students.

DCW and partner charity Child Reach Tanzania were brought into the school to provide Tanzanian Sign Language training. Teachers started using sign language in all their classes, not just those with deaf students, and giving deaf students one-to-one support after school. Erasmos said the programme has instilled a sense of confidence among deaf students and improved teachers’ proficiency in delivering lessons to deaf students.

DCW and Child Reach Tanzania have trained more than 100 teachers across the country. They also ran vocational training courses for deaf young people who had already left school (a third of whom got jobs by the end of the course) and set up a local business network of deaf-friendly employers.
Thanks to the use of sign language in schools, the national exam pass rate for deaf students rose dramatically - from 47% in 2015 to 76% in 2016. Deaf children and young people reported a 70% improvement in community inclusion.

Where we work

Deaf Child Worldwide works with partners in developing countries, facilitating work that enables deaf children and young people to be fully included in their family, education and community life.

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