Humanitarian organizations are finally taking the time to address the unique challenges of providing accessible education for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Education in developing countries, in general, is relatively underfunded, with less than two percent of humanitarian aid being direct towards the sector. This problem is compounded when dealing with education, like sign language education, for children and adults who require special accommodations.

In the case of hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 360 million people suffer from hearing loss severe enough to affect their everyday lives, with the majority of them living in low to middle-income countries.

In a statement, the WHO noted, “In developing countries, children with hearing loss and deafness rarely receive any schooling. Adults with hearing loss also have a much higher unemployment rate. Among those who are employed, a higher percentage of people with hearing loss are in the lower grades of employment compared with the general workforce.”

Recently, more organizations have made an effort to address these problems with education for the deaf through humanitarian aid. For example, Discovering Deaf Worlds partners with deaf advocates in developing countries to help provide access to sign language and education for those in need.

Among other core values, Discovering Deaf Worlds emphasizes allowing the deaf and hard of hearing to choose their preferred communication method, but posits that accessibility is a basic human right. They hope to allow for deaf and hard of hearing communities to more readily engage with the hearing world at large and collaborate with both to try and make that goal a reality.

The USAID EXPAND program is an extension of the 2012 EMPOWER program funded by the U.S. Department of State. The original program focused on giving deaf Filipinos the opportunity for training in advocacy, policy and outreach. EXPAND aims to further those goals and allow for higher participation from deaf individuals in their culture and society.

By providing resources such as sign language education, Discovering Deaf Worlds and (other organizations like it) can create a pool of deaf leaders that can best advocate for education for themselves and the rest of the deaf and hard of hearing communities. Such a focus on increasing diversity in the workforce is a key step in fighting to end poverty and discrimination in developing countries.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Flickr