Development Assistance & Deaf Communities Abroad

Development Assistance & Deaf Communities Abroad

We find out about a new Gallaudet program that trains students to work with, and advocate for, marginalized communities in developing countries.

For almost 150 years, Gallaudet University has been an educational institution and cultural hub for the deaf community in the United States. But in most developing countries- where eighty percent of the world’s deaf people live- people with disabilities are often denied opportunities and isolated from full participation in society. We learn about a new Gallaudet program that trains students to work with, and advocate for, marginalized communities in developing countries.


Khadijat "Kubby" Rashid

Professor of Business Administration, Gallaudet University; White House Fellow (2010-2011)

Joseph Murray

Assistant Professor of ASL and Deaf Studies, Gallaudet University; Board Member, World Federation of the Deaf (WFD)

Amy Wilson

Program Director, International Development Programs; Associate Professor of Educational Foundations and Research, Gallaudet University

Charles Reilly

Research Scientist, Gallaudet Research Institute

Related Links

Development & People with Disabilities

Khadijat "Kubby" Rashid and Joseph Murray discuss the challenges of preserving indigenous sign languages in developing countries.

International development agencies, including USAID and the World Bank, are seeking to include people with disabilities in their projects. Amy Wilson discusses the challenge of bringing people with disabilities into the planning and implementation process.

The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) set firm targets for eliminating poverty in developing countries by 2015. But they are largely silent about the plight of people with disabilities. Is it realistic to expect developing countries to expend scarce resources on people with disabilities?

Making Radio Accessible

On the surface, a public radio broadcast may seem like a strange platform for a live conversation about issues affecting the Deaf community. But technology is changing the way public media content is shared and accessed.

Public broadcasting has always been at the forefront of accessible media. In the 1970s, WGBH (Boston) pioneered closed captioning for television broadcasts. The National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and the Media Access Group at WGBH also laid the technological foundation for Descriptive Video Services (DVS) for people with visual disabilities. During the 2008 Presidential election, NPR and a consortium of media organizations experimented with live captioned radio broadcasts using the HD Radio platform.

Monday’s Kojo Nnamdi Show will feature live transcription. During the show, will feature a text field (above) with real-time scrolling text. Technology is a big part of marking that happen. But accessible talk-radio programming also involves a lot of low-tech planning and logistics.

  • In-Studio Interpreters

Two of our guests, Khadijat "Kubby" Rashid and Dr. Joseph Murray, will use American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, provided by Gallaudet University. One interpreter will stand behind Kojo, interpreting host and audience questions from English to ASL. The other interpreter will sit in front of a mic, interpreting the guests’ answers from ASL to spoken English.

Studio Diagram

A web producer will also record video of the interview, which will be posted on the Kojo Nnamdi Show’s YouTube Channel.

In short, the studio will be very cozy, with one host, four guests, two interpreters and a producer.

  • Live Transcription

Transcripts of all Kojo Nnamdi Show and Diane Rehm Show segments are available on the show sites within a couple of hours of the broadcast. While this makes our content accessible to people with disabilities, a time lag prevents real-time participation.

For Monday’s show, we will feature live scrolling text through a partnership with Speche Communications. An off-site “stenocaptioner,” will listen to the broadcast over the web and transcribe the conversation. The cost of this paid service is being covered by the Kojo Nnamdi Show.

  • Integrating Listener Feedback

In a typical segment, Kojo solicits audience feedback and questions through a combination of listener phone calls, e-mails, Tweets, Facebook postings, and messages on our website. Gallaudet University has invited members of its extended community to send questions and comments over different platforms. WAMU does not have TTY capacity.

  • Next Steps?

Technology isn’t the major obstacle to accessible radio broadcasting. Groups like NPR Labs have proven that the transcription services can be delivered accurately in real-time on a variety of platforms, according to Larry Goldberg, Director of the National Center for Accessible Media.

One obstacle is hardware-related. None of the current crop of HD Radio’s available to the public feature a streaming transcription interface. “It’s a classic chicken-egg situation,” Goldberg explains. “Why would a manufacturer build a radio if there is no (accessible) content available? Why would (a radio station) broadcast it, if there is no hardware?”

As smart phones and other web-enabled devices proliferate, Goldberg expresses hope that more transcription content will be available over the web. But the biggest challenge “really comes down to a question of who pays for it.”

  • Related Kojo Nnamdi Show segments

Technology and Print Disability (September 7, 2011): Two leading technologists for the blind and people with “print disabilities,” discuss the future of printing and accessibility.

Disability and Global Development (July 25, 2011): A panel of leading international advocates discuss the World Health Organization / World Bank “World Report on Disability,” and the challenge of integrating people with disabilities into mainstream international development thinking.

Expanding Access to Broadcast Technology (October 11, 2010): A panel of advocates and technologists explore “The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act,” a law that will increase the content accessible to people with disabilities.

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The Kojo Nnamdi Show is produced by member-supported WAMU 88.5 in Washington DC.