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

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.


  • 13:06:43

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. An American church wants to help deaf children in a developing country so it raises funds, trains staff in sign language and helps build a school, serving 30 deaf kids in rural Jamaica. Only problem is, it trains them in American Sign Language, not Jamaican sign language.

  • 13:07:23

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt launches the program without engaging the local deaf community itself and it ends up alienating the people it's supposed to help. Good intentions, unforeseen outcomes, a recurring theme for development programs targeting people with disabilities. There are 70 million deaf people, worldwide, and 80 percent of them live in the developing world. Deaf people are three times more likely to be unemployed, much less likely to attend school or participate in civic life.

  • 13:07:55

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd in many rural parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, deaf children are raised without a language or a support network of deaf role models and teachers. Gallaudet University has long served as an academic and cultural hub of the American deaf community. We're joined this hour by four professors who are trying to increase its impact on an international stage.

  • 13:08:19

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIBefore I introduce our guests, you should know that this interview is being conducted in two languages, English and American Sign Language. We have two interpreters in the studio with us. We also have life real-time transcription on our segment page at, compliments of and Courtroom Connect. If you'd like to learn more about this foray into accessible radio, you can check out our segment page at our website

  • 13:08:50

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe have a description of the advanced planning that went into today's show. Now to introduce our guests. Joining us in studio is Amy Wilson, program director for Gallaudet University's International Development Masters Degree program. She's also professor of Educational Foundations at Gallaudet. Amy Wilson, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:09:14

    MS. AMY WILSONThank you for having us.

  • 13:09:16

    NNAMDIAlso with us in studio is Khadijat "Kubby" Rashid, professor of business administration at Gallaudet University. She recently concluded a year-long stint as a White House Fellow. She was the first deaf person named to that program. Kubby Rashid was born in Nigeria. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:09:37

    MR. KHADIJAT "KUBBY" RASHID(Through interpreter) Thank you very much, Kojo. It's a pleasure to be here.

  • 13:09:39

    NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Charles Reilly. Chip Reilly is a research scientist at Gallaudet Research Institute. He's worked on capacity building with the deaf people in developing countries for three decades. His current project in Vietnam trains deaf signers to work with and educate hearing families of deaf children. Chip Reilly, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:10:02

    MR. CHARLES REILLYGlad to be here.

  • 13:10:03

    NNAMDIAnd Joseph Murray is a professor in the ASL and deaf studies department at Gallaudet University. He's a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf. Joe Murray, good to have you in studio with us.

  • 13:10:16

    MR. JOSEPH MURRAY(Through interpreter) Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here.

  • 13:10:17

    NNAMDIYou can join this conversation by calling us at 800-433-8850, that's 800-433-8850. You can also send us email to Send us a tweet @kojoshow or simply go to our website, ask a question or make a comment there. You all work at Gallaudet University, one of the leading educational and cultural institutions for the deaf -- for deaf people in this country and around the world.

  • 13:10:46

    NNAMDIBut for many deaf people, growing up in a developing country, there is no Gallaudet University or its equivalent. Kubby, you grew up in a developing country. Today you teach at one of the premier deaf institutions in the world. How would you compare your experience as a deaf person in a developing country with your experiences here?

  • 13:11:13

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Wow. Looking back, it definitely was a very long journey. And before I go into that story, I would like to expand a little bit and introduce the interpreter who is voicing for me. Her name is Miako Villaneuva. And also, there will be a little bit of lag time because of the interpretation. So if you do hear that pause on the air, that's the reason for that.

  • 13:11:36

    RASHID(Through interpreter) The differences between growing up in Nigeria and my experiences now, they're not as far apart as you might think because the person who established my school in Nigeria was a person who had experience being at Gallaudet University. He had studied at Gallaudet University and then went back to Africa and established schools all over the continent. So many of those schools were developed and many of them actually used ASL as the language in the classroom.

  • 13:12:09

    RASHID(Through interpreter) That meant that a lot of the languages, the native signed languages of people in those countries, were lost because ASL was the language of the school and the classroom. So I grew up using ASL in my classroom and not using a local Nigerian sign language. In high school, I found out about Gallaudet University and ended up coming here to the United States to pursue my college education. And I'm actually also a graduate of American University. I did my graduate studies here as well. So it's nice to be here.

  • 13:12:41

    NNAMDIThank you so much. Are there now sign languages in Nigeria that accord more with the local populations?

  • 13:12:52

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Yes. There definitely are. Since the early 1960s, when the first school was established using American sign language, from then until now, people have done studies and realized that there were native sign languages in existence. And so as they have established newer schools since then, they've wanted to respect and use the native languages that were there.

  • 13:13:17

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Often times, in the past, people would come in and say that those native sign language were somehow not as sophisticated as American sign languages. But we have realized, through research and other things, and Joe Murray can comment more on the language issues as well, that all of those languages are equal. And so it's not a matter of ASL coming in and taking over in a colonial way but rather supporting those local languages for their own development.

  • 13:13:44

    NNAMDIJoe Murray.

  • 13:13:48

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Yeah, Kubby makes some wonderful points here. When a country decides to establish an educational program for Deaf children, they will often bring in outside experts. In the past these experts would bring in a foreign sign language and not try to promote the local signed language. Malaysia is an example of this. Malaysia Sign Language was heavily influenced by ASL early in its history. But languages evolve, and today Malaysian Sign Language is its own unique language.

  • 13:14:23

    MURRAYAll languages develop in a certain place at a certain time by certain people and we need to respect local languages. So now, in terms of Jamaica, there are two things that I want to address. First that they should not be training people to sign before working with Deaf populations, but they should be using people who already can use the local sign language. And second that they should be using local Deaf communities as a resource.

  • 13:14:59

    NNAMDIAmy Wilson, in September 2000, 193 countries signed onto the millennium development goals, a series of benchmarks for eradicating poverty in the developing world. Every country is supposed to hit the targets by 2015, but it may be impossible to reach them without focusing on minorities and marginalized communities within developing countries especially people with disabilities. Are mainstream development assistance programs effective at reaching these communities?

  • 13:15:30

    WILSONWell, you know, actually, one thing that is disappointing about the MDGs is that they don't include people with disabilities, there's no mention of them at all. And we say that every child needs to be educated. And we're finding that it's not happening. Children with disabilities and deaf children are not. In fact, I think it's less than five percent of deaf kids overseas are actually being educated. So as far as doing good work, Kojo, well, we're talking about the situation in Jamaica, for example.

  • 13:15:58

    WILSONA lot of mission groups and NGOs, maybe, starting 70 -- 60 years ago, were going overseas and setting up schools and training centers for deaf adults. And so we find that, if they hadn't been set up, most likely, there would be thousands of children, like Kubby said. Andrew Foster went to Africa and he set up like 30 schools, all throughout Africa. And if he hadn't done that, then there -- she would not be here with us in this studio.

  • 13:16:27

    WILSONBut we find that the techniques that were used back when Foster was going overseas have changed. And I can say that there are development organizations. We've got some great NGOs like Handicap International, CBM, Perkins International, USAID is also improving in the sense that -- I think there's three things that they're doing differently and that is when groups go overseas, they are beginning to -- well they do, they respect the native language.

  • 13:16:54

    WILSONSo they're not bringing American sign and saying, this is the sign language that you use. They're respecting the native sign language. Another thing that they're doing is, in the past, they would go to organizations that were helping deaf people and they weren't getting deaf people, themselves involved, now they're going directly to the deaf associations and working with them because often, they had no choice about what kind of development assistance they wanted. They had nothing -- they had no choice as far as them being involved.

  • 13:17:24

    WILSONSo now we're seeing the capacities building is going on. And that we're training deaf people, actually, how to do project design, how to manage programs, how to evaluate them. And, I think, that third thing then is that we're also seeing them relating more to governments. So I still see this happening often where good hearted people from the U.S. sending lots of money, flying overseas, building schools, building churches and then they leave and they are not requiring the government, at all, to be responsible for educating their deaf children.

  • 13:17:59

    WILSONSo what happens is if the people from the states or from Northern Europe who are there working leave or if that funding ends, then those schools and those projects all die. So what they're beginning to do is make the governments responsible for supporting, paying the teachers, paying for the programs that deaf people are involved in. And so we're seeing them more sustainable and I think there's a lot of work to be done yet but we're on the right track.

  • 13:18:26

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. We're talking about development assistance and deaf communities abroad. Are you a member of the deaf community? Have you spent time traveling or working with people with disabilities abroad? 800-433-8850 or you can go to our website,, join the conversation there.

  • 13:18:47

    NNAMDIChip Reilly, from a child development standpoint, language plays a very important role. We learn to associate words with objects at an early age and that forms the foundation of all subsequent learning. You're currently working on an interesting project in Vietnam. Please explain.

  • 13:19:06

    REILLYWell, really, of course, Joe and Kubby are the two experts, as they grew up deaf, but you know, one in a thousand people becoming prelingually deaf. You know, each deaf persons experience is different. It depends on when they lost their hearing, how much hearing they lost and their upbringing. And, you know, the human right and the aim for all parents is to have their child grow up from birth with a full language, whatever that language may be.

  • 13:19:32

    REILLYAnd, you know, focusing -- it's easy to focus on the negative, but there are many positive examples in the developing nations and around the world. For example, the five percent of deaf people who, themselves, have parents who are deaf and if they sign, provide a full access to language and to interaction with their children. These children tend to grow up and learn a mother language early as we all did. And they tend to do better in school and they tend to be more prepared to learn second languages and third language, writing and speech.

  • 13:20:09

    REILLYSo, the design in Vietnam is intended to look at these hidden assets of deaf communities and signers and tie them into families with deaf children. So, that is to -- even when deaf people don't have university education, to design training programs for them, as we did in Thailand, we're now doing in Vietnam. They may only have a ninth grade education, these deaf adults, but they live everywhere in the country.

  • 13:20:36

    REILLYThey know what it means to grow up deaf. And they have a particular unique ability to use their language with young children if trained, and then to deploy them at the village level. It gives them jobs. It gives families immediate support. And as this happens to be a World Bank funded program that several people in Gallaudet are involved with.

  • 13:20:58

    NNAMDIAmy Wilson, before we go to break, tell us about Gallaudet's international Development Program.

  • 13:21:03

    WILSONYeah. It's a program that started five years ago and we're training students in the graduate level. It's -- at Gallaudet when you're a graduate student, you can be hearing or deaf, so all of our students who are hearing are fluent in American Sign Language. Our students are international and also American. And it's a two-year training program and we're training students basically in three things, one, to teach international development organizations, how to include them in their organizations.

  • 13:21:31

    WILSONSo, they actually are working at USA, they're working with the NGOs here in D.C. We don't see much of that happening, people with disabilities actually working in the organizations. The second thing is we're training the students how to teach these organizations how to include people with disabilities and deaf people in all projects and programs that go overseas. So, if a program here in the U.S. is building a school or setting up microfinance or teaching about maternal health, instead of having the separate program for deaf women, it would be where deaf women would join just the regular programming.

  • 13:22:05

    WILSONAnd the third part is to work directly with DPOs or disabled people's organizations or with deaf associations to do capacity building so that the people themselves, deaf organizations themselves, can fight for their human rights, can advocate for language rights, for interpreting, for captioning. Some capacity building, because we believe that assistance is assistance. We're to be there for a short period of time, help people, walk with them, build their skills and then get out. And really, it's important that deaf people, anything that's about them, should be including them. So our program basically is doing that.

  • 13:22:45

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. We're going to be taking a short break in this conversation on development assistance in deaf communities abroad. As I mentioned earlier, in case you're just joining us, this interview is being conducted in two languages, English and American Sign Language. We have two interpreters in studio with us. We also have real live transcription on our segment page at complements of and Courtroom Connect. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Call us if you'd like to share your experiences. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:25:02

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about development assistance and deaf communities abroad. We're talking with Khadijat Rashid also known as Kubby, who is a professor of business administration at Gallaudet University. She recently concluded a year-long stint as a White House fellow, the first deaf person named to that program. Kubby Rashid was born in Nigeria. Amy Wilson is the program director for Gallaudet University's International Development Masters Degree Program. She's also a professor of educational foundations at Gallaudet.

  • 13:25:31

    NNAMDICharles Reilly is a research scientist at Gallaudet Research Institute. He's worked on capacity building with deaf people in developing countries for three decades. His current project in Vietnam trains deaf signers to work with and educate hearing families of deaf children. And Joseph Murray is a professor in the ASL and Deaf Studies Department at Gallaudet. He's a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf with research exploring the history of deaf institutions identity and citizenship and the international deaf public sphere.

  • 13:26:02

    NNAMDIJoe Murray, people with disabilities are often the poorest of the poor in developing countries. We know that poverty has many different causes, but for deaf people, language and communications are key factors. How is language connected to poverty?

  • 13:26:24

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Well, the World Federation of the Deaf estimates that 1 to 2 percent of deaf people actually get educated in their native sign language. So, that points to the large number of those who don't have access to their first language. They're unable to maximize their social, educational development and that is a human rights issue. So, Navi Pulai the U.N. high commissioner for human rights spoke at the World Federation of the Deaf in South Africa and pointed to the importance of governments conferring official status on sign languages to promote bilingual education and to increase the availability of interpreting services more generally.

  • 13:27:15

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) So this is a human rights issue that we're talking about here. Specifically for any deaf person in a developing country, they need access to education. And the convention on the human rights of persons with disabilities actually points to the need to have an environment that maximizes the social and educational development of deaf people worldwide. So, Gallaudet University is a leader in this arena. We have a master's degree in language and human rights. So, we're looking at rights of languages. So, we train people to work in the policy arena, work with governments to develop language rights for deaf people.

  • 13:28:06

    NNAMDIAs I mentioned earlier this interview is being conducted in two languages, English and American Sign Language. We have two interpreters in the studio with us. The next question is really for each of you. I'd like each of you to talk a little bit about power. Starting with you, Kubby Rashid. Even the best designed development projects can fail if it doesn't consider who holds power on the ground. Sometimes money can be siphoned off by a powerful village leader. Sometimes the poorest of the poor are intentionally left out. You all talk about empowering deaf people. What does that mean to you? What does it look like to you?

  • 13:28:48

    RASHID(Through interpreter) All right. In thinking about power issues, I tend to start by looking at statistics from here in the United States. And my background is as an economist. So we know that the unemployment rate is very high here in the United States right now. And if we look at deaf and disabled people, they have a doubled rate of unemployment. And if we look at other countries, we're looking at maybe 70 percent of disabled people who do not have a job.

  • 13:29:22

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Within the deaf community, those numbers are even higher. And that goes to the root of exactly what you're talking about. Who are the individuals with power? If you pass me walking on the street today, you wouldn't know that I am deaf. So, I could be ignored as that minority, as that disability, as that person who has that specific need. So, when we are working with deaf people, we want to work also with the larger environment.

  • 13:29:52

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Deafness can be very isolating, because it is a communication barrier. And often the people with power are not talking to the deaf people. More often they're talking about the deaf people. So, deaf organizations are set up amongst the deaf people themselves because they're the ones who can talk to each other, who can communicate, and who are doing that. But those organizations themselves are often marginalized from their own community. This is true both here in the United States and in other countries.

  • 13:30:22

    RASHID(Through interpreter) If there's a group that is a disability group, suppose a group of blind people, wheelchair users, et cetera, deaf people are often still feeling isolated or marginalized from that group, because it's the communication barrier that is the most critical aspect for them. So, there are all of these lines that need to be balanced, of where does deaf, where do the deaf participants fit in? Do they fit in with the disability organization?

  • 13:30:49

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Do they fit in with the larger mainstream organizations? And how do we make sure that communication is happening? And that communication is so critical for political power. It's way too easy to leave someone out if you can't hear their voice, both literally and figuratively. So those are my initial thoughts on power, and I think you wanted to pass it on to other folks as well to answer.

  • 13:31:10

    NNAMDIJoe Murray seems to be the one most willing to speak at this point.

  • 13:31:19

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Yes. The best way to empower Deaf people is to put Deaf people at the center of projects and activities which impact their lives. We want to design these projects with the people who are going to be benefitting from the project the most. We don't want to do the project for these people. We want deaf people to be a part of shaping the project, to be a part of developing the project, implementing the project, evaluating the project in the future, and being hands-on with this project. So the World Federation of the Deaf has been addressing this issue for years in other countries. And Kubby had a wonderful point about working with other organizations about language access that is really the key here. Of course, when we add interpreters, you know, that complicates the matter.

  • 13:31:54

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) And any meeting or any communication then is more complicated than it necessarily would be without the two languages and two cultures. But it is not simply a matter of adding interpreters and stirring. We're talking about a different cultural orientation and it is important that Deaf people are involved from the start in training programs and projects, and that their particular cultural practices are taken into consideration.

  • 13:32:27

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Now, deaf people definitely have a lot of -- a lot to share. So, for example, at Gallaudet we are going to be setting up an exhibit about deaf Peace Corps volunteers, and a large part of that exhibit is about what deaf people have to contribute to the world. Deaf people are able to navigate in other countries, other cultural environments, other linguistic environments, in a way that hearing people cannot. It's not that they know their language. It's not that they know their culture, but there are similarities amongst deaf communities, similarities in terms of visual communication that makes it easier and just more ease of communication for deaf people to go to other countries and interact with people from other cultures.

  • 13:33:01

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Deaf people who are used to navigating in a different linguistic and cultural community at home will be more adept in doing so abroad, because they have this experience every day at home. So being Deaf is actually an advantage when interacting in a different linguistic and cultural environment.

  • 13:33:20

    NNAMDIChip Reilly.

  • 13:33:22

    REILLYUltimately, it seems to be about producing a cultural evolution or a sea change. And to have deaf people and their sign languages seen as part of the rich -- of the social rainbow, so to speak, they're too often neglected in the shadows. And I'd give you an example in Thailand where that has taken place, where the Thai Sign Language has now recognized the rights of deaf people to teach and to learn it is established. And deaf people are taking BAs and master's degree programs.

  • 13:33:52

    REILLYBut if we go back, you know, 30 years ago, we see how this change took place. You know, it really was about deaf people gaining technical mastery in areas that really impact them. Going into the core areas of education and language and learning how to show their society what needs to be done exactly so training programs that ultimately lead to deaf people being seen as valuable. And in Asian societies, teachers are highly revered.

  • 13:34:27

    REILLYTo have a deaf person move to a position where they are seen as a teacher was a great sea change in Thailand and that something could be taught by these individuals to us, and that they have the empathy, the skill, the motivation, to teach our deaf children better than we may. So, this was -- this is not only technical training, but helping deaf people have the organizations and have the support within their own community that really helps them overcome fear of really showing what they have. And stepping forth to make -- to address the problems they face.

  • 13:35:04

    NNAMDIAmy Wilson?

  • 13:35:05

    WILSONActually, I used to live in northeast Brazil for four years and I was doing development work there. And the imbalance of power that I saw with organizations coming to work with deaf communities is the reason I got into this work. I'll tell you a quick story about a student of ours who is a deaf Kenyan. And he studied development. And he said, you know, here we have 25 years of NGOs, missions groups coming to Kenya working with the deaf community.

  • 13:35:36

    WILSONAbout 30 different groups had worked there. And if you look at the community at the time, the deaf community about five years ago, they really hadn't progressed very much. And he thought this is thousands of dollars, many people working here, and we don't see any progress in the deaf community. What happened? So he went and interviewed about 100 different deaf people throughout Kenya and said, what has been your relationship with these different NGOs and these different groups?

  • 13:36:00

    WILSONAnd what happened? Why weren't you successful? Well, he found out -- and we weren't surprised that pretty much these groups came and said this is what -- these are the programs you're going to do and this is how you're going to do it. And the deaf people did not have any say in any of it. And just as Chip is saying and what Joe also was saying, they need the technical mastery themselves to understand how to do development.

  • 13:36:21

    WILSONSo this student has gone back to Kenya. He's now the president of the National Association of the Deaf, and has trained other deaf individuals in Kenya how to advocate for their rights. And, in fact, they just got into the national constitution, Kenyan Sign Language as an official language of Kenya.

  • 13:36:42

    NNAMDII'm glad you brought that up because we got an email from Sharon that says, "I'm very interested in this topic because I'm doing development work and currently studying ASL. I became interested through work with the Peace Corps and the Peace Corps' Kenya Deaf Education Program. It's the only program within the Peace Corps that focuses on the deaf population. Volunteers in this program, deaf, hard of hearing and/or conversant in ASL, learn Kenyan Sign Language in order to work effectively in their communities. And one group of Peace Corps Kenyan volunteers put together a great resource for learning KSL for families of deaf children." But Joe Murray also had a comment here.

  • 13:37:25

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) I did. Thank you. I just wanted to emphasize the point that Charles was just making about deaf people being a part of the solution. About actually being a part of the rainbow of human diversity. The WFD's aim is for Deaf people to have full human rights in a world where Deaf people and sign languages are accepted as a part of human diversity. This principle is also found in the UN Convention on the Rights of Peoples with Disabilities. That people with different bodies are also part of humanity, part of the beauty of human diversity.

  • 13:38:14

    NNAMDIAnd you, Amy Wilson.

  • 13:38:14

    WILSONI just wanted to add that at one time development looked at people who are deaf and thought that they had a problem, something that needed to be fixed. It was kind of a medical model of assistance. So, it was putting on hearing aids, teaching speech. And it's marvelous to see that slowly it's moved to disability rights, like the recent WHO Disability Report talks about how it was one time a medical model and now we need to be looking at people as a whole person. Just as Joe was saying, having the hearing loss is part of the human condition.

  • 13:38:46

    NNAMDIWe spoke with some of the authors of the World Report on Disability. As a matter of fact, there's a link on our website at to that report. We also got a comment on our website from Owen who says, "I partnered with Dr. Reilly in Thailand in the early '80s in assisting to found the National Association for the Deaf in Thailand, published a two-volume dictionary of the Thai Sign Language and assisting with passage of laws that recognize TSL and greatly expanded educational opportunities.

  • 13:39:15

    NNAMDIIn spite of remarkable successes there and in other countries, donors have yet to provide consistent support. The agencies mentioned so far are small and have limited programs. Gallaudet staff put together more than a year's worth of pro bono into a family mentor program only to have the key donor lose interest. How can we attract larger donors to both scale up successful programs and to provide a more consistent support to development activities for deaf communities in developing countries?" That came from Dr. Owen Wrigley, who I'm sure you're familiar with. Chip?

  • 13:39:51

    REILLYLet me add one point there. I believe that deaf people and their allies need to roll up their sleeves and get into the international circles where the problem is being framed and the solutions are being -- the donations are being generated and so on. So, for example, the idea of inclusive education, there are many organizations and people in there saying that inclusion means a warm body sitting in a classroom with other children applying to both disabled and deaf children. I saw during an evaluation in Vietnam, a USAID-funded project that many of them, these deaf children were not able to understand what was going on in the classroom.

  • 13:40:29

    REILLYInclusive for them would have meant being with perhaps clustered in a classroom in a regular school or in a special school. But the term inclusion and how it's implemented is being brought from the European Union, brought from the donors, and any sort of effort to attract monies for custom solutions or solutions that focus on the quality as determined by the people who live that experience is following on the cutting room floor, so to speak, too often. So, I think it's about deaf leaders and their allies getting in where the boring boardrooms reports and trying to wrestle control of how these issues are framed.

  • 13:41:13

    NNAMDIWe got to take another short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation. In the meantime, you can send us a tweet @kojoshow. Email to Are you a member of the deaf community? Have you spent time traveling or working with people with disabilities abroad? You can also go to our website,, ask a question or make a comment there. This interview is being conducted in two languages, English and American Sign Language. We have two interpreters in studio with us, Miako Villaneuva and Ellen Schein. So feel free to join the conversation by sending us a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:43:33

    NNAMDIWe're discussing development assistance in deaf communities abroad with Charles Reilly, research scientist at Gallaudet Research Institute. Amy Wilson is the program director for Gallaudet University's International Development Masters Degree Program. Joseph Murray is a professor in the ASL and deaf studies department at Gallaudet University and a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf, and Khadijat Rashid who is also known as Kubby, is a professor of business administration at Gallaudet University. She recently concluded a year-long stint as a White House Fellow. The first deaf person to be named to that program.

  • 13:44:10

    NNAMDIKubby Rashid, I'd like to start with you. The UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities explicitly recognizes deaf culture and the importance of preserving and promoting sign languages but many of these unique sign languages are very fragile forms of knowledge that can be lost or destroyed unintentionally. What are the main challenges to preserving languages?

  • 13:44:34

    RASHID(Through interpreter) All right. I am definitely not a linguist. So I'll start with that. But it is clear most of those languages do not have a written form. They are signed languages, so they are expressive but they do not have a written form so there's no documentation of that. Also, Charles Reilly was stating that more than half of the world's languages are in danger of extinction in the near future. It's not just sign languages that are facing that, but each language group that tends to have its own language.

  • 13:45:09

    RASHID(Through interpreter) And for signed languages, those tend to be very small groups, and as we get fewer and fewer users of each of those languages, they tend to get lost. Instead of focusing on that kind of bad news, I want to tell a quick story from South Africa. About 15 years ago, we were doing work in South Africa with a group that had been set up just after Apartheid, and we were trying to help the deaf community there establish itself and get organizations started.

  • 13:45:43

    RASHID(Through interpreter) And there was amazing diversity within the group of deaf South Africans. There were Africans people, there were English speakers who were white, English speakers who were black, tribal representatives with all kinds of different languages. So within a room of 100 people, there were ten different languages represented and multiple ethnic groups, and so we were trying to talk about how to move forward with deaf organizations without offending any of those different unique groups of people, and trying to respect and incorporate all of their backgrounds, and even they could not communicate with each other, much less us communicate directly with them.

  • 13:46:28

    RASHID(Through interpreter) So that was 15 years ago. But if you fast forward to this year, South Africa just hosted the World Federation of the Deaf convention with people from all over the world, countries all across the world coming, being represented there, and South Africa has a member of Parliament who represents deaf people as well. So you think about the sophistication that's happening with language and language rights and respect within South Africa and just the amount of change that has happened in recent recognizable history, talking about 15, 20 years, it's amazing to see what can happen with language and language preservation.

  • 13:47:08

    NNAMDIJoe Murray.

  • 13:47:12

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) I do think that it's very important to remember that sign languages are human languages. It's not just languages of deaf people. It's languages of human beings. There are communities around the world, specific islands, maybe, that are a bit isolated or those that are more rural. Those communities may have a very small percentage of people who are deaf, and yet the whole community signs. So it isn't only the deaf people in that community that are signing, but the whole community. And even back to Plato's time, sign language was recognized as a human language.

  • 13:48:02

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Fast forward to the 20th, 21st century and we see the establishment of national signed languages, promoted by the institutions of the nation-state, which established Deaf education. The CPRD furthers this by placing responsibility to promote sign languages onto governments and not just on communities and in schools. The CRPD will promote the need to do more research on sign languages, to confer legal recognition of sign languages and to promote the use of sign language in the public sphere. The actual implementation of the CRPD will vary from country to country, but the principle is there, that sign languages and Deaf cultural life must be promoted.

  • 13:49:24

    NNAMDIHere's Chip Reilly.

  • 13:49:26

    REILLYAnd at the programmatic level what Joe and Kubby are talking about really to me gets down to ensuring that deaf people themselves understand that they have a full and rich human language and have the opportunity to learn it as children and have the opportunity to research it, to discover their own language, and then to find ways to teach it.

  • 13:49:50

    REILLYAnd this is something that we saw in Thailand, for example, and a very good example of American development aid in helping deaf people to do sign language research that had never been documented before to produce dictionaries, then to go on to through Gallaudet's support to learn to become Thai sign language teachers and so on. Because this is a language with 95 percent of deaf people being born to families where they are hearing/speaking parents, you need to have an external group like a deaf community organization providing those -- the documentation and the opportunities to learn and teach the language to advocate for the language. It won't come from within the families typically except for the small minority of deaf families that I spoke about earlier.

  • 13:50:37

    NNAMDIAmy Wilson, the international development community recognizes the importance of targeting people with disabilities. We talked earlier about the reports that were released by the World Bank and the World Health Organization on the challenges of helping these communities. And USAID has issued a directive on inclusion requiring all projects to at least address people with disabilities. Are things headed, so to speak, in the right direction?

  • 13:51:03

    WILSONI think they are. USAID right now I know is -- they've got a course that anybody who begins to work with USAID here or overseas missions are not required but strongly encouraged to take a course on disabilities and how to include people with disabilities in their projects and programs. I think they're actually at this moment revamping. They've hired Charlotte Nhalpo McClain who is the disability advisor at USAID and she's working very hard to make sure that disability is up front and center.

  • 13:51:33

    WILSONJudy Heumann is now at the State Department doing the same kind of work making sure that missions overseas and the State Department itself is including people with disabilities. I think the more that we have people with disabilities doing development work overseas and here, you know, when I go, Kojo, to speak with different NGOs, different groups, nobody wants to exclude people with disabilities. It's just that they haven't thought of them.

  • 13:52:00

    WILSONOr they, you know, our students when they do their practicum work in the city itself, sometimes the NGOs are a little bit nervous, like well, how are we accommodate a deaf person, how do we do this? Well, they just have to ask, right? So our students will just spend the first day explaining to them we have this technology or we -- pencil and paper are fine, we'll just be able to do just fine. So I think if we bring up the level, we have shows like this -- I'm so appreciative that you're talking with us today -- people will start thinking wow, in our projects we never thought about how do you have a deaf person.

  • 13:52:33

    WILSONAnd there's more and more materials. Before, 15 years ago, you couldn't find anything. Now we've got much more out there. I think things are moving in the right direction.

  • 13:52:42

    NNAMDIKubby Rashid you mentioned earlier that you are not a linguist, but you are an economist. So here, governments in developing countries are constantly scrambling to find enough resources for their general population. Is it, therefore, realistic to expect them to dedicate already scarce resources to help relatively small minority communities?

  • 13:53:07

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Why not? Absolutely. Those people are part of the population just like everyone else. Statistics say that 15 percent of the population is disabled in some way. So that would be like saying, oh, 30 percent of the population is children, so we won't include them. We won't provide services to them. It's that same kind of idea. I think that every member of every community counts, and it makes sense for the government to provide for those groups, because they are humans and they have a contribution to give back to society.

  • 13:53:41

    RASHID(Through interpreter) As I was saying before, 80 percent of disabled people are not employed, which is a huge waste of human potential. These are all people who could contribute to their societies, who could be productive citizens. They may be the next inventor who comes up with some kind of electric car or whatever the next new invention may be. And that's a huge resource within a society that's being wasted if we're not providing for that. So my answer is definitely yes, and they should not just be encouraged to provide that support they should be required to provide that support and those resources.

  • 13:54:18

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Often, the older you get, the more likely you are to become disabled yourself so even people who do not generally consider themselves as disabled may end up within that population. If they are injured in some way, if they start to lose their vision or their hearing, often happens with older people. So it's not just a sense of, oh, it's those other people over there. It's all of us as humans and how we see ourselves and as we become older and older, the government taking the responsibility to provide for every single citizen.

  • 13:54:51

    NNAMDIJoe Murray.

  • 13:54:55

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) The UNCRPD originated from a proposal from Mexico, which is a middle income country. And once it passed the UN, it entered into force very quickly, thanks to the prompt ratification of the CRPD from many countries. In fact, the CRPD entered into force much more quickly than any other human rights convention in history. And these are also developing countries which are ratifying the convention, which tells us that there is a desire on the part of these governments to include peoples with disabilities in their societies.

  • 13:55:51

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Kubby was very articulate in talking to the issue of economics, of the need to include the large percentage of societies who are now excluded. Its important to remember that the CRPD has the principle of progressive realization, wherein governments who ratify the convention are not expected to implement change overnight, but should make continuous progress towards making societies more accessible to all people, including peoples with disabilities.

  • 13:56:22

    NNAMDIBut Amy Wilson you mentioned the Millennium Development Goals. Some critics say that countries are fixated on meeting those goals to the point that they will not invest in measures that don't show up on the MDGs, and this would seem to speak to the issue of why it's a problem that the Millennium Development Goals don't specifically reference disability.

  • 13:56:42

    WILSONYeah. You know, that's exactly right, Kojo. If we're not in there as an indicator to be able to measure, then where are we, we're not there.

  • 13:56:49

    NNAMDIIndeed, we're running out of time very quickly, but Joe you've studied and written about the history of deaf community as an idea and as a lived reality in this country and across national boundaries. Is there in your view such a thing as a transnational deaf community?

  • 13:57:07

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Absolutely. Absolutely. Deaf people from all over the world have interacted with one another since the early 1800s. Deaf people have met at various conventions. They've learned how people from various parts of the world live, and we've really seen that there are a lot of commonalities. And absolutely there is that concept of transnationalism.

  • 13:57:34

    NNAMDII'm afraid that's all the time we have. Joseph Murray is a professor in the ASL and deaf studies department in Gallaudet University and board member of the World Federation of the Deaf. Joe Murray, thanks so much for joining us.

  • 13:57:47

    MURRAY(Through interpreter) Thank you.

  • 13:57:48

    NNAMDIAmy Wilson is the program director for Gallaudet University's international development master's degree program. Amy, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:57:56

    NNAMDICharles or Chip Reilly is a research scientist at Gallaudet Research Institute. Chip, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:58:00

    REILLYMy pleasure.

  • 13:58:01

    NNAMDIAnd Khadijat or "Kubby" Rashid is a professor at business administration at Gallaudet. Kubby Rashid thank for joining us.

  • 13:58:09

    RASHID(Through interpreter) Thank you.

  • 13:58:10

    NNAMDIAnd our interpreters, Miako Villanueva, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:58:14


  • 13:58:15

    NNAMDIAnd Ellen Schein, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:58:17

    MS. ELLEN SCHEINThank you.

  • 13:58:17

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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