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An Exception to the Rule. A Deaf Professional’s Journey from Tanzania . Personal Background. Deafness background Late deafness and its “positive” impact Education attained in Tanzania No interpreters No support system Attitude and taboos Education attained in the U.S.

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an exception to the rule

An Exception to the Rule

A Deaf Professional’s Journey from Tanzania

personal background
Personal Background
  • Deafness background
    • Late deafness and its “positive” impact
  • Education attained in Tanzania
    • No interpreters
    • No support system
    • Attitude and taboos
  • Education attained in the U.S.
    • Benefits of using Sign language
    • Deaf-friendly community and university
  • Experience and struggles as the only deaf student in secondary and high school, with no support system
challenges facing tanzania deaf community
Challenges facing Tanzania Deaf Community
  • Access to information
  • Disabling attitude and taboos
  • Education
  • Access to information
    • Impact on HIV/AIDS awareness
    • News media – no closed caption (except for few select interpreted programs on one local TV station)
    • Role of spoken languages in media and information dissipation.
    • Deaf community’s fluency in spoken and written languages

Challenge: How to make available information accessible to the deaf people?

  • Education
    • Only 9 primary schools for the deaf
    • Only 119 deaf children are in Primary School (as of 2005)
    • Only 8 secondary schools accept some deaf students. (No secondary school for the deaf)
    • Only one Vocational Training school accepts deaf students
    • Post-secondary education is very rare if not non-existent
    • Lack of interpreters and qualified teachers for the deaf
  • Disabling Attitudes & Taboos
    • Old beliefs disability is a curse
    • A deaf person is hardly considered a productive member of community
    • Patriarchal and paternalistic
    • Misconceptions about deaf people and deafness
    • Low expectation from family and society
    • Deafness is an invisible disability – often overlooked by hearing society
    • The first ever deaf HIV/AIDS conference in Africa
      • Representatives from all over Africa (West, South, East, Central)
      • Gender violence -- disabled women are at higher risk
      • Assumptions and misconceptions about deafness and deaf people
      • Linguistic and attitudinal obstacles
      • Confidentiality
      • Government policies
    • No training materials designed for the deaf level of understanding or in Sign Language

Challenge: How to influence decision-makers to be aware of deaf and disabled issues

when planning for HIV/AIDS training and support?

millennium development goals
Millennium Development Goals

No mention of disability issues

Source: World Bank ( and

  • First deaf Africa conference on AIDS/HIV
  • Few schools have been established
    • 9 Primary Schools for the Deaf
    • 8 Mainstream Secondary Schools
    • Sign Language Training
  • Tanzania Association of the Deaf - CHAVITA (est. 1983)
  • Formal establishment of Tanzania Sign Language (TSL)
  • Formal recognition of TSL by the Parliament
  • Limited interpreted TV programs (ITV television)

NB: This is just the beginning. More work and support is needed

if the deaf Community is to be uplifted to the economic,

social and technological level of the mainstream

  • Given opportunities, deaf people can be productive members of Tanzania workforce
  • Before that can happen, stakeholders such as government, must make efforts to include deaf and other disability issues in economic planning
  • World Bank and other organizations can help to encourage government in such efforts
  • It is not lack of information, but “inability to access information” that make a deaf person lag behind in this information age.