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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

A Deaf Professional’s Journey from Tanzania

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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

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Challenges facing Tanzania Deaf Community

  • Access to information

  • Disabling attitude and taboos

  • Education


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  • 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?

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  • 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

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  • 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

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    • 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?

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Millennium Development Goals

No mention of disability issues

Source: World Bank ( and

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  • 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

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  • 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.