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Worldwide, more than 1 billion people live with a disability, of which an estimated 80% reside in the developing world.
— World Health Organization

Aside from the many daily struggles faced by billions of people living in developing nations, having a disability adds an extra layer of hardship that makes even the most routine activities difficult or even impossible. The 2011 WHO/World Bank World Report on Disability lists hearing loss and deafness as the most common disability worldwide and one of the most debilitating.

Visions’ work with the Deaf community is focused on Ethiopia – one of the least developed and highly impoverished countries in the world with a population of more than 103.3 million, ranking 174th globally on the Human Development Index (out of 188 total countries). With an estimated 1 – 2.5 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ethiopians nationwide (and growing), the challenges are massive. Nationwide, an extreme lack of services & opportunities make daily life very challenging for the majority of the Deaf community. Regular obstacles often include the inability to:

  • access basic information or services
  • pursue formal education
  • communicate with others (including their own families and communities)
  • hold a meaningful job or trade
  • receive appropriate or adequate health & medical care
  • participate in basic community activities due to stigma and social exclusion

Beginning in 2013, Visions started engaging with local partners and schools with special classrooms for Deaf children in providing formal Ethiopian Sign Language instruction through the hiring of Deaf teachers; conducting student, teacher, community, & university trainings; providing capacity-building support to local Deaf organizations & institutions; coordinating community education & outreach efforts to help educate the public; and offering scholarships for Deaf young adults.

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Then in March 2015, Visions, in partnership with the Kal Center for Special Needs, established the Visions Model Deafness Center in Bahir Dar the first comprehensive service center in the country specifically focused on the empowerment of the Deaf community. The Model Deafness Center aims to help empower the Deaf community by providing services in education, language development (especially Ethiopian Sign Language), interpreting, jobs training / livelihoods development, access to information & services, medical care (including audiology & speech services), mentorship, early childhood education, public education & awareness-raising, and connection with other Deaf communities & the larger outside world. Collectively, these efforts hold the potential to truly transform the lives of Deaf Ethiopians and their families!

Aside from our ongoing annual service trip opportunities, Visions has also forged ongoing partnerships with 2 U.S. universities (SUNY New Paltz & Nazareth College) in bringing undergraduate & postgraduate students to learn about Deaf culture and education in Ethiopia and volunteer with various service-related activities.


Download our Introduction to the Visions Deaf Education & Empowerment Program for more details of this initiative.