Using a $2.05 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development, Gallaudet University—alongside Wesley University, Ondo and the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf—plans to launch a program in Nigeria aimed at breaking down negative stigmas around deafness.
Inspired by the late Dr. Isaac O. Agboola, who served as the dean of the School of Education, Business, and Human Services (SEBHS) at Gallaudet, the Deaf-E³ project focuses on supporting deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind youth in Nigeria through the three areas of education, employment and empowerment.
“We really need to shift the mindset to have people see that this is not a disability,” said Dr. Khadijat Rashid, interim dean of the faculty at Gallaudet. “It’s really just a language barrier issue. If you teach deaf people in their language, they develop just fine like everyone else. When you pass by someone on the street, you don’t know if they are deaf. They are just human.”
As part of the project, Gallaudet will co-develop bilingual education models and training to reduce barriers for deaf children. Guidelines will also be developed to promote more collaboration and effective communication between Nigerian Sign Language interpreters and deaf consumers.
With more than 400 languages spoken in Nigeria, Deaf-E³ also seeks to have Nigerian Sign Language be more widely accepted and recognized, according to Rashid.
“This will lead to wonderful outcomes for deaf children and opportunities for better education,” she said. “They are already getting an education. But it is likely not bilingual and often not accessible. So, we are modeling a different way so that children will have access. And when parents find out their child is deaf, they know that they are not doomed to be lower class citizens. They can be a full contributing member of society, get a good job, have a good life and be citizens like everyone else.”