Deaf News: Deaf development programme helps reduce isolation in Cambodia

Posted on January 15, 2014



Graduates from the only available education course for deaf adults in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, have been given the opportunity to develop their careers; working in a hairdressing shop.

The barbers in the shop are all deaf, having attended the course which was set up by an American priest, Charlie Dittmeier. Thirteen years ago he created the Deaf Development Programme (DDP) after realising many deaf Cambodian adults had no access to sign language, and therefore education.

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Until the late 1990s, Cambodia had no native sign language. Many deaf adults have spent their lives working in the fields or as cattle herders.

Trainee barber, Oeun Darong , said: “I didn’t have any contact outside of my family. It was like being in prison. I was stuck there. I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have any education.” He added that he once thought he was the only deaf person in the world.

The DDP is one of only two groups running schools for people with hearing problems in Cambodia. The other group is for children. During the course, students aged 16+ spend two years learning simple sign language, writing, reading and other life skills. A third year is then spent in job training, in places such as the hairdressing shop.

There are estimated to be over 50,000 deaf people living in Cambodia, and very few of these have any knowledge of sign language. But this situation is not unique.

“Worldwide, deaf children and young people are often denied an education, including in sign language,” said Shantha Rau Barriga, the Disability Rights Director at New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Sign language is critical for deaf people to be able to communicate, express themselves and learn.”

Upon arrival at the DDP school, one of the first things students do is to choose their own sign name. This acts as an important step towards leaving behind their old life of isolation: “I met lots of deaf people here who are now my friends,” said Darong. “I’m not by myself anymore.”

Read the original article here -: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2014/01/13/2003581172/1

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