January 2016 - Visions Global Empowerment


With a staggering estimate of 1 – 2.5 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ethiopians, the situation for the majority of these individuals is dismal, as there are virtually no public services or formal opportunities for education, employment, or social inclusion & mobility. Very little is being done at present to organize or advocate for this community who suffer daily injustices, stigmatization, and exclusion. While there are a handful of schools for the Deaf and a smattering of Deaf societies, best estimates show that the vast majority (upwards of 90%) of Deaf persons nationwide are left out of formal education entirely and almost none will ever access formal


In March 2015, after years of extensive conversations and groundwork done in partnership with local stakeholders, the dream of establishing a Visions Model Regional Deafness Center became a reality. As of August 2015, approximately 125 Deaf youth and young adults (ages 3 – 30) are within the Center’s network and are benefitting from its various
services. An additional 300+ individuals (including parents, family members, hearing children, teachers, school staff, university students, medical students, government representatives, and others) have also been directly impacted by the Center’s activities, most predominantly through regular instruction in Ethiopian Sign Language.

The current list of major program activities and services of the Center include all of the following:

Daily instruction and tutorial support both during and after school hours for Deaf children (Grades 1-8) at 3 public schools in Bahir Dar with Deaf classrooms through the hiring of 4 full-time Deaf teachers (Visions also helped establish a Deaf Resource Room and new Deaf classroom at 1 of these schools)

In-class and after-school interpreting services for Deaf students in hearing-integrated classrooms (Grades 5 and above) by 2 full-time Interpreters

Deaf preschool for Deaf children (ages 3-6) led by 1 full-time Deaf teacher

Hearing Testing & Counseling services and provision of hearing devices for those identified as potential beneficiaries (to-date, 28 hearing aids have been provided and 73 individuals have received hearing testing & counseling)

Community education, awareness-raising, and outreach activities to reduce stigma and increase general understanding of Deafness

Livelihoods development support for 28 Deaf adults (ages 18-30) led by a Vocational Training & Livelihoods Development Officer

Creation of public education materials, including short films (5) and promotional materials, and teacher training materials and supplies

Regular weekly instruction in Ethiopian Sign Language for hearing school children (twice per week), teachers, school staff, Bahir Dar University – Special Needs Education Department students, Felege Hiwot Hospital medical students & staff, and parents & family members of Deaf individuals

Social clubs & activities for Deaf youth and adults, including a Deaf circus and football club

Creation of a sister school network of 10 other schools with Deaf classrooms throughout the country and provision of a laptop, teacher’s supplies, and training support for each

Creation of a virtual Ethiopia National Deaf Portal – a single comprehensive site with information relevant to the Deaf community and family members, including an interactive national map of all Deaf-related services and entities, and e-archive of all related information and learning materials, including EthSL learning materials and language codification