September 29, 2022
September is Deaf Awareness Month, and All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development is highlighting innovators who are developing solutions and tools to ensure that children who are deaf and hard of hearing have access to books in the languages they use and understand.
Around the world, millions of children have few to no books in languages they use and understand, thereby limiting their access to education. For the more than 93 million children with disabilities, the shortage of books is even more severe, as resources, if available at all, often lack accessible formats, especially for children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. In Mali, an estimated 350,000 people are hearing impaired. In the entire country, there are only ten schools for the deaf or hard of hearing.
Through the Begin with Books prize, ACR GCD is funding innovators to create storybooks in national and local sign languages in nine countries, such as Indonesia and Nepal. For the first time ever, Malian children who are deaf and hard of hearing will have access to sign language storybooks in the sign language used in Malian Deaf Schools next month.
The sign language books are being produced under Digital Books for Our Children in Mali, a project led by SIL LEAD innovators, in partnership with the Malian Association for the Deaf (Association Malienne des Sourds or AMASOURDS) and two schools for the deaf and hard of hearing in the capital city Bamako – École des déficients auditifs (EDA), and École Jigiya Kalanso (EJK), to produce the books. Created in 1989, AMASOURDS has over 6,700 members and advocates for people in Mali who are deaf to promote equal opportunities, including sign language education and the establishment of local, national and regional organizations for those who are deaf.
The books are being created using SIL International’s Bloom book creation software, which allows users to create books easily in any language and add sign language videos and human narrated audio, in keeping with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. SIL LEAD’s long time commitment to accessibility and underserved languages has also resulted in awards from prior ACR GCD competitions, such as Enabling Writers and Book Boost.
“Bloom software is an excellent application,” says Dana Benjamin Diarra, the previous AMASOURDS president who previously taught at École des déficients auditifs (EDA) in Bamako, a school for the deaf. “It makes it easy to create, upload, and publish books, videos, photos and more.“
Research shows that children experience greater reading success when learning in their local spoken or signed language. Providing engaging and accessible books in these underserved languages is essential to empowering and supporting these children on their path to literacy.
“In many families, the deaf child is neglected. They shut themselves away and grow up with ignorance,” says Awa Cissoko, a teacher for the deaf who is herself also deaf. “The books in sign language help the children learn to read, write, and get information. They also help the deaf child to develop his abilities and to be independent in the future. As a teacher, I have found that deaf children are more interested in reading than in other subjects because knowing and learning about our words makes them happy. For me, books in sign language are very important in the development of deaf children.”
“Many deaf children in Mali have had difficulty reading and understanding because of the lack of availability of books in sign language,” says Diarra. “Thanks to the LINEMA (Livres Numériques pour Nos Enfants au Mali,) project created by SIL, we were able to produce 20 digital books in sign language so that deaf students in all schools in Mali can benefit from learning to read and sign and acquire a natural language, accelerating the development of sign language without difficulty so that they can have a way to express themselves and improve relationships between parents, children and friends.”
The books will be available in October to view or download on Bloom Library. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to learn when they are published. See screen captures from the upcoming books below. Learn more about the project.
All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development is a partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government