News / USA

University Trains Students to Advocate for Deaf People Worldwide

Rue Winiarzyk works with an interpreter for the deaf in Argentina. (Courtesy Rue Winiarczyk)Rue Winiarzyk works with an interpreter for the deaf in Argentina. (Courtesy Rue Winiarczyk)
x
Rue Winiarzyk works with an interpreter for the deaf in Argentina. (Courtesy Rue Winiarczyk)
Rue Winiarzyk works with an interpreter for the deaf in Argentina. (Courtesy Rue Winiarczyk)
Faiza Elmasry

There are an estimated 360 million deaf people around the world.

Rue Winiarczyk is one of them. Growing up in Canada, she attended a school for deaf students, enjoying the advantages of living in a society attuned to the meeting the needs of its disabled citizens. However, she soon learned her experience is far from the reality for deaf people around the world.

Winiarczyk was 20 when she traveled to Panama where she expected to experience the culture shock, but not the lack of deaf services that she had learned to take for granted.

"I met several deaf individuals in Panama," said Winiarczyk, who now lives in the United States. "In the deaf community, the interpreter service was very scarce...the opportunity we have here in the U.S., other countries don’t necessarily have.”

Rue Winiarzyk at Gallaudet in Washington, D.C., the only university specifically focused on deaf education. (Courtesy Rue Winiarczyk)Rue Winiarzyk at Gallaudet in Washington, D.C., the only university specifically focused on deaf education. (Courtesy Rue Winiarczyk)
x
Rue Winiarzyk at Gallaudet in Washington, D.C., the only university specifically focused on deaf education. (Courtesy Rue Winiarczyk)
Rue Winiarzyk at Gallaudet in Washington, D.C., the only university specifically focused on deaf education. (Courtesy Rue Winiarczyk)

She also found many in Panama's deaf community weren’t aware of their basic rights. They believed their disability was a kind of cosmic punishment and accepted being marginalized by society.

The trip, back in 2000, shaped Winiarczyk‘s future. After that, she enrolled at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only university specifically focused on deaf education, where she signed up for the International Development graduate program.

“That’s to prepare people to go overseas and learn how to include people with disabilities in jobs or in schools," said Amy Wilson, an associate professor who coordinates the program. "Same thing with deaf people; how do you help them understand their language better.”

Students take courses for two years and then two semesters of internship experiences, "with a development organization of their choice in D.C., then the second experience is overseas,” Wilson said.

Winiarczyk went to Kuala Lumpur to work with the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf.

“I did a needs assessment which prioritized what the needs of the deaf community were," she said. "Accessibility was one of the main concerns. For example accessibility to interpreting services was needed. There were approximately 80 interpreters in Malaysia at that time, so, formal trainings (preferably college or university level) was needed in order to train interpreters to ensure the appropriate level of services was provided for deaf people.”

Since her internship there in 2010, Winiarczyk says deaf services have been improving.
 
“I still connect with some of them in Malaysia through Facebook, who work with advocacies and law," she said. “I used inclusive mixed methods to conduct a needs assessment in Malaysia. This allowed me to include the deaf community in the research processes so that they were able to engage in discussions through focus groups and prioritize their own needs. Oftentimes, marginalized groups are overlooked from research processes so this means their voices aren’t included in research processes and they may not be able to become agents of social change or advocate for themselves.”

Winiarczyk now works with Gallaudet's office of International Affairs.

“I’ve gone to Chile, Argentina and Vietnam to do different projects related to education software. For example, we evaluated an educational software developed by the Technology Development Center of Inclusion at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Following our participation in this project, the Chilean deaf community was then included to the process of improving this software.”

Winiarczyk exemplifies the positive change graduates of this program can bring to the deaf communities around the world, says Gallaudet’s Wilson.

“We have one student who graduated a few years ago. He’s from Jamaica. He was frustrated with the lack of the services and rights that deaf people had in Jamaica," she said. "When he was here, deaf people (in Jamaica) couldn’t drive. He’s now working with a project with the Jamaican Deaf Federation and they now have driver’s licenses."

She says another student who who graduated and returned to China, is teaching Chinese students about how they can be empowered through their language and through art.

Another former student, now president of the Kenyan Association of the Deaf, fought to make Kenyan sign language the third official language after Swahili and English in the constitution.

Since Gallaudet's International Development program began in 2008, those graduates, and 30 others, have worked to bring awareness and services to deaf and disabled communities worldwide.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More