Improving access to socio-economic services of deaf blind persons in Rwanda

This project aimed to improve educational access and “socio-economic services” for deaf-blind people through investigating the challenges faced not only by children with deaf blindness but also their families. It sought to work with persons with deaf blindness, their families, the community members and local authorities from three Districts (BUGESERA in Eastern province, GICUMBI in Northern Province and RUSIZI in Western Province) in order to achieve four objectives:

(i) Generate new knowledge that will contribute to the removal of challenges towards a transformative and inclusive society;

(ii) Find evidence and arguments that are urgently needed to transform education and training systems so that people with deaf-blindness are able to participate in socio-economic community-based initiatives;

(iii) Investigate the communication and livelihood challenges that people with deaf-blindness are facing within their families and in community at large;

(iv) Find out the opinions and recommendations from people with deaf-blindness and their families to inform national legal and policy provisions.

The project used participatory action research to generate evidence compiled in a research report.

Through discussions with key participants in this study, the findings highlighted several issues:

  • Total dependency of persons with deaf-blindness leads to being assisted full time by a member of the family who should be busy working and generate income for the family;
  • A lack of communication means that parents do not learn to communicate with their children, this, in turn, impacts on a child’s development;
  • A lack of early identification mechanisms coupled with insufficient intervention programmes makes it more difficult for parents to understand and accept their child’s disability, as well as to access support;
  • There is limited or unprecise data on the numbers of deaf-blind persons;
  • Lack of specific educational support programmes for children and young people with deaf-blindness.

A number of measures and recommendations have been revealed through discussions with key participants to this study as follows:

  • Specific support services could be made available: i.e. developing formal and nonformal education services for young people and adults with deaf-blindness to access educational opportunities as their peers without disabilities;
  • Teachers could be adequately trained,
  • Early identification and intervention could be carried out,
  • Curricula could be adapted and made flexible, etc;

A person who is deaf-blind must somehow make sense of the world using the limited information available to him or her. If the deaf-blind person’s sensory disabilities are great, and if people in the environment have not made an effort to order the world in a way that makes it easier for deaf-blind persons to understand, this challenge may be overwhelming. 

Key Themes:
Sustainable Livelihoods
Location: rwanda
Principal Investigator: Beth Nasiforo Mukarwego
Co-Investigators: Emile Vuningabo, William Safari, Eric Tuyishime
Host Organisation: National Union of Disability Organisations in Rwanda
Partners: University of Rwanda
Duration: 4 months