Introduction / History
Various estimates place the world Deaf population at between 30 and 70 million. Taken as a whole, these communities would comprise one of the largest unreached people groups in the world.
Where Are they Located?
Unlike most people groups, Deaf people can be found in every country in the world, and often blend in with the broader community around them.
What Are Their Lives Like?
In many situations Deaf people are viewed as disability groups, but a more accurate approach is to consider them as a distinct people groups. They have their own unique languages and rich culture. Many Deaf people value their language and culture so much that if given the chance to become hearing, they would refuse.
What Are Their Needs?
There are many common experiences shared by Deaf people around the world that contribute to Deaf culture. Since most Deaf people are born to hearing parents, and very few of those parents learn to sign, many Deaf people are isolated from their family and the broader community. Instead of acquiring language from their parents, many acquire language from other Deaf in the community or from a Deaf school. Oppression by the hearing community is also commonplace; decisions are made for the Deaf without Deaf input; laws are established forbidding Deaf people to marry; education may be provided only in the spoken language without interpreting. All of these common experiences serve to unite Deaf people across cultural and political lines.
While many Deaf people have some degree of bilingualism, for most of them it is impossible to fully learn a spoken language which they cannot hear. It is becoming more common around the world for Deaf people to learn more than one sign language.
Because of lack of access to the spoken language, many Deaf people have a difficult time participating in church services and activities; relatively little Bible translation work has been done in sign languages, and interpreted church services provide only the most basic of access to the Deaf community. Just like spoken languages, sign languages are not universal, and vary widely from country to country and often even within a county. For Deaf people to have full access to scripture, they need both Bible translation in their heart language and services in sign language.
* Scripture Prayers for the Deaf in Sri Lanka.
For many Deaf people, the Bible is out of reach. Limited access to education makes learning a spoken language well enough to read scripture exceedingly difficult, and only a small percentage of Deaf people have access to scripture in a sign language.
The global Deaf community is very much in need of Missionaries, but the best people to reach a Deaf person is another Deaf person. Providing training for Deaf leaders and Deaf missionaries is crucial.