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Raising awareness for deaf children

iSchoolAfrica Education Trust, in partnership with iStore, Core Group, and GAAD, has launched the Deaf Developers' Programme.

Did you know about one in 1000 children worldwide are born with significant hearing loss?

Deaf children in South Africa face numerous challenges that impact their overall development and opportunities. One major challenge is the limited access to quality education and specialised resources. Many schools lack the necessary infrastructure, trained teachers, and inclusive learning materials to accommodate deaf students effectively.

Language barriers further exacerbate these difficulties, as South African Sign Language (SASL) is not widely recognised or taught. This lack of communication hinders their ability to express themselves, understand academic content, and fully engage in social interactions.

Moreover, social stigma and discrimination often lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion, preventing them from fully participating in mainstream society.

Addressing these challenges requires comprehensive efforts, including improved educational support, increased awareness of deaf culture and rights, and inclusive policies that promote equal opportunities for all children, regardless of their hearing abilities.

What causes hearing loss in children?

Hearing loss in children can have various causes, which can be categorised into two main types: congenital (present at birth) and acquired (developed after birth).

Here are some common causes of hearing loss in children:

Congenital causes

These are factors that affect a child’s hearing before or during birth.

    • Genetic factors: Inherited genetic mutations or conditions can lead to hearing loss.
    • Infections: Maternal infections during pregnancy, such as rubella (German measles), cytomegalovirus (CMV), or herpes, can affect the baby’s hearing.
    • Premature birth: Babies born prematurely are at a higher risk of hearing loss.
    • Birth complications: Difficulties during labor and delivery, such as lack of oxygen or trauma, can result in hearing loss.

Acquired causes

These are factors that cause hearing loss after birth.

    • Chronic ear infections: Recurrent or untreated ear infections can damage the structures of the ear and lead to hearing loss.
    • Noise exposure: Prolonged or intense exposure to loud noises, such as loud music or industrial noise, can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear.
    • Head trauma: Severe head injuries can affect the auditory system and cause hearing loss.
    • Certain medications: Some medications, such as certain antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs, can have side effects that include hearing loss.

It is important to note that each child’s hearing loss case may have unique causes and characteristics. A thorough evaluation by medical professionals can help determine the specific cause and appropriate interventions for children with hearing loss.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (observed recently) highlights the importance of digital accessibility for the approximately one billion people with disabilities around the world. This international event is a collaborative effort among individuals, organisations and companies to raise awareness, engage in activities, and initiate discussions regarding their accessibility into the digital world.

iSchoolAfrica Education Trust

iSchoolAfrica Education Trust, official partner to iStore, Core Group and GAAD, has launched the Deaf Developers’ Programme funded by Core Group, iStore and a grant from South African Breweries Foundation (SABF). This training initiative is designed to provide Deaf youth with the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue successful and sustainable careers in technology.

As part of this programme, participants are being trained in iOS app development using Apple’s coding language, Swift, an extremely valuable skill that is highly sought after in the job market.

“With an estimated 10% of South Africa’s population being Deaf or hard of hearing and 98% of persons with disabilities being unemployed, this programme is an essential step towards creating a more inclusive and diverse tech workforce,” says Chelsea Williamson, iSchoolAfrica Disability Inclusion Manager.

“Employing qualified Deaf App Developers can assist employers to confidently tap into this under-utilised talent pool and benefit from the unique perspectives and skills that Deaf individuals bring to the table.”

As an NPO, iSchoolAfrica (iSA) provides, as part of this programme, ongoing support and inclusion training on Deaf culture to Deaf app developers’ employers to ensure the long-term success of their partnership after the graduates are employed.

“Many Deaf students have multiple degrees or diplomas in other fields but are still struggling to find employment. The programme eliminates barriers to entry into the workforce for Deaf youth,” continues Williamson.

This partnership also aligns with the advancement being made towards South African Sign Language (SASL) with Parliament recently passing legislation recognising SASL as the 12th official language of South Africa, providing further recognition and opportunities for the Deaf community to become fully included in South Africa. “South African Sign Language is a unique connector to show the capability of the Deaf community in South Africa,” says Olga Blose, Chief Language Practitioner at The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB).

iSA is dedicated to shifting the narrative surrounding Deaf individuals from one of pity to empowerment, and recognises the immense value and contributions that Deaf highly skilled graduates can bring to the workforce. Through initiatives such as the Deaf Developers’ Programme, iSchoolAfrica seeks to challenge and transform existing perceptions about the capabilities and potential of Deaf individuals.

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