Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Effectiveness of International Development Assistance from American Organizations to Deaf Communities in Jamaica

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Effectiveness of International Development Assistance from American Organizations to Deaf Communities in Jamaica

Article excerpt

AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS bringing assistance to deaf people in developing countries unintentionally create relationships of dependency or oppression rather than relationships of support. Using qualitative methods, the author examined the effectiveness of development assistance provided to the Jamaican Deaf community by two American churches, one American nongovernmental organization, and one U.S. federal agency. Documents were reviewed and observations were made. Interviews were conducted with more than 60 deaf and hearing people involved with the American organizations, the Jamaican organizations, and deaf Jamaican beneficiaries. The author concludes that the Jamaican Deaf community was often excluded in planning, designing, or evaluating programs, and was unsatisfied with the American assistance it received. Results also indicate that the American organizations were poorly prepared to work with the Deaf community. Suggestions for American organizations wishing to strengthen and empower deaf people through development assistance in developing countries are proposed.

While not all people with disabilities are poor, there is evidence that a disproportionate number throughout the world live in extreme or chronic poverty (World Bank, 2005). In a study for the World Bank, Richard L. Metts (2000) asserted that "half a billion disabled people are undisputedly amongst the poorest of the poor" (p. 39). Elwan (1999) estimated that people with disabilities make up "15 to 20% of the poorest in developing countries" (p. 15). Most people with disabilities are poor, particularly those living in rural areas, are excluded from many social services, and have no means of getting access to education. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has estimated that only 3% of children with disabilities attend school in developing countries, yet an estimated 70% could attend regular schools if they were physically accessible and accommodations were made to support these children (UNICEF, 1999). The negative attitudes of professionals, parents, teachers, and communities exclude people with disabilities from participation in society, educational opportunities, and access to health care and employment (Harris & Enfield, 2003).

The highest incidence of deafness occurs in developing countries, where about 56 million of the world's approximately 70 million deaf people (80%) live (Joutselainen, 1991; World Health Organization, 1999). Throughout the developing world there is (a) a lack of awareness, knowledge, and information about people with disabilities (Scofield & Fineberg, 2002; HeinickeMotsch & Sygall, 2003); (b) a lack of respect for and understanding of Deaf culture and sign language (Lane, 1992; Lemmo, 2003); (c) a lack of quality education for deaf children (Moulton, Andrews, & Smith, 1996); and (d) a lack of medical care, vocational programs, and legal and social services for deaf people (DuBow, Geer, & Strauss, 1992). The unemployment rate among deaf people is 3 times higher than the national average in the developing world; only about 20% of the world's deaf population attends school; and in some countries deaf people are unable to vote, marry another deaf person, drive a motor vehicle, work in certain jobs, or establish Deaf associations (Joutselainen, 1991; Mäkipää, 1993). Deaf people suffer as much as other people with disabilities living in developing countries in terms of finding a job, becoming educated, and receiving adequate health care. Consequently, many deaf people live on the fringe of society, undereducated and underemployed, and they and other family members often experience economic hardship and social isolation (Mäkipää, 1993).

Many governments lack the resources to develop and support national infrastructure, educational systems, and social services, not only for people with disabilities but for citizens in general (Oxfam International, 1999). Richer nations have attempted to alleviate poverty in developing countries with foreign assistance programs. …

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