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SLEND Sign Language to English by the Deaf: literacy development with Deaf communities using sign language, peer tuition, and learner-generated online content

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  • Noah Ahereza
  • Marco Nyarko
  • Huhua Rita Fan
  • J Gillen
  • Ulrike Zeshan


This paper reports on a project designed to enhance the employability and wellbeing of a marginalised community: the Deaf . It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council/Department for International Development in the UK (ES/M005186/1). The project adopts a Deaf-led approach to developing English literacy. This one year project features the development of an online platform: Sign Language to English by the Deaf (SLEND). The project’s ethos stems from a conviction that learning is situated in the demands and contexts of everyday life. People’s learning will develop optimally in situations where their existing purposes and abilities are recognised, and where they can collaborate, including with peers. Nowadays, online environments are significant in everybody’s everyday lives and offer particular opportunities for the Deaf to participate.
This paper explains how the project has been piloted in five centres in India, through a combination of peer to peer face to face and online activities. The different groups contribute their learning activities to the SLEND, finding value in both process and sharing outcomes.
The project includes research in Uganda and Ghana, among Deaf communities. This paper reports on the first elements of the research in those locations. Data were collected using intensive focus groups. Processes of recruitment and activities are described.
Findings of this research show how access to the internet is particularly important for the Deaf, including the improvement of their literacy development. The findings suggest the fruitfulness of an approach to Deaf people’s English literacy needs. It recommends capacity building that is grounded on a “real literacies” approach, which is firmly rooted in an understanding of the place of English literacy in their lives. It also recommends the opportunities that exist for enhancement of their communicative capabilities and social participation in all spheres of life.