In 2007 Sense International joined forces with the Dhaka-based Centre for Disability in Development, to create Bangladesh’s first ever programme for children with deafblindness. Before this, deafblindness was not even recognised as a disability by the Government.
Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest countries and it is estimated there are 3.25 million people living with mild forms of deafblindness, and 326,000 people living with severe forms of deafblindness, in extreme isolation, with little or no support .Families of children with deafblindness are often stigmatised, and rejected by their communities, due to having a child with a disability, and they themselves do not know how to support them effectively.
Education and rehabilitation
We work with government and education institutions to improve people with deafblindness’ access to appropriate education and home based support.
- Since we started, we have offered home-based education and rehabilitation to over 650 children and 50 adults with deafblindness in rural areas of Bangladesh. Each child follows an Individual Education Plan, which sets targets and allows our Deafblind Field Educators to track progress. We work closely in partnership with parents so that their child with deafblindness can develop communication, self-help and mobility skills.
- We have set up deafblind services in 16 districts and 28 specialist Deafblind Field Educators have been trained to work with people with deafblindness. We have raised awareness of deafblindness with 150 teachers in four specialist schools so that they understand the unique needs of children with deafblindness.
- We have introduced Bangla tactile sign language, a communication method for people with deafblindness.
Case study: Morium
When Morium was first identified aged nine, deteriorating eyesight and hearing loss meant that she was on the verge of being taken out of school.
Today, aged sixteen, with the intervention of Sense International, Morium has become one of the first children with deafblindness in Bangladesh to pass her primary school exams. She has grown into a confident young woman, with friends and a bright future.
Sense International aim to build on this work through the campaign, 'My Turn to Learn', a life-changing programme of inclusive education and vocational training in Bangladesh. All donations between 18 October 2017 to 17 January 2018 were matched by the UK government. Find out more about Morium and the 'My Turn to Learn' campaign.
- We have trained four vocational training instructors, in four districts, on deafblindness, so that they can ensure necessary adaptations required to train/enrol people with deafblindness in vocational institutions.
- Our trained educators work with people with deafblindness and their families so that individuals can develop their work skills. This means that they can earn a wage, contribute to the income of the family and live a decent life in society. For example, one young man with deafblindness was suffering from a lack of confidence and was socially isolated, with our support he is now working confidently in a small shop.
Advocacy and campaigning
- As a result of our strong advocacy, deafblindness has been included in the government's disability law.
- We worked on a prime time TV documentary that explained our work with people with deafblindness and we have raised awareness of deafblindness in more than 400 disability organisations.
- As a result of advocacy with the Ministry of Social Welfare, one-stop service centres for people with disabilities have been implemented in 61 districts of Bangladesh, where people with deafblindness can get support.
- Following continuous advocacy with the Department of Youth and Sports Development a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between CDD and the Department of Youth Development. As an outcome of this MOU, people with deafblindness will be able to receive training from government vocational institutions under their remit.
- We have worked with parent groups and organisations in 16 districts to support families and help them fight for their children's rights.
- The Ministry of Disaster Management, that supports people affected by flooding, now also supports families that include members with deafblindness.
Work in progress
Our work in Bangladesh has achieved a lot since 2007, however there are still tremendous challenges, however the ‘Leave no one behind’ principle of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is driving our work forwards. We will focus on:
- Transforming and removing barriers to inclusive learning for children with deafblindness through a new programme focused on identifying ‘What works’ in terms of including children with deafblindness in mainstream schools.
- Building the capacity and infrastructure of our partners to be able to provide intensive support for people with deafblindness, including the development of two Regional Resource Centres serving as hubs of knowledge and information.
- Raising awareness of the unique challenges faced by people with deafblindness and their families and promoting an inclusive environment where people with deafblindness and their families have equal access to services and opportunities for a better quality of life.
- Empowering and training government officials so that they understand and support the needs of people with deafblindness and are better equipped to ensure the rights of people with deafblindness are realised in legislation and implementation plans.
Discover how our work has helped some deafblind children and adults around the world lead better and fuller lives.
Rifat has virtually no sight or hearing and severe epilepsy which is thought to have been the cause of his deafblindness.
Rojina has some residual sight and hearing but she didn’t receive any medical or rehabilitation support until she was seven years old. She was identified as deafblind as part of a survey of local children and referred to Sense International
First published: Thursday 27 June 2013
Last updated: Friday 1 November 2019