Signal Charity - Deaf Awareness in Africa

This is Signal’s most diverse overseas programme, working with our partner Signhealth Uganda (SHU) across the fields of health, education and advocacy for deaf awareness and rights at both local and national level. SHU was established in 2009 to promote equitable access to social services and opportunities for deaf, deafblind persons and their families through advocacy and cost effective, sustainable services.

How we help

Health: SHU works with individuals and schools to provide greater access to health services including through sign language training and emergency interpretation, counselling and referral services.

We provide deaf-friendly HIV/AIDS awareness and support programmes, working in both prevention and healthy living for individuals and families. SHU closely monitors those identified, provides backup and support needed to gain access to drugs and other necessities, and provides training to families and individuals.

Education: Signal’s three-year Comic Relief-funded programme in Uganda was based on our work in Malawi. Together with SHU we have worked to challenge negative attitudes towards deaf and hearing impaired children, enabling them to access a quality education on a par with their hearing peers within mainstream primary schools. We take a holistic approach to challenging negative cultural attitudes, working to find and identify children with hearing impairments within their communities. We work with these children, their siblings and families, respected community leaders and mainstream primary school teachers.

We have encouraged and enabled the creation of parent support groups, which, equipped with small start-up capital, have successfully introduced income-generating activities, particularly mushroom growing and soap and petroleum jelly making as well as small savings and loans. Some of these groups have now been active for over four years.

Signal’s education and health rights programme funded by UKaid worked in two districts – Masaka in the Central and Arua in the Northern Region. It has promoted deaf and hearing impaired children’s right to education, helping young deaf people understand their rights and protect themselves from HIV, and offering training and awareness around sexual and reproductive health.

We have worked with young deaf people as peer educators who go out into rural communities to find other deaf people without access to either services or good communications to help them build self-confidence, language and  better communication skills. We have given these young people accessible information on HIV prevention and treatment and have helped them – especially young deaf women – understand their rights. We have also worked with, and trained, Village Health Teams to make their services inclusive to those with hearing loss.

Signal's work in Uganda: The True Colours Trust logoWe are now in the second year of our programme funded by The True Colours Trust working in the Northern West Nile Region. Learning from our previous projects working with deaf and hearing impaired children and young people, we continue to focus on:

  • deaf awareness training with health workers and the judiciary to ensure that access to services and information is deaf friendly;
  • specialist training for primary school teachers on supporting special needs learners within an inclusive primary education setting;
  • child-to-child activities to improve communications and break down barriers;
    development of active parent support groups;
  • working in refugee camps and refugee-hosting communities.

Positive change

  • Sign language training for parents of deaf children.
  • Greater awareness, understanding and deaf friendly information from teaching staff, health workers and the judiciary to meet the communication needs of children with hearing impairments.
  • Establishment of SHU as one of the key organisations working in the field of deafness, disability and child rights and protection.
  • Hearing impaired children who have worked with the project have become real agents of change within their communities.
  • Year-on-year increase in academic attainment of hearing impaired children at mainstream primary schools and promotion and selection to secondary schools.
  • Silent drama groups formed by deaf people to share information and communicate important messages in an expressive way while also making people laugh.

Our work with SHU is funded by grants from The True Colours Trust and other trusts as well as individual donations. Thanks for past funding go to Comic Relief and the UK Department for International Development (DfID) (UKaid).

Find out how you can get involved