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Monday, August 19, 2013

Update on DDW's Work in Costa Rica

Recently I had the privilege of talking with David Justice (DJ), co-founder of Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW) . Long-time readers of my blog may recall I took a trip to Costa Rica with DDW in 2011. DJ brought me up-to-date on what's new with DDW and Costa Rica. With his permission, I can share with you an excerpt of our online chat conversation reformatted as an interview.

Sarah: Did you ever imagine DDW would grow into what it is today when you and Christy started the organization in 2007?

DJ: When Christy and I first took that trip our goal was 'to make an entertaining video of stories in 10 different sign languages from 10 different countries' and now here we are working with governments, post-secondary institutions, and national associations of the deaf on organizational development and long term sustainability projects. [It's] all very exciting! Our long term goal as we expand is to incorporate international teams to provide capacity building in sign language-- so not just DDW people from USA, but a combo of people from USA and Philippines will begin this "train the trainer" organizational development cycle in the next country.

[I told DJ about my recent Train the Trainer experience with the Library of Congress.]

Sarah: The Train the Trainer program was exciting because I got exposure to experts in this field which I knew nothing about. And now with having to do the training myself, I have to learn the subject and be very engaged with it, to be able to do it.

DJ: That's great. It's something we try to do with our work in international development -- involve those we are working with in every step of the process. Even our discussions/trainings are always "co-facilitated" by one 1 DDW person and 1 person from PFD, or ANASCOR, or whichever organization we are working with. You definitely see a quicker sense of empowerment and self confidence that way.

Sarah: Speaking of ANASCOR (AsociaciĆ³n Nacional de Sordos de Costa Rica), what's new?

DJ: They are in the process of establishing another Deaf advocacy organization in Costa Rica called "Siglo 21" or "The 21st Century". They will be independent of ANASCOR but will work very closely together with ANASCOR. The goal of Siglo 21 is to focus on enforcing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). Are you familiar with that law?

Sarah: No, I'm not.

DJ: CRPD is an international disability law that is very similar to the ADA we have here in the USA. The Costa Rican government passed this law 5 years ago and every two years, they are required to submit a report to the UN explaining how they are amending or developing policies that are accommodating for people with disabilities. In their first two reports, ANASCOR was not mentioned at all, and LESCO [Costa Rican sign language] was only mentioned once, so there is a "disconnect" between the government (who controls policy for education/employment/etc) and the Deaf community. That is the gap that Siglo 21 is going to focus on closing up. They plan to conduct some concrete research on the needs of the Deaf community to have evidence behind their complaints, then offer constructive advice to the government on how to improve language access, deaf education, job training, etc. It's a big project, and will take several years-- but they are moving along. Our [DDW's] role has been to provide "process consultation" on the development of Siglo 21 as an organization. For example, we worked with them on refining their mission, vision, values statements; conducted a SWOT analysis, established a timeline with committees to achieve their goals etc.

Sarah: That is a big project, I am glad DDW is supporting them.

DJ: I went to Costa Rica last summer with Dr. Scot Atkins who works with DDW (and as a professor at NTID) and we made some great progress together. We will likely return again this winter at some point and will likely visit Costa Rica once a year or every two years. Perhaps if we expand, we can run a similar exchange program like we have [recently] done with the Philippines.

Sarah: Thanks for the updates, DJ. Everything sounds great.

DJ: Pura Vida!

To learn more about Discovering Deaf Worlds, please visit their website