Deaf Developers’ Programme celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day on 18 May & Sign Language 12th official SA Language

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) observed 18 May annually, highlights the importance of digital accessibility for the approximately one billion people with disabilities worldwide. This international event is a collaborative effort among individuals, organizations, and companies to raise awareness, engage in activities, and initiate discussions regarding their accessibility into the digital world.

Sign Language

iSchoolAfrica Education Trust, the official partner to iStore, Core Group, and GAAD, has launched the Deaf Developers’ Programme funded by Core Group, iStore, and a grant from the South African Breweries Foundation (SABF). This training initiative is designed to provide Deaf youth with the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue successful and sustainable technological careers. As part of this programme, participants are being trained in iOS app development using Apple’s coding language, Swift, a precious skill that is highly sought after in the job market.

 “With an estimated 10% of South Africa’s population being Deaf or hard of hearing and 98% of persons with disabilities being unemployed, this programme is an essential step towards creating a more inclusive and diverse tech workforce,” says Chelsea Williamson,  iSchoolAfrica Disability Inclusion Manager. “Employing qualified Deaf App Developers can assist employers to confidently tap into this under-utilized talent pool and benefit from the unique perspectives and skills that Deaf individuals bring to the table.”

As an NPO, iSchoolAfrica (iSA) provides, as part of this programme, ongoing support and inclusion training on Deaf culture to Deaf app developers’ employers to ensure the long-term success of their partnership after the graduates are employed.

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“Many Deaf students have multiple degrees or diplomas in other fields but are still struggling to find employment. The programme eliminates barriers to entry into the workforce for Deaf youth,” continues Williamson.

This partnership also aligns with the advancement being made towards South African Sign Language (SASL) with Parliament recently passing legislation recognising SASL as the 12th official language of South Africa, providing further recognition and opportunities for the Deaf community to become fully included in South Africa. “South African Sign Language is a unique connector to show the capability of the Deaf community in South Africa,” says Olga Blose, Chief Language Practitioner at The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB). 

Sign Language

iSA is dedicated to shifting the narrative surrounding Deaf individuals from one of pity to empowerment and recognizes the immense value and contributions that Deaf highly skilled graduates can bring to the workforce. Through initiatives such as the Deaf Developers’ Programme, iSchoolAfrica seeks to challenge and transform existing perceptions about the capabilities and potential of Deaf individuals. 

iSchoolAfrica Cohort Comments

Choolwe Muleya

“Despite having a diploma for IT, I still have difficulty getting a job because of my disability. I plead with employers to see my skills and yet I am continuously rejected because all they see is my disability. They did not think I could do the job. My dream is to expand and grow creatively and to create much-needed accessibility through technology for Deaf people, as well as creating opportunities for inclusivity.” 

Siyanda Kopolo

Sign Language

“I had a basic understanding of C#, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript when I started my previous internship, but I’ve since learned how to manage effective web pages. Despite all of that, I haven’t been able to get a job. My dream is to be a part of developing Apps for Deaf children in education or explore AI for Sign Language translation.”

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Ismael Mansoor

“After completing my Matric, I applied to universities and was rejected because my Matric was from a Deaf school. Luckily, I found a University with a bridging program for those wanting to study SASL linguistics and I graduated with an Honours degree with a distinction. Studying further and becoming an App Developer is an exciting opportunity for me. I believe that my deafness will inspire others to also study app development and to create a community of Deaf App Developers.”

David Silva

“There is a general wide unconscious/subconscious discrimination in the workplace. No matter which positions I have held, interactions are often dumbed down and meetings are often exclusionary for me. Socially, I was ignored in the office while everyone socialized verbally with one another, which gives the impression of being not a valued team member.

My dream is to build an App that specializes in standardizing international Deaf education, allowing all Deaf people in the world to have access to  the best education via the App and internet.”

Asanda Xhwantini

“My dream is to become a coding teacher for Deaf children. I want to teach computer programming and how to write basic code in schools. I want to create a new generation of young Deaf App Developers in South Africa.”

Shelly Mmotla

“My dream is simple, to learn code and be an App developer – not just a Deaf App Developer.”

Asanda Khumalo

“Deaf education is not equal to hearing education. We need to improve our education systems, so we can stand proud of who we are. The Deaf community can do everything that the hearing community can if we are given equal opportunities to succeed and achieve. My dream is to build a real-time App that creates access for the Deaf community to show our creativity and skills.” 

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Tholang Setona

“When we come to working with Deaf and hearing individuals together, it requires a lot of teamwork and communication. If this is prioritized, we will be able to work hand-in-hand, making a difference together.”

Mzwandile Marvin

“I want to prove that people with disabilities can do anything! My dream is to own an App development company and to create Apps for people to learn SASL, navigation for people who are blind and other apps to support people with disabilities.”

Nomonde Madlala

“I want to study more and grow myself through App Development. I am not sure what the future holds yet, but I am excited.”