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Sign Languages for Deaf Communities in developing countries as Social Capital Resource(2021_2_40_012)


The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include stipulations for people with disabilities in targets related to five of the goals, although such stipulations were not explicitly included in the 17 main goals. It has been good to know that the SDGs became more inclusive with respect to people with disabilities than the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also imposes an obligation on member states to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to the rights enjoyed by people without disabilities. However, in accordance with the SDGs and the CRPD, for example, in the midst of the global spread of COVID-19 from the beginning of 2020, measures should be taken to ensure that no one with disabilities is left behind, and in fact, UN agencies have mentioned the issue of persons with disabilities in their various statements and recommendations. (e.g., in "Disability considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak" by the World Health Organization (WHO) ( 2020-1) and "COVID-19 Outbreaks and Persons with Disabilities" by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) ( However, the efforts of international organizations do not reassure the hearing impaired, considering the fact that in many countries persons with disabilities might be left behind when, for example, important announcements from the government do not come with sign language interpreters. Therefore, government messaging does not necessarily reach the hearing impaired.

Persons with disabilities in developing countries, especially the hearing impaired, often use sign language that is different from the main language of their home countries. Sign language is an independent language with its own grammar that is different from spoken languages. However, its reality is even less well known in developing countries. Needless to say, the general public needs to understand what sign language is, along with its role in society, in order for the hearing impaired to play an active role as participants in development. This is embodied in, for example, studies on the recognition of sign language as an official language, such as in De Meulder et al. Research in Japan is also almost non-existent, with the exception of studies on West African countries in Kamei (2006), Sri Lanka and the Philippines in Mori (2008), and Kenya and Senegal in Mori (2016).

In order to contribute to international goals such as the SDGs and the CRPD, this paper takes a look at China from the view of East Asia, the Philippines from Southeast Asia, India from South Asia, Kenya from Africa, and Brazil from Latin America?in order to summarize the historical development and social conditions of sign languages in these countries.


April 2021 - March 2023

Leader of the Research Project

Mori Soya


Published by External Publisher (Japanese)