All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) have announced the launch of Sign On For Literacy, a new global competition to invest in innovations that increase access to local sign languages and advance language and literacy outcomes for deaf children. The competition was announced at the third International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf during a session streamed live on Facebook.
“The civil rights struggle of our time is delivering an education to all – and not just some – children,” said Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. “By spurring innovation that provides children who are deaf access to sign language and literacy, Sign On For Literacy is helping us move closer to a world where all children can participate, learn and gain the skills they need to thrive.”
The competition seeks technology-based innovations to increase access to sign languages and literacy interventions for deaf children in low-resource contexts. These innovations will assist parents, educators, communities, and governments in enhancing early childhood development outcomes, improving access to local sign languages, and increasing literacy outcomes of deaf children. The Sign On For Literacy competition is led by ACR GCD in collaboration with the World Federation of the Deaf, the Nyle DiMarco Foundation and Deaf Child Worldwide.
Of the estimated 32 million children around the world who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind (DHHDB), 80 percent do not have access to education, and only two percent receive instruction in sign language. This is particularly true in areas of the world with few resources, profoundly affecting children who already face tremendous barriers to economic and social advancement opportunities. Without early access to language, children fail to develop social and cognitive skills at the same rate as their peers, hindering their ability to learn to read and write and isolating them from society over the course of their lives.
“Throughout my life, I have been lucky to have the support of a family and school system that fully embraced sign language,” shared actress Millicent Simmonds, who recently made her acting debut in the critically-acclaimed film, Wonderstruck, and who is lending her support to the competition. “Because of that, I have benefited from the same opportunities as other children. But in many places, children who are deaf do not have access to their local sign language, causing them to fall behind during the critical learning period before age five. As a result, these children miss the opportunity to interact with family and friends, benefit from an education or even find a job. I am excited to be part of this important global initiative and to encourage the Deaf Community and all others to submit their innovative solutions to the Sign On For Literacy competition.”
Sign On For Literacy is accepting applications through February 16, 2018 from innovators interested in participating in the competition. Competition criteria can be found on the ACR GCD website. Following review, those selected to advance will be awarded seed funding to develop and pilot their innovation.