Florjan Rojba, Executive Director, Albanian National Association of the Deaf, ANAD
Our co-operation with the Finnish Association of the Deaf (FAD) started at the beginning of the 2000's, which also marks the launch of ANAD's operations. The Finnish Association of the Deaf provided us with support and guidance for running an organisation, as well as tools for strengthening our linguistic and cultural identities and empowerment as a community. We started to spread knowledge about the importance of sign language to deaf people's mental and cognitive growth among the deaf people in Albania. As deaf people, we understood that we should have the opportunity to live and function on equal terms with hearing people, however we still faced a number of obstacles in reaching this goal.
In order to work towards equality, we needed to create a policy. In 2013 ANAD began to design one, as until then we had not had any such policy because our operations were completely unorganised. The deaf community had no connections to the so-called hearing society as we lacked a common language, an opportunity for interaction. However, with determined efforts, we eventually succeeded in establishing functioning connections with the state administration.
The state administration, however, did not have information in place about the special linguistic needs of a group like us. That is why we needed research and documentation to communicate the importance of using sign language. Inkeri Lahtinen, representative of our international cooperation partner the Finnish Association of the Deaf contacted Päivi Rainò at the Finnish Humak University of Applied Studies for this purpose, to set forth such research. We used a similar survey published in Kosovo as a starting point, which involved deaf people in carrying out the work. The survey helped to highlight the linguistic barriers that deaf people face in different interaction situations. We wished to carry out a similar survey in Albania so as to be able to communicate the actual situation among deaf people in our country to our state administration in a reliable and extensive manner. The survey described in this publication is the result of ANAD's longstanging cooperation with our cooperation partner Päivi Rainò.
Päivi Rainò, Senior Researcher, Humak University of Applied Sciences
The aim of the survey was to obtain information on the everyday life of deaf people in Albania in regard to interaction, language and inclusion, particularly in light of the articles in the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities concerning deaf people and sign language. We needed documentation on how deaf people interact with other people in their own living enviroment. What kind of education have they been able to attain, and what are their chances of employment? How do they access different kinds of information and knowledge? How do they manage handling their personal matters? We planned everything together with ANAD and representatives from the Finnish Association of the Deaf, from the survey’s aims and questions, data collection methods and field work documentation, to describing and presenting the results to both the state administration and the Albanian deaf community.
To our knowledge, no such study has yet been conducted anywhere else in the world, with deaf people having been involved in carrying out a demographic study of this scale.
I am grateful to all the deaf people who contributed to this survey, to the team who travelled around Albania to collect data from 434 people, to those who guided the fieldwork team to meet deaf people in even the most remote areas, to all interviewees who gave up their time and informed the fieldwork team about their lives, as well as their families and relatives, who supported the team in many ways to help conduct the survey. This demanding multilingual study, which encompassed the whole spectrum of interaction, was only made possible by working together with all of you.
Inkeri Lahtinen, Project Manager, Desk Officer, Finnish Association of the Deaf
The Albanian government officially recognised sign languge in 2014, preceded by lengthy advocacy efforts. In addition to the recognition of sign language, we needed to gain concrete research evidence to identify the barriers hindering linguistic equality: What does it mean to know sign language? What is complete or partial languagelessness? Why are the literacy and writing skills at such a low level among deaf people who have received a basic education? Based on the results, ANAD would be able to launch concrete measures to promote access to infomation in sign language and organise bilingual education for the deaf, interpreter training and interpreter services in Albania.
With this publication, we wish to demonstrate to national associations for the deaf operating all over the world as well as to other key people that a qualitative and statistically valid deaf-specific study can be conducted in an inclusive manner by deaf people themselves. We also want to encourage them to collaborate with statistics authorities and advocate reliable and up-to-date research into how the linguistic rights of deaf people are being fulfilled.
Deaf communities all around the world face similar challenges and barriers in terms of implementation of the linguistic rights stated in the CRPD. The questionnaire and the concrete measures proposed by ANAD in 2015 to national authorities in Albania to mitigate the challenges and barriers identified by the survey are presented in the survey report. We hope that other Deaf communities will find the presented method and the materials useful in their own advocacy for their linguistic rights in other parts of the world as well.