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WFD/DDW Collaborate for Deaf Rights

Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW) is an international organization that partners with Deaf advocates in developing countries.

The organization’s goal is improve the standards of education, communication access, employment opportunities, and human rights for Deaf all over the world.


Davin Searls, the Executive Director of DDW shares with us his inspiration behind the founding of DDW.  The organization focuses primarily on capacity building but what exactly is that and how does that play into the organization’s mission?


"A lot of people have asked about why DDW was established. Well, let me tell you a story.  Years ago I travelled frequently visiting different countries with the intent of learning about deaf communities, their needs, their struggles, their challenges and their ideas and dreams. I met and chatted with the president of an association of the deaf who told me that a while back, another organization approached them and said, "You have no sign language dictionary- why don’t you create one?" The president of the organization agreed, so they were given funding to create and distribute the signing dictionary. The funding organization was pleased. Again, the same outside organization approached the President and pointed out that there was no HIV/AIDS awareness training for the deaf community, who were at high risk.  "You should set up training and spread awareness," they said.  So the president agreed to undertake this project.  With the funding received, they established workshops and so forth to meet the goals. However, upon completion they never heard back from the other organization.  No communication whatsoever. So, the president decided to reach out to inquire if there were any other projects on the agenda. The organization responded with an apology explaining that their funding had been cut.


The President told me, “We have a dictionary, we have health workshops, but I don't know how to run my organization.”


That is what we address, “Capacity building”, which is about ensuring people can take advantage of their full potential, equipped with confidence, knowledge, training, tools, and everything they need in order to succeed.


That's what DDW does."


We reached out to Shane Feldman, the President of DDW to learn more about  the organization’s accomplishment and how their partnership will help  World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) achieve the advancement of human rights for deaf people.



So, recently DDW partnered with WFD, but before we get into that I’m curious about DDW and the work it has done up until this point. Can you tell us a bit about that?



Our past programs have been designed to support and strengthen deaf communities in different countries.  We strongly believe that when these organizations are independent and are able to flourish they will be able to advocate for their rights in education, access, employment opportunities, healthcare and numerous issues that are important to the deaf community.  

We are proud of recent work in the Philippines in which DDW received a three year grant from USAID, a federal/government agency in the US, to fund our organization to provide training empowering the deaf organization there in the Philippines -- the organization is called Philippines Federation of the Deaf (PFD) (the sign looks like this).  Our team from the U.S. went to the Philippines to engage and train their community leaders in different capacities such as financial management, advocacy, legal matters, human rights issues.  


Now having completed the program we are extremely proud of them for they have gone on to establish new initiatives as a result of the training provided. Right now they have a Filipino language bill that they are advocating to push through legislation.  Many of those involved with the Bill are the same individuals who received training from DDW.  That is just one example of how DDW can impact deaf communities in developing countries -- stronger organizations means stronger communities that are able to achieve more access recognizing their human rights.

So, in light of this, i’m curious about DDW’s partnership with WFD and their end goals in regards to UNCRPD, how will DDW help WFD achieve their goals?



Many deaf communities in developing countries struggle to meet the expectation of human rights established by UNCRPD (here is the sign for UNCRPD). So, the role of DDW’s partnership with WFD is to identify which of their existing members from different countries need this kind of support.  Once identified they’ll be connected with DDW to initiate a conversation on what DDW can provide while the other party identifies what they need -- this could be financial management training, maybe advocacy, maybe organization communication training and so forth.  DDW is a deaf/signing based organization that can connect with them in respect to their language and culture. Once a relationship is established after identifying their needs, we work together to apply for grants to receive training or resources necessary to develop and foster stronger relationships within their country.  The goal is for the country to have the necessary information and resources advocating human rights as required to meet the expectations of UNCRPD.  


Thank you to both Davin and Shane for taking the time to tell us a bit about DDW and this exciting new partnership with WFD.



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