4. How many deaf people are there in the world?
The World Health Organization website reports  that there are more than 300 million people who are deaf; having a moderate to profound hearing loss in one or both ears. Statistics that are listed on a country-by-country basis are often quite inconsistent when comparing percentages and estimates. It seems like a simple question, but it is not one that has a simple answer. While worldwide organizations have found it difficult to pinpoint the population of the Deaf it is estimated by the World Federation of the Deaf that 72 million are culturally Deaf.
5. Who are the culturally Deaf?
The culturally Deaf see themselves as belonging to their own People Group. Generally accepted definitions of a People Group include words like ethnolinguistic group; common self-identity; shared cultural patterns among various members; unique language in common; etc.  The Joshua Project defines a People Group as “a significantly large sociological grouping of individuals who perceive themselves to have a common affinity with one another.” In addition to the obvious language identification shared among a People Group there are additional considerations that help define ethnicity such as a shared history; common customs; the identities of clans and families; marriage rules and traditions; and covenants and inheritance patterns. All of these are indicators that help identify the Deaf as a People Group.
7. Why are the Deaf people worldwide not being reached with the Gospel?
One of the primary reasons that millions of Deaf are unreached is because there has been little effort to recognize and approach them as individuals that belong to a Deaf People Group. From a strategic missiological context, the concept of a People Group is defined as the largest group through which the Gospel can flow without encountering significant barriers of understanding and acceptance. Considerations regarding how to reach the Deaf with the Gospel of Jesus Christ must address this critical aspect.

An effective missiological approach for reaching the Deaf needs distinct strategies that utilize Scripture in the heart language (sign language), non-text methods of evangelism and church planting, and an attitude that facilitates empowerment of trained Deaf Believers. This approach is not merely a “tweaking” of standard hearing strategies for reaching people, translation of scripture and planting churches, but it must include methodologies that offer Deaf Believers the opportunity to receive training and to serve in every facet of ministry among their people group. Deaf Pathway Global is committed to such a strategy.  Bible translation work among the Deaf must be narrow in focus to ensure that the distinctives of the Deaf people are clearly reflected.
8. What are the characteristics of these Deaf people groups?
First, the Deaf share a language and even though each country has its own Sign Language, there is a significant percentage that is commonly shared among Deaf people around the world. Deaf people “have found ways to define and express themselves through their rituals, tales, performances, and everyday social encounters.  The richness of their sign language affords them the possibilities of insight, invention, and irony” (Padden & Humphries).  The relationship Deaf people have with their sign language is a strong one, and “the mistaken belief that American Sign Language is a set of simple gestures with no internal structure has led to the tragic misconception that the relationship of Deaf people to their sign language is a casual one that can be easily severed and replaced” (Padden & Humphries).

Second, the Deaf share a common culture. They perceive themselves as Deaf, first, and then they will recognize their national identity in a secondary way. This cultural identity includes common factors like shared educational experiences at Deaf schools; marrying Deaf people; a socio-political network centered on the Deaf community (locally and internationally); and a shared experience of discrimination within every culture. The reality is that the Deaf around the globe, wherever they exist in community (and often in isolated situations), share a common worldview. Their suspicion of hearing people typically lends itself to an “us versus them” attitude.

Third, the Deaf perceive themselves as a People Group. Many books, articles, and postings have been written about the Deaf, their culture, their identity, their language, and their uniqueness as a people. There are many videos produced by Deaf individuals about their culture. Their “ethnicity” is not defined through a blood lineage but through a disability, yet they do not see themselves as disabled. They see their community as regenerative through their common characteristics. Padden and Humphries comment, “this knowledge of Deaf people is not simply a camaraderie with others who have a similar physical condition, but is, like many other cultures in the traditional sense of the term, historically created and actively transmitted across generations.”
10. How many Sign languages or sign systems are there in the world?
There are countless sign systems being developed specifically for educational purposes that follow the grammar of the spoken languages. In contrast, natural sign languages are unique languages with distinct grammars and do not have a direct one-to-one translation to spoken languages. The number of sign languages being reported continues to increase. DeafWay Global is giving focus to the natural sign languages of 187 major Deaf People Groups.
11. What is the difference between sign systems and sign languages?
The sign language used by Deaf signers is not only a natural language, but it is their “heart” language. It is the language in which Deaf people think, dream, and pray. These visual-spatial languages use a wide variety of hand shapes distinguished by specific parameters of palm orientation, movement, and location as well as distinct body and facial movements. Sign Language is the native language and core identity for those individuals who claim to be part of Deaf culture. The “natural language” has developed spontaneously and within community. Natural language develops autonomously due to need. These are unlike the sign systems that were invented specifically for educational purposes and follow grammars of spoken language.
12. What does a Deaf Bible look like and why is it necessary?
When one uses the word “Bible” one usually thinks of a book. The Deaf Bible is not translated in a written or textual format.. Many spoken languages use a written record to preserve and pass down His message. Prior to the printing press, and even today in some countries, information, history, narratives, and poems are passed down orally with great precision. Deaf Bible translators use  a process that results in not a written record, but a filmed or video record. Instead of pages in a book the Deaf Bible is a series of videos of Deaf people rendering God’s message into the natural language of the Deaf.
13. Why do Deaf people need a video Bible? Why can’t they read from the Bible in their country’s primary language?
Written languages are based on a phonology of the language. For people who never hear the spoken language, or use it on a day-to-day basis, it is like a foreign language. From birth, the Deaf learn from what they see and not from what they hear. Most hearing people think that the natural sign language used by the Deaf is a signed version of what is spoken and written by the majority culture. While many continue to persist in the creation of such a system, this is not natural sign language. The natural sign language of any given country may include a few influences of the majority (written and spoken) language, but each country’s sign language is entirely separate from, and not dependent on, the majority language. The term “natural language” represents language that has developed spontaneously within a Deaf community of signers. It has its own grammar, syntax, and even a specialized lexicon of thousands of signs that are challenging for someone who is not Deaf to learn. As an example, English is somewhat of a foreign language for many of the Deaf born and raised in America and when, or if, it is learned, it becomes the second language not the native or natural language of the Deaf person. We, being Deaf, desire to see the message of God in our “heart” language. The relationship we, as Deaf people, have with our sign language is strong regardless of how proficient we may or may not be in reading and writing the majority language.
14. What is unique about the Deaf Pathway Global’s approach to Bible translation?
Numerous Christian organizations are seeking to translate the Bible for Deaf people through sign language because the urgency of this cause is widely recognized. Countless hours of work are required for video productions of sign language-based Scripture translations. Typical Bible translation for the Deaf focuses excessive attention on analyzing which lexical signs are best employed to express the words of Scripture verses. This approach yields translations with a more noticeable twist towards a formal register of sign language which could conceal meanings and be less understandable by most Deaf individuals in a given community. Although these efforts are well intended, the process is painstakingly slow leaving many Deaf people longing for a clearly understandable Bible translation.

In contrast to the traditional approach to Bible translation for the Deaf, our translation process is grounded in the undoubtedly more efficient “Sign Roots” framework; a translation that reflects the deep, natural heart language that is most understood by Deaf people.  

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