Deaf Life3rd November 2015

Deaf Brit Working to Empower Deaf Jordanian Communities

Ambitious to make a difference, Paul Scott has developed programmes in Jordan that are really making a difference

by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

Take a quick look at deaf related social media and you could be forgiven for thinking the deaf community are always at each other’s throats. There are certainly strong views, and differences in opinion, but when it comes down to it, people within the Deaf community will do all they can to help others, it’s just the way it is. That is why, you will often find people working and supporting projects in places you don’t expect them, doing all they can to help others. 34 years old Paul Scott from Norwich, is no exception.

Born with congenital deafness, Paul has been Deaf since birth. He also has optic atrophy which means he has a visual impairment. Born into a Deaf signing family, Paul grew up using British Sign Language as his first primary language. He also has a twin brother who is hearing but uses BSL. Altogether, he has 3 brothers and 2 sisters. Out of them all, three are deaf and three are hearing, but all use BSL, as does his mum and dad.

Attending mainstream schools all through his education until going to Derby College for the Deaf, Paul found school a challenge. “They used cued speech a lot, but I have no idea how that works,” Paul explained. “The teachers constantly tried to teach me, but I couldn’t learn it! So my mum fought for me to have a BSL interpreter and finally the Partial Hearing Unit (PHU) I was in, agreed to send all Communication Support Workers (CSWs) onto a sign language course. They learnt it and it was wonderful, as I could finally learn something from school!”

It wasn’t just language that caused difficulty, Paul recalled, “My schooling years were good until Thorpe St Andrew High School, and it was there my education was horrible because there were a lot of ignorant people in that school, who bullied some of us. I was often a target in the school because I couldn’t communicate with them as well as I hoped. It was back in 1990’s, and it was then deaf awareness was not very good, so it did result in ignorant ideals and thoughts about deaf people. During the 5 years of High School, I struggled and experienced a lot of distressing situations. I did have my twin brother in that school and I wanted to tell him, but I couldn’t because he was friends with the bullies! So it was a very difficult time. I have a lot of stories about what they did and how it shaped me to be the man I am today.”

Growing up, Paul remembers how he wanted to be a lawyer, with an idealism about fighting for justice and rights for people. However, his college courses did not support his ambition initially unsuccessfully attending a Catering and Hospitality course and then transferring to a Foundation Course on Health and Social Care. “It was there I started to explore societal attitudes to disability, which did make me think about my schooling years and the community I was living in”, Paul described. “After that I moved to Derby College for Deaf People (DCDP it was called back then) and did Intermediate Health and Social Care, then a National Diploma in Animal Care. I then moved out to Jordan to do some volunteering work.”

“My education has never been straight forward and career focused, but more like trying to do different courses. I would not recommend my approach to anyone, as it is important to focus your study on the career that you want to do.”

Working as an English Teacher for the Deaf in Jordan for three years, Paul returned home to complete a BA degree in Psychotherapy, Counselling and Deaf Studies at Preston University, where he also studied Arabic. Whilst carrying out his studies he also worked for the local education authority as a Deaf role model. His studies and work experience made Paul realise was possibilities were out there for him, as well as building up his skills and understanding of the ‘real world’.

Upon graduation Paul began work as an employment advisor for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) in Manchester, before taking up a job with Dering Employment Service. When that closed in August 2011, Paul returned to education to complete an MA (by research) at the University of Central Lancashire, with his research focusing on Jordan.

Not one to sit on his hands and wait for opportunities to come to him, Paul approached the British Council in Amman, Jordan with a Jordanian friend Mohammad Salha. Identifying the need for Deaf people in Jordan to be able to learn English through the use of sign language, The British Council recognised something needed to be done and offered Paul the opportunity to develop an English Teaching programme, with Paul moving to Jordan in January 2013 to do so.

Working with Mohammad, The Deaf Empowerment Association (DEA) has been developed, making it the first non-Government organisation in Jordan to have projects designed for the Deaf signing community. Working slavishly to develop programmes that make a difference, Paul is rightly proud of the start the DEA has made.

“The work that the DEA does, is all lead by the deaf community, including deaf people with additional needs too. This concept was formed by the British Council in Jordan originally, but now we have expanded into an organisation, the only known deaf organisation that works nationally and internationally in Middle East.”

“Within the DEA, we have a team of 5 staff, with one project coordinator from the United Kingdom and all staff are Jordanians, with a Board of Trustees (mixture of deaf and hearing professionals).”

“We also work a lot with other Middle Eastern countries, The Gulf and MENA in order to cascade the work that the DEA does. The demand for our models and training are high. We also act as consultants for many mainstream organisations, such as USAIDS, the British Council, Embassies and more, on several issues on how to work with the Deaf community in Jordan.”

A snap shot of the projects developed within the DEA include:

  1. English Teacher Training for the deaf (ETTD) level one and two
  2. Jordanian D/deaf Youth Camp – Male and female
  3. Bright Life – Family Programme
  4. Translation of storybooks into Jordanian Sign Language
  5. Active Citizens Project
  6. Conferences/networking events

Representatives from DEA in Jordan, recently went to the World Federation for the Deaf (WFD) World Congress in Turkey where they presented on the development and work of his organisation. For the first time two Deaf Jordanians, Murad and Majdi went to the WFD youth camp, where Deaf Jordanians themselves presented on the work of the DEA.

Through the Dea's work, there has already been changes within the Deaf community in Jordan, with people now more empowered than ever before. Deaf Jordanians now lead different projects independently, making decisions, forming their own reference and work groups to address different topics, showing that Paul’s desire for empowerment is paying dividends, although this has not been easy.

“There have been a lot of challenges,” Paul explained, “Especially in trying to empower a powerless community. The ‘we are used to it’ attitude was something I faced often. The stigma faced by the Deaf community in Jordan meant that the stigma was with me too, because I am deaf. Fighting a double barrier in Jordan is often the case too. “

Talking particularly about the experience of working in Jordan, Paul has had to tread sensitively and carefully so that he does not inadvertently slip up. “The culture is something that I adapted and learned because of the differences politically and socially between UK and Jordan. The politics between Deaf clubs and societies and centres in Jordan who work with deaf community, are in a constant state of dispute, and the difficulties in working together, meant that we must remain neutral and impartial to the disputes that exist. This was hard because for the projects we run, we need the Deaf community’s support and motivation.”

Even with the progress made already, Paul retains much higher ambitions for Jordanian Deaf and for Deaf people throughout the region. He hopes that the DEA will become a pioneering flagship in the Middle East, supporting the wider development of Deaf empowerment. Specifically, Paul is working towards:

  • Promoting Jordanian Sign Language as a language in its own right, and as a core language of the Jordanian deaf community, as it creates values for Deaf culture and an identity that is recognised and embraced.
  • Advocating inclusion and diversity, bicultural and bilingually.
  • Achieving equality for all.
  • Preventing harm and discrimination and promoting the well-being of Deaf individuals.
  • Ensuring every Deaf child and adult has a right to a quality education in all areas, and to a high quality life, in which they are able to make decisions about their own community.
  • Ensuring that employment and education is made accessible for D/deaf and disability, according to the Jordanian Disability Law 31, this states that all organisations must employ 4% of disabled people.

Keen to get the support of Deaf people from the world, Paul believes that recognition of the work they do and the developments that are happening will help to inspire and motivate the people involved. There are also volunteer and fundraising opportunities that Paul is happy to discuss with anyone interested.

As for Paul himself, the work supporting the Jordanian Deaf community is just the start of his personal journey. He hopes things will progress quickly so that he can leave an empowered Deaf community to lead on further developments. Paul will then decide whether to return to the UK, or to look for opportunities in other countries where Deaf people are oppressed. Whatever Paul does going forward, we wish him well.

If anyone is interested in supporting the Dea and finding out more about their work, they can contact Paul Scott on

You can also follow the DEA on Facebook:

Article by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

posted in Community / Deaf Life

3rd November 2015