Deaf Guides of Bali

Barrier-Free Travel: Deaf Guides of Bali

The Indonesian population is estimated at 240 million and the number of hearing-impaired children is over two million. Deafness in infancy and childhood has an immense impact on communication, education, employment and quality of life, and yet deafness has received little attention in the health development arena. One Balinese man is spreading awareness within Bali. Wahyu Cahyadi is deaf, and works as a driver and tour guide for other deaf and hearing-impaired people.

In 2009, Jonas Noser was once again visiting Bali from his native Switzerland when his deaf Balinese friend Wahyu Cahyadi clearly wanted to earn a decent livelihood. Noser soon made it possible for other deaf people to visit a foreign land without the communication obstacles of the hearing world. Since then, 100 travel enthusiasts have taken advantage of the guides and demand is increasing.

Deaf Guides

Wahyu CahyadiWahyu was born in Ruteng, Flores where he attended the Primary School for Deaf in Ruteng from 1991 until 1999. Afterwards, Wahyu and his family moved to Bali where he studied for six more years at a school for the deaf in Jimbaran. Following high school, he studied computer technology at the University of Technology in Denpasar from 2005 until 2009. During this period, Wahyu communicated with lecturers by using sign language or by lip reading.

Bali Deaf Guide caters for deaf people, hearing-impaired people, friends and anyone who is considering spending their holidays in Bali. By offering deaf guides who are familiar with sign language, many more tourists can enjoy barrier-free travelling. A local guide opens up a new world to deaf visitors, including the island’s history and lifestyle. Not to mention the splendor of the Balinese culture. With the help of Deaf Guides Bali, a trip to an exotic land can come to life, through the talking hands of their guide, thanks to the world of international sign language.

Foreign Tourists

Foreign TouristsWahyu became a tour guide after speaking with many deaf foreign tourists who were visiting his deaf school in Jimbaran. The taxi drivers and hearing guides brought them to the deaf school, but it was clearly hard and difficult for guests to communicate. Wahyu was asked, “Do you know a deaf driver and deaf guide?” So the decision was made, that when Wahyu finished studying, he would be a self-employed driver and deaf guide. And in 2009 he embarked upon this journey.

Wahyu’s job is challenging. He decided to learn about international sign language in Australia, and studied hard to master all aspects of sign language in order to communicate well with each guest. The problem being that sign language in every country around the world is different, and even within the same countries there are wide regional dialects. Most deaf tourists are from Australia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Norway, France, Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, China, and Canada. And the tours cover favourite spots such as the Monkey Forest and rice terraces in Ubud, Volcano Mount Agung, Pura Besakih, Pura Tirta Empul, Pura Tanah Lot, Pura Uluwatu, Turtle Park, Waterfall Gitgit, white sand beaches, the deaf school in Jimbaran and the deaf village in Bengkala.

Bengkala Sign Language

Although Indonesia has a form of sign language, many teachers are not familiar with the language, and therefore, is not commonly taught to children. Kata Kolok (literally “deaf talk”), also known as Bengkala Sign Language and Balinese Sign Language, is a village sign language, which is indigenous to two neighbouring villages in northern Bali. The main village, Bengkala, has experienced high incidences of deafness for over seven generations, and is well-adapted.

Kata Kolok is unrelated to spoken Balinese and lacks certain contact sign that often arise when a sign language and an oral language are in close contact, such as finger spelling and mouthing. Signers make extensive use of cardinal directions and real-world locations to organize the signing space, and they do not use a metaphorical “time line” for time reference. Deaf people in the village express themselves using special cultural forms such as deaf dance and martial arts. The sign language has been acquired by at least five generations of deaf, native signers and features in all aspects of village life, including religion.

Raising Awareness

In developing countries, such as Indonesia, children with hearing loss and deafness rarely receive any schooling. Adults with hearing loss also have a much higher unemployment rate. Among those who are employed, a higher percentage of people with hearing loss are in the lower grades of employment. Raising awareness does increase employment rates and encourage early detection.

Last but not least, the days of hearing-challenged travel are now getting better. While in Bali, you can visit one of the Deaf Schools and give back to the young children of this island. Wahyu makes your travels much more interesting and relaxing by having a Deaf Guide to take care of your trip in their country. He will explain to you the finer details about social, culture, and history of the island in sign language! Got an itch to do some more travelling this winter?

Deaf and hearing tourists can contact Wahyu via his email (balideafguide@yahoo.co.id ) or Facebook page.

Bali Deaf Guide

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British-born Polly Christensen is a documentary film maker, features writer and environmentalist. She can be contacted at www.madefromstardust.com


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