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ADRA Offers Free Sign Language Courses in Brazilian City

Move seeks to increase inclusion and communication for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

Brunna Almeida, South American Division, and Adventist Review
ADRA Offers Free Sign Language Courses in Brazilian City
The Libras course offered by ADRA has already accepted a second cohort of about 25 people. [Photo: Tiago Conceição]

Communication is an essential process that connects people through the exchange of messages, ideas, emotions, and feelings, influencing human interaction. However, for millions of deaf people in Brazil, this connection faces challenges.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the number of individuals with some type of hearing impairment in the country exceeds 10 million. Faced with this reality, the need for social inclusion and effective communication through Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) becomes increasingly urgent, regional Seventh-day Adventist church leaders said.

To meet the increasing demand, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Juazeiro, Bahia, has been offering a free Libras course since 2023. The project has already trained about 60 people, encouraging inclusion and interaction with the deaf community in the region.

Increasing Accessibility

While religious environments with accessibility are dedicated to welcoming and adapting their physical spaces to guarantee access for people with disabilities, accessible churches go further, as they invest in inclusive practices, such as the training of new sign language interpreters, leaders explained. “They invest in inclusive practices, such as the training of new sign language interpreters, thus becoming sensitive to the challenges people with special needs face,” they said. “An accessible church also adapts its liturgy to ensure the participation of all members in worship.”

Reflecting on the need to help create churches that are receptive to all groups, Darticléia Cavalcanti, a student of ADRA’s free course, recently shared what motivated her to join the project. “I realized that in my church there was a need to communicate with deaf people. There, we have people who attend our services and who are deaf, but I often didn’t know how to interact with them. When I saw the movement in favor of implementing practices to make our services more accessible, I was immediately interested and wanted to participate,” Cavalcanti said.

‘To Every Nation, Kindred, Tongue, and People’

Regional church leaders explained that those who register for ADRA’s free Libras course understand the Bible passage found in the book of Revelation that calls for spreading the gospel in a way that is accessible to all, without exclusion. “The ‘eternal gospel’ must be proclaimed ‘to every nation, tribe, language, and people’ [14:6, NIV],” they said.

Course instructor Paulo José said he was ecstatic to witness the motivation of his class and explained the rationale for the initiative. “Meeting here is always a very pleasant experience, because in each class we emphasize the importance of the Brazilian Sign Language for those who need it,” José said. “Every person must be assisted, and it is our responsibility bringing the deaf and hearing-impaired close to Jesus.”

José explained that God Himself affirms that the message of salvation must reach every language and emphasized the mission-driven nature of the initiative. “I don’t just use Libras in my work, but I also use it to help people get to know Jesus,” he said.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.

Brunna Almeida, South American Division, and Adventist Review