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Last Updated: Sep 12, 2017 URL: http://libguides.gallaudet.edu/deaf_statistics Print Guide RSS Updates

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Deaf populations overseas

Please first read the Introduction for a discussion of the problems of and cautions about demographic statistics on deaf persons.

Some of the articles and sub-articles for different countries in the Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987) include figures or rates for the number of deaf people in each of the countries represented. Nearly all of these numbers are merely estimates, not actual counts, and usually there is no indication of how "deaf" was defined for the purpose of each estimate. Often, there are two or more estimates that conflict with each other. The basis for a deaf population estimate in one country may be very different from the basis for an estimate in another country, making it difficult or impossible to properly compare the rate of deafness in one country with another. These figures are, of course, not any more recent than the period in which the Gallaudet encyclopedia was compiled, the middle 1980s. The older statistics have been maintained as a historical record of deaf population growth where credible estimates exist; however, where possible, they have been updated with more current, frequently-online sources.

Most of the statistics you'll see here are taken from just two sources: the European Union of the Deaf (EUD) and Ethnologue. Both are more reliable -- and generally more up-to-date -- than many other sources about the international deaf community; EUD, for instance, gets their statistics from the primary deaf associations in each member country, while Ethnologue has a long history of collecting language statistics (signed languages, however, are a recent inclusion for them; see this page for more details). 

However, please bear in mind that regardless of the reliability and history of any source, there are always questions to be asked. For example, EUD relies on national associations of the deaf for the data collected on its site; therefore, as detailed in the Introduction to this guide, the possibility of overly-generous estimation must be kept in mind. Additionally, Ethnologue, it must be pointed out, focuses only on signed-language users, so their numbers are not necessarily representative of the overall deaf population of any given country. 

Finally, it should be noted that where possible, governmental data is included in a given country's listing. This includes countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. 

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Prepared by Tom Harrington
Reference and Instruction Librarian
July, 2004
Updated: March 2014
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