My husband, John, returned two and a half weeks ago from a few days in Kenya. He went with a group of businessmen to celebrate the dedication of the first 32 Bible stories of the Kenyan Sign Language Bible for the Deaf. These stories have been translated into Kenyan Sign Language and reproduced on DVD.
As John noted in a post on his personal blog, the Deaf were an unreached people group just 13 years ago. They had no indigenous way of "hearing" the good news about Jesus.
When I asked why Deaf people couldn't just read a regular Bible (I mean, there is nothing wrong with their eyes!), I was reminded of how we learn to read. To read, we connect the sounds of letters to the letters we see (i.e. "c" as in cat). Because of their inability to hear the necessary sounds, the vast majority of Deaf people worldwide never learn to read.
The new Kenyan Sign Language translation signs the stories of the Bible. And it works. Over the last thirteen years, Deaf communities in Kenya and India formed the first ever church worship services led by and attended by Deaf persons, and performed totally in sign language. When John attended a worship service in a Kenyan church, they had an interpreter translate the signs into speech so the hearing people could follow along!
The Deaf "sang" by signing the words to the songs, in unison with a strong drum beat, and they swayed and danced in praise.
The Deaf in Kenya face many challenges (very high unemployment rates, for example), but they no longer face the challenge of a future without Christ. And that's Good News!
P.S. I was astonished to learn that the average Deaf American student leaves school with only a third-grade command of English and only one Deaf American student in ten reads at an eighth-grade level or better! (Statistics from A Journey into the Deaf-World by Harlan Lane, Robert Hoffmeister and Ben Bahan.) Go elsewhere in the world and the statistics are far worse.