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Committed to Bringing Sport to the Deaf Community

In sports, teamwork can sometimes make all the difference. Alemayehu takes that lesson into his everyday life as one of Ethiopia’s chief advocates for the disability community alongside Eyasu Hailu.

“Alemayehu and I have been working together for over 10 years in the area of deaf education, sign language, and deaf community mobilization,” Eyasu stated. “And I can see that he is a leader of the community in Ethiopia. If you were to ask any ordinary person in Ethiopia about the deaf community they would all reference Alemayehu.”

Alemayehu received his master’s degree in economics from the University of Botswana in 2007. Since 1990, he has worked for the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia. Around the same time he began his deaf advocacy work, which includes positions as the chairman and president of several important associations for people with disabilities, such as the Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf (1997-2005, 2011-2014), Ethiopian Federation of People with Disabilities (2002-2005), and the Federation of Ethiopian National Associations of Persons with Disabilities (2009-2014).

Alemayehu collaborates with Eyasu frequently. With Addis Ababa University and the National Association of the Deaf, they founded Ethiopia’s first B.A. in sign language and deaf culture. They also launched the Ethiopian Deaf Sport Federation through the active support of the Federal Youth and Sport Ministry of Ethiopia. In 2008, they developed the Deaf Development and Information Association (DDIA) to support deaf inclusion and improve the community’s access to vital information, training and livelihood opportunities.

Now, Alemayehu and Eyasu have turned their attention to developing sports for people with disabilities. Through their work they are increasing the participation of young people in recreational sports, and trying to include more deaf Ethiopian athletes in elite international competitions like the Deaflympics. Although their primary focus is in deaf sports, Alemayehu and Eyasu also seek opportunities to support the greater Paralympic movement and work with all people from different disability backgrounds.

“There is talent in our country, but they don’t have the resources they need to be successful,” Alemayehu stated. “There are no specialized trainers and a lack of knowledge in sports management. As a leader, I feel responsible for getting the materials and building networks with sports organizations in places like the U.S. and Russia, which are at a higher level in deaf sports.”

At the University of Texas-Arlington, Alemayehu had access to one of the most successful programs in collegiate disability sport, as well as a mentor who has dedicated his life to advocating for the rights and inclusion of young athletes with disabilities. Douglas Garner, assistant director of campus recreation and head coach for the men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball teams was named a 2015 Champion of Change by The White House for his work as a disability advocate. With 30 years of experience as a coach and educator, Doug provided Alemayehu with training resources and best practices in sports management that are vital for developing disability sport in Ethiopia.

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