In Bengkala village in Bali’s north, being deaf isn’t unusual, Australia’s Channel 9 News reports.
Genetics have led to a deafness rate well above the average, and for almost two centuries both the hearing and unhearing have perfected their own distinctive sign language so everyone feels included.
For a long time villagers believed they were under an evil spell, but more recently researchers found a gene passed down through eight generations, resulting in about one in 70 locals being born deaf, compared to the U.S. average of two to three in 1,000.
Most families in Bengkala are poor and can’t afford to send their children away for high school, and many young adults end up in low-skilled, low-paying jobs.
But villagers are hoping for government funding to allow the inclusive primary school to expand to include higher grades later this year.
Tourists can help by visiting the village and providing a small donation to watch its deaf dance troupe, meet students and learn more about the community.