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Mar 30, 2006

Stella Maris: Sign language communication is key

Story PictureFor some it’s an intimidating set of hand movements, but for hundreds sign language is their sole means of communication. Tonight News Five’s Jacqueline Woods takes a look at what one institution is doing to try and bridge a silent divide.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Today was a normal day for the hundred and seven students who attend the Stella Maris School and the Belize Academy for the Deaf. These boys and girls must live with a variety of disabilities, but through special education, they learn to adapt and function in society. Unfortunately, there has not been much effort by the rest of the community to learn how communicate to persons with special needs.

These boys and girls are taught how to communicate using sign language, but disturbingly, it is estimated that only three point seven percent of these students? parents know how to effectively communicate with their children. Those families and general public get by using basic gestures. Acting Principal Joy Westby says the experience is frustrating for everyone.

Joy Westby, Ag. Principal, Stella Maris/Academy for the Deaf
?It is when a problem arises with regards to parent and child and that is like when the child is a teenager and it is then that some parents would come and ask us to help in the sense of communicating with the child to bring across certain problems.?

?When students have graduated, or even before they have graduated, teenagers you know they are vulnerable to abuse and they would have to come and ask for an interpreter to appear in court and sometimes this is during school and that would mean one teacher less in the classroom.?

During special ceremonies this evening, a total of eighteen people, including teachers and community workers, received certificates for successfully completing a three month sign language course. The class is an ongoing effort by the institution to help students become independent citizens and take their rightful place in the workforce.

Keisha Lord
?We are encouraging the public to come out and learn sign because maybe who knows they might get one of our students to work with them and if they cannot communicate with them, you know, they might not want to employ them because of the language barrier?

Joy Westby
?I want to take this opportunity also, to applaud those establishments who have opened their doors for our children with special needs, even taking on this challenge of communicating with the deaf. So we applaud them and encourage them to send out if it is even one employee to come to our sign language classes as we open more doors for children to learn to communicate.?

Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

The sign language courses are held every three months and costs only forty dollars. The one hour sessions take place every Monday and Wednesday, starting at four in the afternoon.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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