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International Sign Language Day is Commemorated in Belize

Belize today observed International Sign Language Day. It was held under the theme “Sign Language Unites US!”.  The day is set aside annually to highlight the importance of the language system in our everyday lives and how to support those who use it as a means of communication. Giovanna Moguel and Scott Tillett today went to Stella Maris School to find out more about why this is critical. Here’s how their day went.

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News:  A call for global unity: that’s the essence of this year’s commemoration of International Day of Sign Languages. It is the mode of communication for more than 70 million deaf people across the globe. Here in Belize, the day is paying particular focus on young people. In speaking with Education Officer, Erlett Thomas, there is a great need for more interpreters, especially at public places such as police stations and hospitals. Thomas has more than 30 years’ experience working with these individuals. 

Erlett Thomas, Education Officer, District Education Center: “It’s very important. I mean deaf people, they have feelings and they want to do some of the same things that we do so it’s very very important that we learn how to communicate with them. “

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News:  Sixteen-year-old, Anneliese Pascascio, was born deaf. However, that does not hinder her from reaching her full potential. Pascascio is skilled in speech reading and, despite never having heard a word in her life, she is able to sound out one or two words. Pascascio told us that she would like more people to learn sign language so that they can better communicate with people like her. 

Anneliese Pascasio, Student, Stella Maris School: When you go to the shop to buy they don’t understand sign language then you would have to use your text, write, read and show them exactly what you want to get the food you want to buy for you to purchase it. Hearing people need to learn sign language to communicate with the deaf. I want to go to high school, Nazarene High School, because I want to learn to write, and to read, and to help other people with sign language. 

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News:  And, Thomas thinks Nazarene High School would be the perfect place for her to move onto after she leaves Stella Maris School because they have an environment that will allow her to flourish despite her condition.

Erlett Thomas, Education Officer, District Education Center: “I would like to see more schools do what Nazarene High School does. Nazarene High School usually takes in our students, especially those who are deaf and they also have students with Autism and what they do with them, they work with what they have. So the students go to Nazarene High School with an interpreter. They are given free time where they can learn to study and work with the interpreter to get the knowledge that they did not get while they were in the classroom.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News:  Deaf people, much like all other differently abled people, face daily struggles in a world that is not as accommodating to them as it should be. However, Thomas says that if you look past the differences, they are capable of achieving everything the next person can.

Erlett Thomas, Education Officer, District Education Center: “People who are deaf, same like others. The only thing is they cannot hear. Apart from that they are the same. They do the same things. They work. They eat. They sleep, everything like other people.”

Giovanna Moguel, Love FM News:  The Belize Community for the Deaf will be having a church service for World Deaf Day on Sunday to kickstart the week of activities in commemoration of the Week of Deaf People. The service will take place at the Church of Christ on Elston Kerr Street in Belize City. Giovanna Moguel, Love News.