National sign language: Guyana Sign Language, GSL.
How many people use the GSL? around 200.
Do exist descriptions of GSL? A dictionary.
Is the GSL legally recognised? No.
Are there schools for the deaf in the country? There is one. Deaf children also atend special schools with children with other disabilities.
Bilingual education for the deaf available? No.
Are there deaf associations? One, since 2010.
Are there certified sign language interpreters? No.
UN-Convention and its Protocol already signed and ratified? Convention already signed.
The sign language of the country receives in English the names of Guyanase, Guyana or Guyanan Sign Language (the latter is the more widely used by the local Deaf community in its internet posts): GSL.
With the exception of a referred GSL dictionary (Cabbage & Peterson 2002) there are no publications about the GSL. Interestingly, the mentioned dictionary is unknown among the Deaf community in the country (McIntosh 2013).
No conclusive figures are available about the number of GSL users. According to the Census 2002, there were 4,287 hearing impaired people in Guyana. The figures provided by Ethnologue ranging from 754 and 8,000 deaf people. Following informations of Sabine McIntosh (2013), currently President of the Deaf Association of Guyana, DAG., there would be about 200 users of GSL.
Origins of the GSL: According to a testimony from a former student of the David Rose School (Georgetown), in the late 1990s a sign language (probably that of Jamaica) began to be used in the school. Some years later, ASL was introduced in Guyana. In the early 2000s awareness of the existence of an own sign language begun to raise among Deaf people in the country (see Cholmondeley s.d.).
1961-1962: An epidemy of rubella led to the birth of a large number of deaf children.
Toward the end of the 1960s: the David Rose School for the Deaf is created in Georgetown, to attend the number of deaf children born during the rubella epidemy.
2005: The Support Group for Deaf Persons in Guyana is created.
2010: The first association of the deaf in the country is founded, the Deaf Association of Guyana, DAG.
The first reference we know about Deaf community activities in the coutry is the foundation, in 2005, of the Support Group for Deaf Persons in Guyana. The Group was officially recognized as the representative of the Guyana Deaf community and was the organization that provided local data for the global survey report of the World Federation of the Deaf in 2008 (WFD & SNAD 2008). That year, the Group had a total of 40 members (half of whom were hearing people -WFD & SNAD 2008:38). As reported by the Group in 2008, the Guyanese government recognizes the deaf on equal terms as other citizens (see WFD & SNAD 2008:55, Table 7.4.12).
The Group led to the foundation, in 2010, of the first association of the deaf in the country, the Deaf Association of Guyana, DAG.
There is only one school for the Deaf in Guyana, the David Rose School, located in the nation's capital, Georgetown. It is also common for deaf school children who can not be received at that school to attend one of the three special schools in the country, where they are cared together with children with other disabilities (McIntosh, 2008). Estimates by the Census of 2002, only 9.7% of the population with hearing disabilities received educational assistance.
The government guarantees the access of children to basic education (from kindergarten up through high school. WFD & SNAD 2008:64). The country has no courses for the Deaf that follow a bilingual model (McIntosh 2013). At least until 2008, some courses followed the bimodal communication, by means of ASL signs (WFD & SNAD 2008:66).
In 2008 a national project started whose goals were the substantial improving of the education and lives of deaf people in the country. Among the results of this initiative are a number of training courses for Deaf students and hearing teachers of the David Rose School as well as vocational training workshops for Deaf adults (Vicars & McIntosh, 2008).
Guyana signed the Convention in 2007 but has not yet ratified it. The Protocol has not been signed or ratified (UN-Enable).
Availability of official easy-to-read texts:
We do not have information.
Availability of official information in GSL:
At least until 2008 there was no availability of these services (WFD & NSAD 2008:60). No more actualised information is available to us.
At least until 2008 there was no availability of these services (WFD & NSAD 2008:59). No more actualised information is available to us.
In 2008 the existence of five interpreters of GSL was reported (WFD & NSAD 2008:70-75). No programs for certification nor for the training of these professionals were then available. Eventually, some courses for sign language interpreters have been organized as private initiatives by people coming from abroad, who have no professional training but were fluent in ASL.
This article was written by Dr. Alejandro Oviedo for the deaf-atlas in January 2014.
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