Schools using SignWriting

James Shepard-Kegl, Esq. kegl at MAINE.RR.COM
Sun Jan 7 05:06:52 UTC 2007

Kelly Jo,

SW is not taught to Deaf kids throughout Nicaragua.  The only place that SW
is used nowadays is in Bluefields.  I could not tell you the extent that it
is now used because I don't have a volunteer down there anymore.  Back when
Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects (which my wife and I set up) operated a
school, SW was integral to the program and back then it was working great.
Kids loved it and we were churning out storybooks.  The school is now run by
the government, which means that SW is not officially part of the
curriculum.  The local hearing teachers, because they see SW and therefore
appreciate it, continue to encourage children to learn the system and the
local Deaf teachers use it regularly.  But, as funding dwindles, so does
innovation.  (NSLP continues to produce reading material in SW for the
school, but at too slow a rate.  And we cannot afford to distribute copies
to students anymore, either.)

Ironically, teachers at Portland High School in Maine are taking a real
interest in SW because I adopted one of the Deaf students from Bluefields
and enrolled her in the mainstream program here.  I have been translating
her school assignments (which are in English, of course, and utterly
unintelligible), so the teachers are quite impressed with the results.  If I
had a staff, funding and time, all these assignments could be translated --
might still take some years.  The reality is a good deal less, but I
translate what I can, when I can.

As for learning life skills, I regret that I do not really understand your
question. What kind of life skills does one need in a place devoid of
interpreters and more or less devoid of employment opportunities (other than
foreign owned sweat shops -- Bluefields does not even have those.)

Certain Deaf individuals in Bluefields have a better access to certain kinds
of information because they are literate and it is available.  The best SW
readers ultimately become the best Spanish readers, too.  That is in part
because through SW they are better able to learn Spanish, and in part
because the students who achieved most in SW (mainly because we devoted more
time to them) are also the people most likely to have access to email (and
with it a motivation to use Spanish on a daily basis.)  Specifically, I am
referring to the Deaf teachers who were initially our students.  As
teachers, and signing role models, they have salaries and therefore email

You cannot compare programs in a Third World country with schools in the
U.S. or Canada, however.  The annual funds spent on one Deaf student in the
U.S. can exceed the annual budget for an entire school in Nicaragua.

-- James

on 1/6/07 9:06 PM, K.J. Boal at kjoanne403 at HOTMAIL.COM wrote:

> Thanks James,
> Do you have any information on how well the SW program is working in
> Nicaragua?  Are the deaf students there learning life skills better than in
> North America because of SW literacy?  What kind of feedback do you have?
> Kelly Jo
>> From: "James Shepard-Kegl, Esq." <kegl at MAINE.RR.COM>
>> Reply-To: sw-l at
>> To: sw-l at
>> Subject: Re: [sw-l] Schools using SignWriting
>> Date: Fri, 05 Jan 2007 23:52:11 -0500
>> Kelly,
>> While the schools here do not use SW, I can show you what we have been
>> using
>> in Nicaragua -- as all our material is produced here in Portland, Maine.
>> -- James
>> on 1/5/07 9:28 PM, K.J. Boal at kjoanne403 at HOTMAIL.COM wrote:
>>> Hi List members (particularly in the US and Canada),
>>> I'm about to start trying to advocate using SW in Deaf education here in
>>> Alberta, and I'm wondering if I could visit some North American schools
>> that
>>> are already using it.  I'd like to see how it's being used, what
>> educational
>>> advantages have been noticed, things like that.  I'm planning to be
>>> traveling in late March/early April, so I'd like to visit schools around
>>> then too.  Anyone interested?
>>> Thanks,
>>> Kelly Jo Boal
>>> _________________________________________________________________
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