Most students at the Escuela Municipal de Audición y Lenguaje – The Municipal School of Audition and Language (an oral school for the deaf in Guayaquil, Ecuador) are not familiar with sign language because of a lack of resources or cultural stigma that surrounds the use of signs. La Fundación Salud Nuevo Comienzo – Foundation of New Start for Health seeks to spread knowledge and break down barriers to allow the use of sign language. Members of the Foundation of a New Start for Health were in Guayaquil, Ecuador last week along with staff from the University of Arizona in order to encourage and teach signing to staff and students. Henry Spanish teacher, Mrs. Ramirez had a friend among the volunteers at the school. Mrs. Ramirez, with teachers of the Deaf at Henry Elementary, arranged a video-call between our students and their students.
Henry Cardenas, Interpreter for the Deaf from Thomas Jefferson Middle School joined us for the video conference call. He interpreted from Spanish to ASL for Yoel Gonzalez on our end. Yoel, a first grade student at Henry, who learned to sign last year, has become a proficient signer in a short time period. He was very excited to share his skills. Also present for part of the call was Anthony Mendez, a third grade student and fluent signer, who shared his signing abilities.
The many staff members in Ecuador were reportedly very impressed by the signing ability of our students and happy to see ASL in action through an interpreter. They also expressed gratitude at gaining new connections with members of the APS community. We had three languages going simultaneously: ASL, English and Spanish. Mr. Cardenas was able to answer many questions posed by teachers and interpreters about logistics and day to day issues of students who use interpreters in schools in the United States. It was a fantastic multi-cultural, multi-lingual exchange!