JIS News

Twenty four members of the Island Traffic Authority and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), were presented with Certificates of Participation and Transcripts, on April 3, to signal their successful completion of a month-long introductory course in Jamaican Sign Language and Deaf Culture.
The training, which was facilitated by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD), aimed to sufficiently equip the members with the requisite skills to communicate with deaf drivers, who will be joining the motoring public soon.
Addressing the closing exercise, in Kingston, Executive Officer of the JAD, Iris Soutar, praised the performance of the trainees, pointing out that they showed a “paradigm shift in their perception of deaf culture and their attitudes toward the deaf.”
At the start of the training, she noted, only four of the 25 participants scored over 80 per cent in the pre-assessment exercise, which tested the participants’ opinions of deaf persons and their abilities. “At the end, all 24 participants scored over 80 per cent,” she informed.
“This is a moment of celebration, because I think that many issues that the participants may not have given a single thought before, they were forced to think through these processes. They realised that they had to work at strategies in an attempt to assimilate those solutions,” she added.
Constable Sheldon Williams, like many of his colleagues, admitted that he too had many preconceived notions about learning sign language. However, the transformed advocate of the deaf community said: “We are no longer outsiders looking in but insiders looking out. Now I believe that we are one people with one aim, one destiny, no matter the disability.”
Course Designer and Training Co-ordinator for the JAD, Debbie Kennewell, communicating through a sign language interpreter, was also surprised at the remarkable change in the participants’ attitude towards deaf persons.
“When persons came in they were more reserved. As time passed, they had more knowledge of the deaf and the deaf community and were more willing to socialise and communicate with deaf persons,” she signed.
Ms. Kennewell explained that the participants were introduced to the basic rudiments of sign language as well as other communication strategies specific to the traffic environment. The methodology, she noted, relied heavily on an immersion technique, and used native users of Jamaica sign language as instructors.
“A majority of the sessions were conducted in sign language with a voice-off rule, which encouraged the shift from speaking verbally to signing,” she added.
An engaging sign language DVD titled: ‘How to Assess Deaf Drivers’, produced by participants, was one indication of the participants’ level of immersion in the deaf culture. The DVD shows trainees engaged in simulation exercises, where they walk a deaf driver applicant through the rigors of the testing and certification process, from acquiring a Learner’s licence through to the written, yard and road tests, and finally to the point where he or she obtains the Driver’s licence.
“It was all their ideas, their approaches, it was all their thoughts,” signed an impressed Ms. Kennewell.
Expressing his delight with the video production and the level of competence that the participants attained in the short four-week period, Chief Inspector of the Island Traffic Authority, Conrad Ainsworth, said he was happy to know that the course was able to break down some of the communication barriers.
“We are going to have challenges, but I am certain that the process will be a success,” he said.
The training exercise forms part of an overall initiative of the Government to enable a deaf person to obtain a driver’s licence.

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