:: cbc.ca | Ontario’s sign language education falls short, protesters say ::

Ontario’s sign language education falls short, protesters say

Friday, May 11, 2007

Deaf children in Ontario’s are falling behind at school because the province doesn’t properly accommodate children who rely on sign language, argued protesters who rallied outside the Ontario legislature Friday.

The protesters, some speaking through sign language interpreters, called on the government to enact regulations to ensure deaf children have the same access to education as children who can hear.

In particular, they said, education in American Sign Language and its French counterpart LSQ (langue des signes québécoise) falls short.

“At this point there are absolutely no minimum proficiency levels for teachers, [or] for interpreters that are working within mainstream classrooms,” Ontario Association of the Deaf president Wayne Nicholson said at the Toronto rally.

“So children are in a system that is not accommodating them. We need to have ASL and LSQ curriculum.”

The association says it won the right to have ASL and LSQ used in classrooms in 1989.

Parents also complained there are no day-care or preschool programs for deaf children in Ontario.

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne told CBC’s Ottawa Morning on Friday that the province is working on developing standards for teachers and an ASL curriculum, as well as including ASL and LSQ as third languages in its international languages program.

“That is coming very soon,” she said, although she would not specify when.

Wynne said no language standards for sign language previously because it wasn’t previously seen as a language. “It’s been perceived as an accommodation for a student with a disability as opposed to a language.”

She added that the number of children has been declining because technology such as cochlear implants are allowing many children born deaf to hear, and that poses a challenge.

However, she said deaf children should still have the choice to be taught by competent ASL instructors and interpreters, and the province is working to ensure that.

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