CDA Staff Benefit from Sign Language Training

Seventeen members of the Child Development Agency (CDA) staff benefited from an intensive 15-week Deaf Awareness and Sign Language Training Programme, funded by the Agency and facilitated by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD). The group received their certificates at a graduation ceremony at the Stella Maris Church Hall today.

CDA’s CEO Carla Francis-Edie said that the training was initiated to build staff competencies in Jamaican Sign Language, and to engender a deeper and more meaningful understanding of deaf culture.

“We have a number of children in care who are deaf, and this training programme will help our staff members to better communicate with these children as well as others with this special needs who may come into State care in the future” Mrs. Edie added.

The course targeted a range of personnel within the agency, including children’s officers, social workers, nurse’s aides, and managers of government operated facilities, along with administrative staff in regional offices.

Mrs. Francis-Edie further noted, the CDA in undertaking training was upholding one of the fundamental tenets of non-discrimination and universal rights for all children to participate in society which is entrenched in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“We must build an inclusive child protection system, one within which all groups of children can grow up to become all they were created to be; and that comes with educating our staff to interact positively with children who are differently-abled,” Mrs. Francis-Edie stated.

Explaining that the course began with a two-day sensitization seminar, CDA’s Training Officer Sophia Walters said, trainees are now able to both demonstrate and interpret a sign language vocabulary of 200 words and interpret common single phrases in Jamaican Sign Language.

The course, which is being taught by Deaf Culture Facilitators (native users of Jamaican Sign Language) and other JAD certified instructors, incorporated traditional classroom lectures as well as a minimum requirement of five contact hours every week for participants, it was also designed  with specific components of CDA’s  working practices and social work culture.

This means that staff have to put their newfound skills to use communicating and interacting with deaf children and those with special needs.

Michelle Fearon, Assistant Manager for Muirton Child Care Facility lauded the programme saying, “I became more excited each week as I was equipped to return to the facility and teach wards and my team what I have learnt.

“Prior to the training I would witness the difficulties faced by hearing impaired persons in communicating with hearing persons and think it must be difficult living in their world.”

“Now I can appreciate the challenges even more; the process has taught me patience and tolerance,” Ms. Fearon added.

Debbie Kennewell, Deaf Facilitator said, “The JAD has a vision of deaf persons participating in nation building as equals and this is supported by the CDA’s initiative to train child care personnel in Jamaican Sign Language and Deaf Culture.

“ A child requires language development to be able to integrate into the wider society, and for a deaf child their first language would be the most visual one which is Jamaica Sign Language.

“From this training, participants are empowered to use their skill in JSL when communicating with a deaf child.  They now have a better understanding of the needs of a child in this particular group thus would be better able to support their development into strong deaf adults,” she said.

CDA is an Executive agency under the Ministry of Youth and Culture with responsibility for providing a safe nurturing environment for children in the care of the State.

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Contact:  CDA PR Unit (Prudence Barnes/Dahlia Cole)

Tel:          967-5905