Police, firemen among 180 trained in Jamaican Sign Language
DEAF and hard-of-hearing members of society are now poised to have direct access to a range of social services including police, fire and legal services, as some public servants were among the 180 people who were recently trained and certified to communicate using Jamaican Sign Language.
The training was part of the Enabling Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (EOPD) project funded by the European Union and implemented by RISE Life Management Services (RISE).
Representatives from 11 government agencies were among the participants in the sign language training programme, which included the Jamaica Constabulary Force and its Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the court system, and health facilities. There were also participants from the financial sector and from the civil society sector.
RISE reported that the Jamaica Fire Brigade achieved a 90 per cent success rate, with 36 out of 40 participants completing level 1. Commendable success was seen in level 2, with 28 out of 34 individuals successfully completing the training; while nine of 10 participants graduated at level 3.
Addressing the project closing ceremony at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) in Mandeville, executive director of RISE Nadine Chambers Goss discussed the significance of the intervention.
“The EOPD Project was born out of a commitment to combat stereotypes, enhance accessibility, and provide vital support services to persons with disabilities. By surpassing targets in sign language training for key government agencies and the private sector, we have taken substantial steps towards fostering a more inclusive Jamaican society,” she stated.
The 24-month EOPD project, which started in December 2021 and culminated in November 2023, extended beyond sign language training. It also featured vocational skills training, providing HEART/NSTA Trust certification in early childhood education, baking, and tractor and farm equipment operations for beneficiaries at the CCCD, as well as the Abilities Foundation where 20 persons with disabilities were trained in carpentry.
“Equipping persons with disabilities with vocational skills is about empowering them to be independent contributors to society. The training opens doors to new opportunities and avenues for sustainable income,” Chambers Goss said.
For its part, the delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, Belize, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands, represented by Programme Manager Vanna Lawrence, expressed pleasure with the far-reaching impact of the project.
“We at the EU are pleased to have supported the actions of this project as it aids the Government of Jamaica, through CSO action, to meet its obligations under the Disabilities Act on behalf of Jamaicans with disabilities,” she stated.
“We acknowledge that in the face of multiple and intersecting needs, many vulnerable persons find themselves left behind. It is our hope therefore that the actions of this project have influenced the lives of approximately 2.7 per cent of Jamaicans that suffer hearing loss and further influence the levels of societal support for the inclusion of all persons living with disabilities.”
Meanwhile, minister of state, Ministry of Labour & Social Security Norman Dunn, in remarks delivered at the EOPD closing ceremony, commended the project’s alignment with national policies, including the Disabilities Act of 2014.
“Covering areas such as accessibility, education, employment, support services, this Act highlights our dedication to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for our people,” said Dunn.
“In tandem with the Disabilities Act, the national policy for persons with disability underscores the Government’s commitment to promote the full inclusion and participation of persons with disability in every facet of our national development,” he added.
Other notable areas of the project included a comprehensive national media campaign, financial support to third parties, and initiatives targeting life skills development and psychosocial support.
The media campaign, initiated during International Disabilities Awareness Week 2022, featured videos, PSAs and animated content to communicate the rights-based aspects of the Disabilities Act using culturally-appropriate messaging.
Among the third parties that benefited from financial support under the EOPD was the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, which achieved objectives such as developing a virtual information desk for parents of deaf children, and training 20 deaf women to become work ready. Support was also provided to deaf women who had experienced gender-based violence.
As for the life skills component, the curriculum was delivered to 52 individuals at the CCCD and to 20 persons at the Abilities Foundation.
Further, the project delivered psychosocial support by providing counselling services to 30 deaf women who experienced various forms of violence, including gender-based violence.
Reflecting on the scope of the training provided, Chambers Goss congratulated the participants, encouraging them to leverage the acquired training to foster personal and professional development in their respective lives and communities.
“May each newfound skill empower you to overcome barriers, pursue your aspirations, and contribute meaningfully to your personal development and that of your community and the wider society,” she said.
The EOPD close-out ceremony was held in Disabilities Awareness Week 2023, observed from December 3 to 8, under the theme ‘Inclusion in Action: Building Accessible Communities’.