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November 29, 2003

Open house for deaf comes to COB

From: Nassau Guardian, Bahamas - Nov 29, 2003

Several devices for hearing impaired showcased

By Mindell Small

Guardian Staff Reporter

Playing with one another in a classroom showcasing new devices for the hearing impaired, dozens of children from The Centre for the Deaf seemed excited about activities planned during Deaf Awareness Week.

The students with varying degrees of hearing impairment, wore a variety of hearing aids but some of them, seen in the photo did not wear any.

Deaf Awareness Week, an annual event was launched on Sunday and ends today. The theme for this year's week is "Partnership: Key to overcoming barriers."

On Monday night, the Centre conducted an information session with parents where the operation of several devices for the hearing impaired was explained. In addition to a wide variety of hearing aids, parents were given a demonstration of doorbell and telephone ring signallers, which both flash when activated.

They also learned about the more sophisticated phonic ear system, worn by both the teacher and the student to provide a more personal form of communication. The phonic ear system has to be calibrated to each child depending on his/her level of hearing loss.

'Open House,' normally held in the middle of the week, took place on Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. upstairs in the Student Union Building of The College of The Bahamas.

The event was held on the campus of COB for the first time because organisers felt it was important to involve the community in the week's activities, said Ms. Francine McKenzie, teacher and coordinator. 'Open House' is normally held at the Centre on Pitt Road off Nassau Street.

Ms. McKenzie said the Centre planned the program for people in the community in mind so they could get first hand knowledge of what the Centre does. She said a sign language and spelling competitions would be held later in the day.

She also said in addition to the Centre, units for hearing-impaired students have been placed at Steven Dillet Primary School, C.C. Sweeting Junior and Senior High as well as S.C. McPherson Junior High School.

Ms. McKenzie, a teacher of grade 6 and 10 classes offered at CC Sweeting Junior, receives some assistance from the country's first hearing-impaired teacher, Mr. Marvin Finlayson, who is stationed at C.C. Sweeting and now in his forth year of teaching.

Ms. Mckenzie said she enjoys teaching the children and saw them all as special people.

She pointed out however, that even today many parents still have great difficulty in accepting a deaf child, feeling that if a child is deaf his/her inability to hear is a great loss to the family.

"Can you imagine a mother being told that her young child cannot hear her voice," she asked rhetorically?

"It is still an emotional issue for many parents. You have people who actually see it as a member of the family dying. They often feel as if they have lost someone. And some families are unable to cope with it because they are in denial," she said.

Several brochures were also available at the 'Open House' event, outlining various classifications of hearing loss and the most common factors, which contribute to the disability.

The Centre for the Deaf is a non-profit institution, established in 1964. It is a joint effort between The Bahamas Red Cross Society and the Ministry of Education. The Red Cross is responsible for providing a building and the Ministry is responsible for the curriculum, staffing and training of the staff. The Ministry also assists the Centre by providing an annual grant.

In its philosophy, the Centre said that is seeks to promote the educational and social development of hearing-impaired students, giving them the opportunity to maximise their potential to function adequately and make a valid contribution to the Bahamian society.

When asked if the name of the facility would be changed from the Centre for the Deaf to the School for the Deaf to create the perception that children are constantly learning at the institution and, just being housed there, Ms. McKenzie said she has been approached by many other people asking the same question. She said that plans are not underway to change the name but the matter has been discussed before.

© 2003 The Nassau Guardian