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August 2, 2004

Free sign language classes to be offered this month

From: Virgin Islands Daily News, U.S. Virgin Islands - Aug 2, 2004

Monday, August 2nd 2004

ST. THOMAS - In an effort to increase the territory's ability to communicate with the deaf population, the V.I. Human Services Department in conjunction with WTJX-TV will offer a beginner's sign language course in both districts.

The free course will be offered Aug. 13 to Sept. 17 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Fridays at the Knud Hansen Complex in the Vocational Rehabilitation conference room. Registration ends Friday.

Instructor Lucina Bartlett, a Human Services sign-language interpreter, said the class will benefit non-deaf students, allowing them to communicate with their hearing impaired peers who are moved into mainstream classrooms, and retailers, allowing them to communicate deaf customers.

The first 15 people to register for the class will receive classroom instruction.

Fifty more from St. Thomas and 50 from St. Croix will be able to register for and take the course by watching taped classes on the television. Those who pass the tests and a final exam will receive a certificate.

Registration will take place on St. Thomas at the Division of Disabilities and Rehabilitation Services office at the Knud Hansen Complex and the Community Rehabilitation Facility in Anna's Retreat and on St. Croix at the Golden Rock and Kingshill offices.

Students will gain an introduction to sign language, including the history of sign language, deaf culture, causes of hearing loss, technology used in a deaf person's life, how to communicate during an emergency situation, and the signs for numbers, Bartlett said.

The course has been offered in the Virgin Islands since the 1970s.

"In that area we have a long way to go, but it's a start," Bartlett said.

Bartlett estimated that more than 7,000 people in the territory range from hard of hearing to profoundly deaf. She said their biggest challenge is the lack of services they receive because of the difficulty communicating with people who are not proficient in sign language.

"The problem they have is not having someone there to interpret for them when they go to the doctor, to education or other government agencies," she said.

This is the first year Human Services is partnering with a television station to offer the class.

Osbert Potter, general manager of WTJX, said airing the class is a way to reach a wider audience.

"This will be another program that we would put together that would cover the whole sign language curriculum, and we would be able to have the public participate from the lessons," he said.

© Virgin Islands Daily News