Participants in the 2012 Nicaraguan Sign Language workshop practice signing in unison.
Boy with ball

Yadder Guillen demonstrates how to play goal ball, a game designed for blind people.

By Dale Spoor

Watching a game of “Goal Ball”— a sport that uses a ball with bells inside — was one of the highlights of the recent Special Needs Delegation from Bainbridge to Ometepe.

The four-person delegation from the Special Needs Committee visited Ometepe from Nov. 6 to Nov. 16.

We met with the local chapter of Los Pipitos, an organization that works with people with special needs. With assistance from the national organization they have purchased land in Altagracia, and are planning to construct a center there that would better serve the needs of people in the special needs community.

We met with the Ometepe Special Needs Committee. We were told that there is a continuing need for the Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) workshops for the deaf children that we have sponsored, so these will continue next year. We also learned that there is a new law in Nicaragua that guarantees that the public schools will provide services for blind students so that they can participate fully in the various fields of study. Little appears to have been done to implement the law.

girl does sign language

Children of all ages participate in the sign language workshops.

We attended an NSL workshop where about 25 children and family members attended. The workshop was conducted by two young men who began their sign language studies in workshops sponsored by the Sister Islands Association and another young man who, with our support, is currently studying to become an NSL interpreter. Several of the more advanced deaf students are planning to attend the Escuela Isaías in Managua where they will continue their sign language studies as well as a study a broader curriculum aimed at a high school diploma.

Recently, a school for the deaf has opened on Ometepe, in San Jose del Sur, and we are now investigating how we might support its programs or enable more students from Ometepe to attend. Currently families on Bainbridge Island provide scholarships for a number of special needs children: three blind students study at the university level, five deaf students study at special schools for the deaf, and three adults are studying to be interpreters for Nicaraguan Sign Language. In addition, the sign language workshops on the island sponsored by BOSIA continue on a regular basis for children and family members.

While on Ometepe, the delegation also met with members of the Committee for the Blind on Ometepe, where they shared their experiences and concerns. We delivered a chess set with pieces and a board specially designed for the blind. They demonstrated how they play “Goal Ball”, a competitive game using a ball with bells inside. They continue their interest in learning to use the JAWS computer program that allows them access to the internet and e-mail with software that provides spoken language. Two of the young people there are currently studying at the university level with scholarships provided by BOSIA members.

We also attend the vela (wake) for our good friend Jonathan Roise, and also a mass and the internment of the ashes that David Mitchell and Lisa Giles brought down with them.

2 boys doing sign language

Dilmer and David demonstrate the signs

woman shows sign language

A parent practices her signs during the workshop.

Boy with T shirt showing signs

David wears a T-shirt showing hand positions that Nicaraguan Sign Language uses to show each letter of the alphabet. Although it’s possible to sign any word by spelling it out, Nicaraguan Sign Language generally uses gestures that convey whole words or phrases, often based on the basic concept.

Jadder shows how to use a special chess set that the delegation delivered. A peg on the base of each playing piece fits into a hole on the board, allowing players to feel the shape of pieces without worrying about scattering the pieces all across the board.