Open Letter - Newfoundland and Labrador Association of the Deaf
Newfoundland and Labrador Association of the Deaf
21 Merrymeeting Road
St. John’s, NL A1C 2V6
September 3, 2010
Honourable Darin King
Minister of Education
Department of Education
P.O. Box 8700
3rd Floor, West Block
St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6
Re: Newfoundland School for the Deaf Closure
The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of the Deaf (NLAD) is deeply concerned with your decision to close our Provincial School for the Deaf.
We are aware that the enrolment at Newfoundland School for the Deaf (NSD) has declined in recent years. Educators of students who are deaf and hard of hearing in this province have indicated a cancelling of many of the schools specialized programming as a reason for this decline.
Removal of much of the framework and structured programming such as on-site auditory verbal therapy and on-site audiological services with the best acoustics in the nation has led to the demise of our school system for the Deaf and hard of Hearing. While there are Deaf and Hard of Hearing students attending classes with their hearing peers who will thrive and achieve great successes there are those students who will not.
It is these students whose life has been diminished by this decision that is of utmost concern to the membership of NLAD and the Deaf community.
We are now faced with the regressive circumstance whereby students who are Deaf attend Schools for the Deaf in other Provinces just as many us did several years ago.
Throughout the years we have been promised a school with individualized programming and supports only to have these same services discontinued by the Department of Education which has led to the inevitable closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf.
While integration in the perfect world offers many benefits it can be especially isolating to be transferred from an environment whereby you can communicate with everyone to an environment whereby your only daily communication is with a sign language interpreter.
Physically we are integrated but certainly at great cost of emotional isolation in the educational setting. This is certainly not conductive to learning. It does nothing to enhance the profound loss of the innate sense of self while being unable to communicate with your hearing peers.
Success of development, self concept and identity are achieved through the ongoing process of social interaction. Communication is the key to interaction. The most effective communication for the hearing is through their sense of hearing but for a person who is Deaf it is through their sense of vision.
People who are Deaf require unique and comprehensive supports to become successful and contributing members of society. An integration plan should include a cultural transmission which cannot be underscored as well as the importance of role models, peers and colleagues who are Deaf which are vitally necessary as a key function and an educational tool for learning cultural rules, values and specific competence. This is true for the culture of Deaf people as for any other.
Integration will require many supports including interpreting services. Practically this presents concern as we have a bare minimum of human resources necessary for interpretation and have begun to recruit from outside the Province.
In 2010 the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) “New Era” document and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, both of which support Deaf schools was signed off on by the Newfoundland Provincial Government.
We ask the Government to abide by the resolutions they have endorsed.
We call on the Minister of Education to heed the advice and expertise of many of the educators and professionals who have a combined experience of numerous years in particular Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD), Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD), Saskatchewan Deaf Association (SDA), Mr. Charles Harkins (former principal of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf (NSD) 1978-2001 and Dr. Barbara O’Dea of Canadian Hearing Society (CHS).
In closing I wish to encourage collaboration among government officials and all stakeholders. At the end of the process we will not say we did not speak but that we were not heard.
Myles Murphy on behalf of NLAD Board of Directors
Past President NLAD
Past Vice-President CAD
cc: Premier Danny Williams, Newfoundland and Labrador
Yvonne Jones, Liberal Leader of Official Opposition, Newfoundland and Labrador
Lorraine Michael, NDP Leader, Newfoundland and Labrador
Jim Roots, Executive Director, Canadian Association of the Deaf
Jodie Burke, President, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of the Deaf