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Bridging the communication gap with high school sign language program


Holy Trinity High School in Bradford offers an American Sign Language class to bridge the communication gap.

In 2021 Ontario became one of the first jurisdictions to offer sign language as a second language course in high school.

"It's important because there's a need for communication with all people. So whether you're hearing or deaf, you should be able to communicate," said Chiara Ferragine, Holy Trinity American Sign Language (ASL) teacher.

Holy Trinity currently has 21 students from Grades 10, 11 and 12 enrolled in an ASL class after 24 took it last year.

"If we ever meet someone who uses ASL, we can use it to help make them feel more included, more in the conversation. We'll be able to communicate with them," said a former ASL student Sarah Mamo.

Ferragine knows firsthand how valuable this knowledge can be after her son was diagnosed as deaf at 13 months old.

"We started some programming within our home. The materials I'm using in the class are those same materials, the sign enhancer program," said Ferragine.

The mother and teacher noted how deaf people face challenges in their daily lives.

"He can't get himself up in the morning because he can't hear his alarm clock. So we've had to purchase what is called a 'sonic boom,' so it shakes his bed," Ferragine said.

She also noted how far her son has come over the years, mentioning how he is now a general carpenter apprentice.

ASL student Ava Palazzo said she took the course to help her communicate with a family member.

"Because they are deaf, people look at them differently, and if they try to communicate, people might get angry because they don't understand right away and might have to write down," explained Palazzo.

Ferragine said because she isn't deaf or fluent in ASL, she would prefer to eventually have these classes be taught by someone who is capital D deaf, meaning ASL is their first language, and they can share their own life experiences in deaf culture.

Still, Ferragine said her intention is to help students develop a basic understanding of ASL and an appreciation for Deaf culture. Top Stories

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