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SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2011-031

A Sociolinguistic Profile of the Deaf People of Panama

Authors  Parks, Elizabeth
Parks, Jason
Williams, Holly
Abstract  In this study, we investigated the sociolinguistic situation of the deaf people of Panama through a rapid-appraisal survey conducted by three researchers in October 2009. There are an estimated six thousand deaf people in Panama, with as many as two-thirds of that number living in rural areas that have no deaf community or sign language access. The city of David and the Panama City-Colon corridor are two locations reported to have the most developed deaf communities and sign languages where work is underway to improve life for deaf Panamanians. Currently, two sign languages appear to be in use in Panama: Lengua de Señas de Chiriqui (LSCH) in the Chiriqui province and Lengua de Señas Panameñas (LSP) in other urban areas where sign language is used. Deaf Panamanians indicate that they learn sign language from their deaf friends, rather than at home or in school, as the vast majority of deaf students are mainstreamed into hearing schools without interpreters. Although the government has made important moves toward increasing social access for people identified as being disabled, few deaf people are employed or live independently, regardless of their educational level. Although deaf associations are not yet unified in community and language development efforts, recent years have seen a movement toward creation of sign language dictionaries in both Chiriqui and Panama deaf communities. Deaf Panamanians are increasingly discussing how best to collaborate toward improvement of their deaf communities.
  A Sociolinguistic Profile of the Deaf People of Panama
Published  2011
Country  Panama
Subjects  Language surveys
Keywords  Language surveys