Bringing a new sign language program to cable TV in Nicaragua

August 17, 2020

By Janey Fugate, with reporting by Mirna Robleto

Nicaraguan youth and their families may learn a new language in a 12-part series launched on national cable television.

Called “Mi Seña, Tu Seña” (My Sign, Your Sign), the program teaches the basics of Nicaraguan sign language.

“[The program] promotes greater inclusion for deaf people in Nicaragua, whose primary barrier for participating socially is communication,” says David Lopez, President of the Federation of Associations of Persons with Disabilities, or FECONORI in Spanish.

The USAID-funded Technical Vocational Education Training and Services for At-Risk Youth (TVET-SAY) project partnered with two local organizations that serve people with disabilities, FECONORI and the National Association of the Deaf , to bring this program to life on Channel 14 of Vos TV.

Developed and broadcast with the intent to teach people with and without hearing impairments, the sign language lessons build on each other throughout the scheduled programming, covering the alphabet, sentence structure and basic conversation. The sessions are playing through September 2020 with four segments divided into 12 chapters.

With long histories of expanding opportunities for the disabled and with intimate knowledge of the Nicaraguan context, FECONORI and the ANSNIC came alongside TVET-SAY to develop the curriculum, oversee production and leverage their networks to reach a wider audience.

Nicaraguan man watches “Mi Seña, Tu Seña” on TV. Photo by Mirna Robleto.

“Within our strategic plan is increasing awareness and dissemination of Nicaraguan sign language by all possible means, for the listening community and also for deaf people, enhancing their literacy in sign language,” says Javier Lopez of ANSNIC. “Using the television medium is a great achievement and at the same time an opportunity to grow.”

Partnerships pave the way for more efforts to promote inclusion

TVET-SAY strengthens technical education for vulnerable youth and works with the private sector to generate greater opportunities to employ youth and create an enabling environment. The “Mi Seña, Tu Seña” initiative supports another of TVET-SAY’s major goals, to promote and provide access to quality education and job opportunities for youth with disabilities in Nicaragua.

TVET-SAY and its partners believe that efforts like these move the needle on breaking cycles of poverty, exclusion and discrimination.

“According to the Ministry of Health, there are more than 18,000 deaf Nicaraguans so this program was a praiseworthy initiative, humanistic, and totally focused on rights,” says Lopez.

TVET-SAY’s partnership with Vos TV is representative of the kind of private sector engagement that the project has fostered, which goes beyond corporate social responsibility. Covering the cost of airtime, Vos TV not only made a significant charitable gesture but has opened the door for future collaborations and programming that address people with disabilities’ needs.

Yessenia Cortez, Manager of Channel 14, says that TVET-SAY’s experience in the field and strategic partnership allowed Vos TV “to impact our audience and sustain our vision of educational content that transforms societies and improves the quality of life of people with disabilities, and that is exactly what we are doing with Mi Seña, Tu Seña.”

TVET-SAY is exploring a deeper alliance with Vos TV, FECONORI, and ANSNIC to continue producing content that promotes a more inclusive culture around people with disabilities.

“This was truly a collaborative effort, and it can serve as a model for future creative endeavors that bring together companies, organizations dedicated to serving the disabled, as well as technical centers, which can bring  youth skills that increase their independence and participation in communities,” says Juan Sanchez, TVET-SAY’s Deputy Chief of Party.

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