New sign language curriculum for students with hearing disabilities in Oman soon

Middle East, May 9 2017

MUSCAT: Students with hearing disabilities in Oman will soon receive a new curriculum that conforms to international standards, thanks to the Oman Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Ireland House, an education and training body based in Oman.

The two organisations are currently in talks with Al Amal Club, a recreation club built for people with hearing disabilities in Oman. They will appoint teachers from accredited organisations to teach sign language in English, and introduce a curriculum that caters to local needs.

GAA and Ireland House are looking to roll out this course by August 2017, once they receive approval from the ministry.

“We’re located just up the road from Al Amal Club, and I walked in to see the deaf students play,” recalled Mark Cusack, a partner at Ireland House. “I saw that no matter the odds they faced, they never gave up and they had an inner resilience to get back up whenever they were knocked down.”

“I was fascinated by the spirit they showed and wondered why there weren’t more opportunities available, because otherwise it’s just not fair to them,” he added. “In Oman, if you’re hearing impaired, you’re only taught Arabic sign language, unless you take up medical studies at Oman Medical College, where they teach you to sign in English, and that really limits your learning and development.”

Cusack had a more-than-willing partner in Faris Al Shaqsi, CEO of the Oman GAA. “One of my relatives and her husband are both deaf, but both her children can hear,” recalled Al Shaqsi, speaking to Times of Oman. “She always wanted to learn to sign in English, so that she could talk with her children, and seeing her unable to do that because of lack of opportunities here, really hurt me.

“Now that I have received this chance, I don’t want to let it go away,” he added. “Most people might say I’m doing this for the sake of doing it, but you don’t know the problems faced by those who are differently-abled unless you see them yourself, and I have a personal stake in this.”

Al Amal Club will act as a focus group for Al Shaqsi and Cusack’s initiative, as they look to tailor the programme to suit the needs of the youth in Oman. “We can’t just bring them any generic curriculum, because they might not associate with it or it might be too tough for them,” admitted Cusack. “We know that this is not something that will impact an overnight change, but we know that a slow and steady approach will impact change.”

The duo is also looking to learn sign language themselves, so they can also teach deaf youth Gaelic football alongside other residents, thereby helping to break down social stigmas.

“People in Oman aren’t too open to those who are different,” noted Al Shaqsi. “They don’t know how to include them in society, and it is very important for us to include everyone. God has given everyone His gifts, and we must appreciate people for who they are.”

“Stories like that of the Faris family really stick in the throat, and right now, deaf people have sort of set up a wall around themselves because of the way societies treat them,” added Cusack. “If they play sports alongside other people, these barriers break down, and it also builds up their confidence, and that makes it good for everybody.”

Source: Times of Oman

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