The Puerto Rican Deaf Community

Statement of Responsibility:
Williams, Holly and Elizabeth Parks
Issue Date:

The Puerto Rican deaf community has at least 100 years of documented history, with the first deaf school established in the early 1900s. There has been significant contact with the United States politically and educationally and deaf Puerto Ricans have the same legal rights as deaf people living in the United States because they are included under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Deaf schools, ministries, associations, and organizations are all working for and with the deaf community to meet its linguistic and social needs. Interpreting services are growing both through the four established agencies and video relay services, but there is still a significant lack of interpreters to be able to meet the needs of the deaf population, with estimated numbers between 8,000 and 340,000. Although Puerto Rican Sign Language (PRSL) may have been present before the establishment of the first school and its use of Signed English and American Sign Language (ASL), high amounts of contact with the deaf community in the United States and continued use of ASL in deaf schools have led to ASL being the majority sign language of Puerto Rico. Now, with relay and interpreting services offered from places both within the United States and Puerto Rico, ASL is seeing even more use and standardization in the country. In addition, ASL is being taught at a Puerto Rican university. ASL classes are offered to the public, and only one of the interpreting agencies indicates offering PRSL interpretation. Although some form of PRSL may still be used in the less populated areas in the western and central parts of the country, it appears that ASL is poised to be the sole sign language of the Puerto Rican deaf community in the future. Some local sources who are familiar with PRSL and ASL indicate that they do not differ greatly and PRSL could be considered an ASL variety, but language documentation work could help to preserve the memory of old PRSL and provide a clearer sense of how it impacted the development of the Puerto Rican deaf community. ASL resources will probably meet the linguistic needs of the majority of deaf Puerto Ricans.

13 pages
Language surveys
Puerto Rico
Content Language:
Nature of Work:
Work Type:
Relation Text:
SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2012-005