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American Sign Language (ASL) is the sign language used by the educated deaf community in Belize,with high comprehension of ASL varieties used in the United States and Canada, and sustained contact with these varieties, although with some regional variation that is unique to Belize. Because of several vocabulary differences, some people prefer to call the sign language in Belize “Belizean Sign Language,” and yet they still consider it a variety of ASL. According to local sources, no conventionalized sign language was used by the Belizean deaf community until 1958, when deaf education and ASL were introduced.
The Belize deaf community has been adversely affected since the closure of deaf associations and the loss of key deaf community role models and leaders in recent years. There is no longer a central meeting place nor an advocacy center for deaf Belizeans, and meetings are frequently organized through religious services. While there are three deaf schools in the central districts of Belize and various independent organizations are working to support the deaf community, deaf people in rural areas and the far northern and southern parts of the country do not have many educational resources available to them. Development needs include, but are not limited to: further options for education, interpreter training programs, employment opportunities, and greater social access for the entire Belizean deaf community.