Introduction / History There is an estimated 15,000 Deaf signers in El Salvador, 0.25% of the population of El Salvador. The Deaf community of El Salvador indicates that they are composed of mainly three language groups: roughly 65% use Salvadoran Sign Language (LESSA), about 20% use a Salvadoran variety of American Sign. Deaf university graduates are now between 22 and 27 years of age. There are three Deaf associations in El Salvador. In response to past and present social oppression, the Deaf community is very engaged in struggles for equal access to information, employment, and social and civil rights.
Language (ASL) (either mixed with LESSA or following Spanish word order), and 10% use a combination of Costa Rican Sign Language (LESCO) and LESSA. In addition, roughly 5% live in rural areas and may use home signs. Bilingualism among ASL and LESSA users is common. Generational Deaf families tend to use LESSA.
Most Deaf Salvadorans work as low-paid laborers, although some are teachers or work with computers. The Deaf community has not historically had access to quality education (Caceres 2001); however, advocacy of the Deaf community and Deaf education has been slowly improving and expanding to serve more geographic areas over the last 15 years. Five public schools and one private school serve Deaf students exclusively.
There are also various mainstream and alternative educational opportunities. A group of the Deaf indicated that the Deaf community's highest needs are: improved Deaf education, developed and expanded use of LESSA, and standardization and certification for the interpretation vocation. The Bible in Spanish is largely inaccessible to most Deaf Salvadorans because of low Spanish literacy levels. A team from San Salvador is currently working toward a LESSA Bible translation. Deaf people congregate at a variety of Catholic or Evangelical Christian churches and Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Halls where services are translated through an interpreter. There are two Deaf congregations which conduct services in Salvadoran variety ASL.