Introduction / History Venezuelan Sign Language (LSV) emerged with the founding of the first Deaf school in 1935. It appears to be fairly standardized due to the high degree of mobility within the country and the interconnectedness of the Deaf community.
With an estimated 15 to 52 thousand members, the signing Deaf community appears to be growing in strength and vitality, fighting for their linguistic and social needs as a unique ethnolinguistic culture. The Venezuelan government, Deaf associations and supportive organizations are making progress through bilingual education, increase of trained interpreters and unified national and regional Deaf associations. Other encouraging factors include the recognition of LSV's importance by the government and the growing body of LSV linguistic publications and resources.
There are a number of religious ministries for Deaf Venezuelans, including Baptist, Assembly of God, Seventh Day Adventist and Latter-Day Saint groups. Other missionary groups are active as well.
Bob Bell, with the Voice for the Deaf ministry in Puerto Rico, started the first known Deaf ministry in Caracas in 1986 and hosted several Christian Deaf camps in Venezuela. The Ministerio Nacional Bautista de Sordos provides training for Deaf and hearing people on various topics such as the culture and language of the Deaf community. They also offer camps and support programs for Deaf Venezuelans, assist Deaf street children, established a Deaf Christian school and created a manual of religious signs. The Deaf ministry at the Paraiso Seventh Day Adventist church focuses on evangelism and offering sign language courses.
With a population of approximately 26.8 million, 93% of Venezuelans live in urban areas. Venezuela's main source of income is oil. Roughly 89% of the employable population has work but 38% live below the poverty line. The foremost religion in Venezuela is Christianity, with 96% of the population adhering to Roman Catholicism. Spanish is the official language and 93% of the population over the age of 14 is literate.