This summer saw the closure of the IDS Deaf Advocacy Service due to a full funding cut. John Browne TD and myself had a Topical Issue on it before the summer recess and the funding was restored for this year when the new Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly announced bridge funding for the IDS and 25 other community organisations in July. A great victory considering the Deaf Advocacy Service is the only service that is provided fully through ISL with full access for Deaf people.
Saturday 20th September marked the beginning of Irish Sign Language (ISL) Awareness Week. The Irish Deaf Society (IDS)-led event contributes to an annual global campaign to increase public awareness of signed languages and their contribution to communities and countries worldwide.
This year’s ISL Awareness celebration in Ireland is of added importance to the ISL-using community in the wake of the rejection by the Seanad last February of a proposed Bill to have ISL officially recognised by the government. The image above is of rally outside Leinster House today in protest of our Irish Sign Language not being recognised by the State. The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), who coordinate the Week internationally, support the recognition of native signed languages as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Ireland signed in 2007.
The WFD has designated the theme of this year’s celebration as ‘Strengthening Human Diversity’. Irish Deaf Society CEO Eddie Redmond commented, “We need to highlight the positive side of ISL and its long and rich heritage and culture. ISL users make up a small percentage of the population but make a significant contribution to the range and diversity of Irish society.”
He added, “Lack of awareness can discourage and frighten people from ISL. There is still a great reluctance out there to pass on ISL to Deaf children. We want to encourage a positive sense of the language of ISL, and to give people an opportunity to witness and participate in the culture.”
ISL Awareness Week will open with a play by the Dublin Theatre of the Deaf and performance artist Amanda Coogan; ‘You told me to wash and clean my ears’ which is involved with this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival. Other events include a conference and presentations on ISL, a coffee morning, a Flash Mob by the Irish Deaf Youth Association, a 48 hour Film-making challenge, a folklore show, and a radio special on Newstalk fm, with more events to be announced.