On the 1st of October I gave the opening address to the Deaf Education Conference 2016. The education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Ireland has been a cause of concern to many parents and educators over the years. We know that Deaf and Hard of Hearing children have not been achieving educational levels in school on a par with their hearing peers of similar ability. We know that only a small proportion of them go on to third level education. And we know that parents, members of the Deaf community and the IDS, Deafhear and CIDP have been battling on a daily basis often for months and years, to get their children the support and services they need in our schools – services and supports which are their right as enshrined in Irish legislation.
One of those parents, Andrew Geary, has been battling with some success to get his son the supports he needs in school. The Deaf Education Conference 2016 is the brainchild of Andrew, who recognises the need to provide a forum to move the education of our Deaf and Hard of Hearing children into the 21st century. The Conference is fully supported by the Education Partnership Group, an independent peer group made up of Deaf and Hard of Hearing interest groups. Parents Groups such as Our New Ears and Sharing the Journey have also championed the cause of many families over the years, opening doors and supporting parents in their battles.
The Conference was aimed primarily at Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, the Education Professionals working with these children, Policy Advisors in this area and anyone with an interest in this area of education.
National and International Panel
The Conference included a panel of both Irish and international experts on deaf education who will speak about:
- Best practice in the education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children.
- What can be achieved through best practice.
- What is happening in Ireland today.
A key aim of the Conference was to identify a number of key objectives to improve the education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Ireland and to signpost a clear pathway towards achieving them.
Cross party support for the Recognition of Irish Sign Language Bill 2016
Senators have given their support to a bill which would see Irish Sign Language recognised in law as an official language.
Bill entitled an Act to provide for the recognition of Irish Sign Language and for that purpose to set down principles to guide the operations of public bodies; to require public bodies to prepare and implement action plans on Irish Sign Language. The legislation would mean that Irish Sign Language could be used in court proceedings and every public body would be required to provide services through sign language. The State would also have to provide interpreters for deaf students. Broadcasters would be required to subtitle television programmes.
Finian McGrath, Minister of State with responsibility for Disabilities speaking during the Seanad
Next the Bill will be amended to take into consideration others’ suggestions that will improve it further, it will then be debated further, then it will move to the Dáil. It will hopefully progress as fast as possible seeing as it has received support from all sides.
Click here to view the legislative process of a Bill in Seanad Eireann
Senator Daly’s legislation has been recommended by the Joint Committee on Justice. It is in the Senate next week and Mark is hopeful that it will receive support from all sides.
The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality agreed a report entitled “Formal Recognition of Irish Sign Language” on the 5th of October 2016. The Committee launched the report on the 13th of October.
Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly says legislation introduced by Fianna Fáil in the Seanad and published today will assist members of the deaf community by giving Irish Sign Language full and proper recognition.
The ‘Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill’ will empower the deaf community by placing sign language on a statutory basis.
Senator Daly commented, “This legislation will ensure Irish Sign Language is designated as a native and independent language. It recognises that the language is used as the primary means of communication by over 5,000 members of the deaf community in Ireland.
“Designating sign language as a native language will empower the deaf community by permitting it to be used in legal proceedings and it will require TV broadcasters to have subtitling. It will also require the State to provide interpreting services for students who use Irish Sign Language. Importantly, it will also require every public body to devise and implement an action plan to promote the use of sign language within the organisation. This will make it easier for members of the deaf community to communicate with state institutions.
“The legislation further proposes the creation of an Irish Sign Language Council to promote the development of the language, regulate its teaching and co-ordinate interpreting services. 16 Local Authorities have passed motions to date calling for recognition of Irish Sign Language and the implementation of supports to aid the deaf community. It’s important that these calls are answered.
“This legislation is sensible and will help the deaf community to continue integrating into wider Irish society. I’m hopeful that it will receive cross-party support when it comes before the Seanad,” concluded Senator Daly.
Senator Mark Daly has welcomed the Government U-turn that will see funding restored to 26 disability organisations including the Irish Deaf Society for 12 months.
Welcoming the decision Senator Daly stated ” This funding is essential for the deaf community as it provides for the advocacy service of the Irish Deaf Society. I fully welcome the announcement by Minister Kelly and hope these groups will be fully supported with funding in the future. The Irish Deaf Society Advocacy Service provide access for Deaf people to public services, education, healthcare and the means to employment. I am delighted they will now be able to continue this vital work on behalf of the deaf community in Ireland “