With Sign Language, I am Equal


Image by Aren8906754 on Wikimedia Commons

The Irish Sign Language Awareness Week is currently taking place, hosted by the Irish Deaf Society.

Concluding on Sunday September 25th, it aims to bring attention to Irish sign language and the Deaf community in Ireland, while also taking part in a global celebration of deaf communities and sign languages around the world. Another goal of the week is to showcase the negative effect that the systemic denial and suppression of Irish sign language has on both Deaf individuals and the community as a whole.

ISL Awareness Week was launched by Minister of State at the Departments of Social Protection, Justice, Equality and Health with special responsibility for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath TD, at the Buswell’s Hotel on Monday September 19th at 2.30pm. Many events organised by Deaf communities throughout the country including social gatherings, ISL classes, a conference, a public demonstration in Dublin city and an ISL Flash Mob in Cork.

The World Federation of the Deaf coordinates this week with the slogan “With Sign Language, I am Equal” as an acknowledgement of the 10 Year Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Ireland’s native sign language is used by up to 40,000 people and has its own structure and syntax that sets it apart from spoken and written English. It is highly regarded by the Irish deaf community as being the core of its identity and embodying its social, political and cultural elements.

Eddie Redmond, CEO of the Irish Deaf Society, emphasized the vitality of ISL being officially recognised, as there is currently a lack of legal protection for Deaf people:

“Until ISL is recognised by the state, Deaf people remain second class citizens with many public services being completely inaccessible for ISL users. There isn’t a legal obligation to provide many essential services and information in ISL, which can often be a Deaf person’s only accessible language, so they fall through the cracks.”

More information about Irish Sign Language Awareness Week can be found here or by emailing info@irishdeafsociety.ie and using the hashtag #ISL4all.

By Kevin Carney