One Year Since Passing of Irish Sign Language Act

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Dáil Issues, Human Rights, Justice, National, Parliamentary Questions, Rural and Community Development

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to enact the Irish Sign Language Act 2017.

REPLY: The National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017 – 2021 contains several commitments in respect of the development and expansion of Irish Sign Language (ISL) services for deaf citizens, as follows:

  • Extension of ISL remote interpretation service;
  • Resourcing of the Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS) to increase the number of trained sign Language and deaf interpreters, to put a quality-assurance and registration scheme in place and to provide on-going professional training and development for interpreters;
  • Legislation that will ensure that all public bodies provide ISL users with free interpretation when accessing or availing of statutory services.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Irish Sign Language Act 2017 was signed into law in December 2017 and provides for the following:-

  • Recognition of the right of ISL users to use ISL as their native language;
  • The placing of a duty on public services to provide free interpretation services when accessing statutory services;
  • The placing of an obligation on courts to take all reasonable steps to allow persons competent in ISL to be heard in ISL.

The Act will come into operation in December 2020.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is responsible for progressing the commitments under the Inclusion Strategy that relate to the extension of the ISL remote interpretation service, the  increase in the number of interpreters, the establishment of a quality-assurance and registration scheme and the provision of on-going professional training and development for interpreters. Work has commenced on the implementation of this programme, completion of which is expected by 2021. DEASP will be reporting periodically on its progress in this regard to the National Disability Inclusion Strategy Steering Group, (which comprises the Interdepartmental Committee, the Disability Stakeholders Group and the National Disability Authority), and at local level through its Departmental Consultative Committee.

To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the progress made to enact the Irish Sign Language Act 2017.

The Irish Sign Language Act, 2017 was signed into law in December 2017 and recognises Irish Sign Language as a native and independent language.

Section 9 of the Irish Sign Language Act, 2017  provides that  the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection may, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, provide funds to  facilitate users of Irish Sign Language to access social, educational, and cultural events and services (including medical) and other activities as specified in guidelines made by the Minister.

The Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS), which is mainly funded by the Citizens Information Board(CIB) has prepared draft guidelines for how such a scheme might operate and these guidelines have been submitted to CIB and are under active consideration.

When CIB have completed this task, the guidelines will be submitted to me for approval, as is required under the provisions of the Act. Once approved, a scheme will be piloted by SLIS and the outcome of the pilot will inform further more detailed proposals and revised guidelines, as may be required, which will, in turn, inform future annual funding requirements for such a scheme.
For Oral Answer on : 11/12/2018
Question Number(s): 60 Question Reference(s): 51844/18
Department: Rural and Community Development
Asked by: Clare Daly T.D.

QUESTION: To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress made to promote Irish sign language and users of same in community development and wider community engagement since the passing of the Irish Sign Language Act 2017.

REPLY: Lead responsibility for this matter rests with my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

I can confirm however, that in terms of implementation of the policy, the network of public
libraries is proactive in terms of stocking books and material on Irish Sign Language which is on display on the library catalogue. There are currently 484 sign language books on the catalogue which includes over 270 Irish sign language books

My Department also provides funding to the Irish Deaf Society under the Scheme for Supporting National Organisations (SSNO). This scheme provides multi-annual funding towards core costs of national organisations in the sector, with a focus on organisations that provide supports to those who are disadvantaged. The current iteration of the scheme runs from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2019 and the funding allocation provided to the Irish Deaf Society under the 36 month period of the scheme is €269,700.

Furthermore, I can confirm that my Department is providing funds (under the Digital Innovation Programme), in the order of some 8,000, to the HSE Tipperary Town Gold Star Disability Awareness Project, which, working in partnership with a number of specialist agencies in the community, including and Tipperary County Council, aims to create and design an interactive learning tool to work with young people and members of the Deaf community in Tipperary.  This is suitable for use with young people in post primary schools and anyone who has an interest in learning to communicate through Irish Sign Language.

It would also be the intention to build on the post primary school base to have a basic app available for use in all civic and public offices across the county, for all community and voluntary services. This will ensure that when a client presents to any of these services that the staff have the resource to enable them to communicate, and with the same facility replicated across the county this will ensure consistency and increase access to services throughout the county.  This project will involve the local authority, Transition Year students, students of Limerick Institute of Technology,, Tipperary Gold Star Disability Initiative and volunteers from the deaf community.

This project has the potential to significantly benefit the community, deaf and non-deaf alike. It also demonstrates a strong level of engagement across the community, demonstrating a collaborative approach to this important issue.