The Recognition of Irish Sign Language (ISL) for the Deaf Community Bill 2016 was last month signed into law by President Michael D Higgins. Under the new law, public bodies will have to implement ISL action plans and provide sign language interpreters to people using public services. Parents and siblings of children who are deaf will also be given ISL classes, and schools will be provided with sign language supports for children who use ISL as their primary language. Its use would also be permitted in legal proceedings and those properly accredited to do so will be allowed interpret for courts or other public bodies.
Irish sign language is the sign language used by the majority of the deaf community in Ireland and can also form the basis for much sign language used by people who are deafblind. ISL is a visual language that incorporates the shaping of hands, movements, gestures and facial expressions. People who are deafblind will usually adapt ISL to incorporate touch if they have a significant vision loss.
The Anne Sullivan Centre and Anne Sullivan Foundation welcome the enactment of this bill and the equal status it affords Irish Sign Language.
We intend to continue our lobbying and advocacy work to request that similar supports in augmentative communication are available to people who are deafblind in future. The full text of the bill is available here: