Posted: 26th October 2016
One of our clients in Kerry had a very busy few weeks in September, organising and attending various ISL Awareness events. Here is her account.
“My name is Bernadette O Connor. I live in Tralee. I was born Deaf and am an ISL user. I have 2 daughters Hannah and Kerri.
I went to mainstream school in my local home town and I went to secondary school in Bishopstown Community School where there is a Deaf Unit. After school I went on to qualify as a Chef, after completing a course through Institute of Technology Tralee some 15 years ago. I am the founder of the Kerry Deaf Group and the Kerry Deaf Women’s Group.
Bernadette gets ready for interview with Kerry radio.
To highlight ISL Awareness Week locally I started with an interview with local paper Kerry’s Eye. I went along with Jo Lambe from the Killarney office of DeafHear and also with Willie White, who is the manager for Kerry Deaf Resource Centre. I was able to highlight some of the issues faced by Deaf sign language users in Ireland. I was also able to highlight events that I had planned for the week in Kerry.
Next I arranged an interview with Kerry Radio. In the interview I spoke about my education as a young Deaf child, both in mainstream school and in a Deaf unit. I also spoke a little about my experience as a Deaf parent of hearing children.
Again I took the opportunity to raise awareness of the issues we face, by not having ISL recognised as an official language, how we do not have complete access to information, supports, and services. I spoke about how once we finally do have ISL recognised then we would see better access to public services, better education for Deaf children, better third level education and training for Deaf adults and better interpreting quality and monitoring.
On the Tuesday morning I organised a coffee morning for families to come along, chat, meet up with other people and celebrate ISL Awareness week. It was a relaxed atmosphere and lots of people attended, including a local TD.
Bernadette and friends at coffee morning including local TD Martin Ferris
Then later that week I held an information session at the local library. I had put together a Power Point Presentation which included information on ISL, Deaf awareness, including some good communication tips for hearing people communicating with Deaf people. Jo Lambe and Willie White both spoke about the supports and services their organisations provide in Kerry. This was a fun evening that gave us all an opportunity to meet up, share opinions and hopes around ISL recognition.
Bernadette and friends Information session at Tralee library
In September I also attended two important events outside of Kerry.
On 28th September I was delighted to get the opportunity to go the historic conference on “Multilingualism and equal rights in the EU”.
Bernadette in Brussells
Held in Brussels I flew over with a number of other Deaf adults from Ireland. There we met so many other Deaf people from around Europe.
Bernadette in Brussells
The speakers unanimously highlighted the crucial importance of sign language recognition and the availability of sign language interpretation for the full inclusion of deaf persons into society.
There are plans that MEP Helga Stevens will present to the European Parliament at the end of this year, and will call for the full recognition of sign languages in all EU member states.
Bernadette with EU flags
Lastly I attended the Deaf Education Conference in Portlaoise. This was organised by Andrew Geary who is the father of 7 year old Deaf son, Calum. There were some very interesting speakers, including EUD President Dr. Markku Jokinen (Finland), Claudia Gordon (USA), Leah Katz-Hernandez (USA) Claudia and Leah are working for President Barack Obama in White House, Dr. Noel O Connell and Dr. John Bosco Conama. It was a good conference and well organised.
Bernadette at Portlaoise Education conference with
EUD President Dr. Markku Jokinen (Finland)
All in all September was a very busy month. So good to see so much happening around ISL recognition.
I look forward to seeing what happens next!”