Press Information


Contact Details Irish Deaf Society
Thomas Mahon Building, Ratoath Road, Dublin 7 – D07 W94H
018601878 –
Logo Logo available by emailing
Interviews (Radio, TV) Five working days needed for notice to ensure availability of Irish Sign Language Interpreter.
Press Interview or contact Telephone: +353 01 8601 878
Preferred terminology describing a Deaf person Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deafened, Hearing Loss*
Terminology to be avoided Hearing Impaired, Deaf and Dumb, Deaf Mute, partially deaf, partially hearing
Sign Language Terminology Please refer to Irish Sign Language in full (and not shortened to “sign language” or as “signed English”)

Agreement on Terminology Between the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People and the World Federation of the Deaf

Mission statement for The Irish Deaf Society

The Irish Deaf Society seeks to achieve and promote the Equality and Rights of Deaf people in Ireland. On the grounds of the Irish Constitution and Human Rights and international legislation, the ambition of full access to citizenship and society is sought through the empowerment and mobilisation of the Deaf community. With an awareness of their identity and their rights as individuals, Deaf people in Ireland are enabled to celebrate their culture and to fight for the recognition of Irish Sign Language (ISL), and break down the barriers of discrimination.

  • The Irish Deaf Society (IDS) is the national representative organisation of 5000 Deaf and hard of hearing people.
  • The IDS was set up by a group of Deaf people on the 13th January 1981. They were concerned with a society that was not treating Deaf people as equals. Barriers back in the 1980s included a lack of subtitles on Irish TV, a lack of Irish Sign Language Interpreters, a lack of information being translated into Irish Sign Language and a general lack of awareness from the community on who and what the Irish Deaf community were about.

The IDS now has four main departments

o   Deaforward – National Advocacy Services for Deaf people

o   Deaf Adult Literacy Services (DALS) – Literacy classes for Deaf people (nationwide)

o   Irish Sign Language Academy

  • Irish Sign Language Classes
  • Campaign for ISL recognition

o   IDS administration

      • Irish Deaf News – Magazine
      • Irish Deaf News – ISL news for the Deaf on YouTube.
      • DVD translations – Translating information into Irish Sign Language onto DVD

To be Deaf in mainstream society is no easy feat, with our community dominated by hearing society. We encounter challenges on a daily basis, which can affect our identity and our cultural outlook. Life in the Deaf community is, in a way, similar to life in a fishing village. We know that the ‘ocean’ of mainstream society can be dangerous and oblivious to our needs – but life dictates that we need the ocean to survive.

  • Irish Sign Language is the first and/or preferred language of 5000 Deaf people in Ireland and approximately 40,000 people in general will communicate in ISL (family, friends, co-workers, etc).
  • Irish Sign Language is the indigenous language of the Deaf community and research shows that sign languages are full languages with their own complex linguistic structure, rules and features They are visual and spatial languages with their own distinct grammar and not only are they languages of the hand, but also of the face and body.
  • Irish Sign Language has no official status in Irish legislation and this is a vital aim of the Irish Deaf Society to get recognition and upholds the status of ISL in Ireland particularly in education where its acquisition as a first language for Deaf children is so vital.
  • Irish Sign Language is recognised in Northern Ireland but not in the Republic of Ireland
  • Irish Sign Language is different from all other sign languages such as British Sign Language, American Sign Language etc.
  • Ireland is unique in that we have gender sign language, i.e. Men and Women in Ireland have different sign languages due to being educated in separate schools.
  • The Deaf community sees itself as a linguistic and cultural minority group as opposed to being disabled.

A survey carried out by the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB) in 1991, showed that 80% of Deaf adults have a literacy equivalent of average 8 or 9 year olds. Literacy difficulties occur within 25% of the national population (OECD adult literacy survey 1998). This represents a serious imbalance and inequality for the Deaf community in Ireland. In an IDS survey in 2006, “Signing in and Signing out” (2004) ; Deaf adult respondents were asked about their confidence in reading newspapers, writing letters or emails and filling out official forms.

  • Participants were asked to grade themselves in terms of their own confidence levels, more than half of the survey participants lacked confidence in filling out a form, writing a letter or email.
  • The Irish Deaf Education System produced over 70% of school leavers to have ‘little to no confidence’ in reading a newspaper.
  • The Irish Deaf Education System produced nearly 80% of school leavers to have ‘little to no confidence’ in writing a basic letter or even to use email.
  • The Irish Deaf Education System produced over 80% of school leavers to have ‘little to no confidence’ in filling out an official form

The Department of Education and Science White Paper 2000 The DES White Paper in 2000, acknowledged the shortcomings in education for the Deaf. In addressing the literacy problems among Deaf adults, the IDS established the national Deaf adult literacy services in 1998 as a compensatory education for the Deaf adults who did not have an adequate education. It was another chance for Deaf adults, as part of their lifelong learning through ISL. The Deaf Adult Literacy Services is kindly funded by the Department of Education and Skills.

  • One in four Deaf Adults left school with no examination qualifications
  • One in three has problems with basic functional literacy
  • 60% of respondents in “Signing in & Signing out” (SISO) were in paid employment however 69% of respondents earned less than €24,000.00 (SISO, pg 36, 2004)
  • It was concluded that: “Deaf people have higher than average unemployment rates and all of the unemployed are long-term unemployed and of those at work, higher than expected proportions are in manual jobs and pay levels are extremely low, with a larger proportion earnings below the average industrial wage.” (pg. 44, SISO)

The Irish Deaf Society relies on

  • Government Funding
  • Department of Education and Skills
  • Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs
  • Fundraising
  • Charity Shops (Voluntary run)

The Irish Deaf Society receives minimal Government funding.

Irish Deaf Society