The Deaf Community and Irish Sign Language

Who/What is the Deaf Community?

The Deaf Community is a group of people who share the same interests, experiences and language. The community consists of those who are Deaf, children of Deaf parents, parents of Deaf children, family, friends, etc. The Deaf community do not see being deaf as an obstacle but work towards full and equal access in all aspects of life.

How do I get my child involved in the Deaf Community?

A vital part of being involved in any community is the ability to communicate with its members. It is usual that a member of the Deaf community would be able to use and understand Irish Sign Language and go to Deaf events.

Remember, the best way to improve you and your child’s ISL is to continually use it. Being involved with the Deaf community is an ideal way to do this.

Deaf or hard of hearing children who attend mainstream schools can also be part of the Irish Deaf Community if they learn to communicate using ISL.

Getting Involved with Local Deaf Groups

There are many Deaf organisations and groups that cater for all tastes

A lot of these organisations are run voluntarily and by Deaf people themselves. They always welcome new members as it means more diversity for the Deaf Community. It means both you and your child can benefit from the experiences and invaluable knowledge that other Deaf people have.

Going to Deaf Events

The Deaf community is very active and there is always something going on. You can go to fundraisers, BBQs, bingo nights, social nights, hill walking, workshops etc. It is a good idea to talk to a member of the Irish Deaf Society who can inform you of events that are on in the Deaf community.

Irish Sign Language (ISL)

Irish Sign Language is the main language of the Deaf community in Ireland. Cued Speech, Lámh and Signed English are not forms of ISL but are language support systems based on English. ISL is a more natural language for a Deaf person as it uses the entire body, hands and facial expressions.

Is ISL a language?

Yes it is. ISL is a visual language which has its own grammar and syntax. You cannot use speech when you are signing in ISL as this will influence your signs. It would be like trying to speak French while speaking English at the same time. ISL is still not recognised as an official language of the state, but representations are being made to change this.

Should I learn ISL if my child is deaf or hard of hearing?

The answer is simple, yes. Research has proven that learning signed language does not affect speech, cognitive or intellectual development, if anything, it increases them. If hearing children are encouraged and applauded for learning signed language (baby sign), why can’t deaf children learn signed language when they have the in-built ability due to their loss of hearing?

We encourage you and your family to learn ISL as soon as possible and to sign with your child as much as you can.

Irish Deaf Society