Press Release: Ross Browne

15th February 2017

For attention of Ross Browne


Following from your viral video, showcasing your parody of the “fake sign language interpreter” at the Fine Gael Brexit response group in Cork on 13thFebruary 2017, we wanted to take the opportunity to write to you.


From a Deaf community perspective, we first want to note a few things: first – you are fortunate that your parody has secured significant attention online -.we have struggled to gain access to the mainstream media to secure coverage about the disenfranchisement that arises from the lack of recognition of Irish Sign Language on a daily basis, but our requests tend to fall on ‘Deaf ears’…


Second – we appreciate that humour typically entails the mocking of a particular group. However, as the group in society that provided the vehicle to that parody, the irony is that you were ‘caught’ out by the event’s organisers only because they knew that there would NOT be an interpreter at their event (a query as to whether interpreting services would be available had been made by a member of the public in advance of the event). We lose out, both ways.


The barriers we face are not limited to accessing a public event. Because of a combination of factors, most significantly, the lack of recognition of deaf peoples’ right to use a sign language and legal supports for the language, Irish Deaf people are up to 10 times less likely to attend university. We are 2-4 times more likely to be unemployed than our hearing peers. We are 2-3 times more likely to suffer abuse (sexual, emotional, and physical) than our hearing peers & 2-4 times more likely to experience clinically significant emotional distress.


Challenges in accessing services in the legal, medical, educational & political sphere have just begun to be documented following from work on EU funded projects like Medisigns and Justisigns. (much of it led by Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Deaf Studies) sometimes predicated on problematic policy measures and/or the quality of interpretation provided.


At the same time, legislative measures to mitigate exclusion and discrimination have rarely received any attention and Ireland remains the last EU country yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which also offers recognition of sign languages, and the rights of deaf people who use sign languages.


It is this reality that we face. As a result, we would very much welcome the opportunity to brief you on our work at Irish Deaf Society, Centre for Deaf Studies at TCD and Cork Deaf Association and Cork Deaf Club and ask that, when invited to comment on your parody, that you reference the need for greater awareness of Irish Sign Language and the actual barriers to participation that Irish deaf people face, and that you suggest that the media takes some time out to reflect the reality for sign language users in our country. This lived reality is no joke. Given that you have had such attention arising from your “sign language” sketch, we’d ask that you help us in highlighting these real concerns.


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