Tipperary awareness project wins national award
“Sign of the Times” – an awareness project around ensuring official recognition for and the promotion of Irish Sign Language – has won the Eirgrid sponsored “Disability Provision” category in the annual Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards.
As a project, “Sign of the Times” was initiated between community healthcare and local authority services and a secondary school in Tipperary Town.
At a ceremony held in Dublin, hosted by broadcaster Mary Kennedy and featuring 16 specially commissioned Waterford Crystal designed awards presented by Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan TD, the 16th annual Excellence in Local Government Awards is held in association with the Dept. of Housing, Planning and Local Government to showcase and celebrate the best of local authority activity and involvement throughout the country.
Working with “Tipperary Gold Star” (a programme established by the HSE/South East Community Healthcare’s South Tipperary disability services) and Tipperary County Council’s community development team, a four minute video produced by transition year students of Abbey CBS in Tipperary is one of the central tenets of their “Sign of the Times” project. In the video, the students encourage viewers to learn the basics in terms of how to communicate with members of the deaf community. The Tipperary students also outline a brief history of Irish Sign Language (ISL) and explain a little around etiquette and go on to relay a dictionary of “signs” for lots of words – including the alphabet, numbers, colours, animals and so on.
Earlier this year, a delegation of students from Abbey CBS – in addition to one of their teachers Jolene Carey, Ann Bradshaw (of HSE/South East Community Healthcare’s disabilities services and Co-Ordinator of the Tipperary Gold Star awareness programme) and Fiona Crotty (Community and Social Inclusion, Tipperary County Council) – were invited to visit the Houses of the Oireachtas in Dublin. There, they met with Finian McGrath TD (Minister of State for Disability Issues) and the students discussed how best to progress recognition for ISL.
Speaking about Irish Sign Language, Ann Bradshaw (Co-Ordinator of the Tipperary Gold Star awareness programme) said:
“The Deaf community sees itself as a linguistic and cultural minority group as opposed to being disabled. Irish Sign Language (ISL) is the preferred language of up to 5,000 Deaf people in Ireland and approximately 40,000 people in general (including family, friends, co-workers and so on) will communicate in ISL. It is, as such, the indigenous language of our Deaf community and research shows that sign languages are full languages with its own complex linguistic structure, rules and features. It is a visual and spatial language with its own distinct grammar and not only is it a language of the hands, but also of the face and body. Irish Sign Language is different from all other sign languages such as British Sign Language, American Sign Language and so forth. We are pleased that the ‘Sign of the Times’ project and this award is drawing more attention to ISL.”
Welcoming the award win for the Tipperary Town project, the Chief Officer of South East Community Healthcare Kate Killeen White said:
“The Tipperary Gold Star programme has been an outstanding actor in the community in Tipp Town, as it has been in Cashel. In South East Community Healthcare, we have a strategic aim to ensure everyone counts. From day to day, across various settings and inclusive of our support to voluntary agencies, the HSE is doing its best within available resources to support those with disabilities and to create and sustain a best practice environment. In terms of delivering community healthcare, we value our ongoing close relationship with the local authority. Between its staff, elected members and others involved with Tipperary Council, we appreciate their commitment, creativity and skill in continuing to meet the dynamic and diverse needs of our changing communities. We are especially delighted to see the energy of the Abbey CBS and their Transition Year students coming to this project and it augers well all around.”
Welcoming the award for Tipperary County Council, Fiona Crotty, Community and Social Inclusion said:
“To receive this award recognises the collaboration and participation to date from the community sector, members of the Deaf community and agency collaboration to promote the use of ISL. This project was supported for the digital development with a grant of €8000 from Department of Rural and Community Development Digital Initiative Programme 2018. Phase 1 of this project was the pre development and video creation and this will provide support and training for front line staff to learn ISL across all sectors of society. The work concluded to date would not have been possible without the participation of our videographer Dominique Davoust, participants Elena Sawczenko, Ann Mulhair, Noel O’Connell, Bella and Jessica Grey and all those who signed or appeared on the videos and to Jolene Carey and the students from the Abbey School YSI team who were super ambassadors for the project. The interagency support and commitment has also been a feature of the success of this project to date. The next step is to to progress to phase 2 of this project which is to develop an ISL app which would be freely available as an educational tool across all sectors of society and opportunities for funding are being explored to realise this app development”.