Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has praised the vibrancy of the local Deaf community as Sign Language Week got underway today.
The Minister said: “My Department has a very close relationship with the local Deaf community and I am aware of just how much the community cherishes the rich vibrancy of Deaf culture and both of its languages – British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language. Therefore, I am delighted to join with the Deaf community to promote this year’s Sign Language Week from Monday 15 March to Sunday 21 Marchunder the theme of ‘Sign Language for All’.”
On the theme that sign language should be accessible to all, she continued: “My Department has supported the sector to transition its face-to-face sign language courses for both Deaf and hearing people, including vital Family Sign Language courses, to online resources during the pandemic.
“I am pleased that the National Deaf Children’s Society and the BDA (NI) have ensured that their learning resources which, although are primarily aimed at families with Deaf children, are free to all to view. They present a great opportunity for anyone to learn some signs during Sign Language Week and help promote ‘Sign Language for All’.”
The Minister also announced that the Department has invested £660,000 in 2020/21 to support various community BSL/ISL interventions to help tackle the increased social isolation experienced by the Deaf community during the Covid pandemic.
These include support for Deaf mental health counselling and the establishment of an online support group for Deaf women by Deaf women. To tackle high levels of social isolation in the older Deaf community, the Department has funded local Deaf groups to keep in touch online with older BSL/ISL users to help them access services they need, including basic shopping, and to provide a remote Deaf befriending volunteer service for BSL/ISL residents in care homes who are particularly isolated using easy-to-use visual tablets.
Minister Hargey explained: “This has been a very challenging year for us all due to the pandemic but particularly for the Deaf community because of the language barriers they encounter daily. We have worked with the sector and the community to put in place the necessary sign language support to help them overcome some of these hurdles.
“My Department, in partnership with the Deaf sector, has supported a range of sign language activities and initiatives to support the community through the pandemic, from co-funding the local Health and Social Care Remote Interpreting Service with the Department of Health and Health and Social Care Board, to funding the Daily Deaf News Vlog run by Deaf BSL/ISL users for BSL/ISL users to keep them up-to-date with news and developments in their own language. These are just some examples of the necessary interventions to support our local Deaf community during these trying times and we continue to engage with the Deaf community and sector to develop ongoing support.”