Trinity’s Centre for Deaf Studies Participates in first Radio Programme available in Sign Language

Posted on: 16 December 2010

The Director of the Centre for Deaf Studies at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Lorraine Leeson will be participating in one of the first radio programmes in Ireland available in Irish Sign Language (ISL), Futureproof which will be broadcast on Newstalk this Saturday,  (December 18th, 6pm).

The subject of the science and technology programme will be how new technologies are changing the lives of Deaf people.  Dr Leeson will outline the opportunities that ICT have presented for Deaf communities, as well as some of the limitations that remain.

Contextualising the situation,  she will  explain that while Irish Sign Language (ISL) is the second indigenous language of Ireland, it does not enjoy formal recognition in the Republic, but is recognised as a language in Northern Ireland (alongside British Sign Language), and is amongst the signed languages recognised by the European Union and the Council of Europe.

According to Dr Leeson; “This minority language status, coupled with a history of suppression (particularly in educational contexts) has resulted in the averagely intelligent Deaf school leaver leaving school with a reading age of 8.5-9 years. This means that English (a second language for many signed language users) is quite inaccessible with the result that the provision of English texts to Deaf people does not solve the problem of ensuring access to information: indeed, many Deaf people report not being able to read a letter or a newspaper article effectively.”

Given this context, Dr. Leeson will outline that some of the work that the Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) has engaged in, in recent years to create online educational content in Irish Sign Language (ISL) and English, such as the development of a Moodle plug-in (in partnership with Dr. Markus Hoffman and colleagues at the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown for SIF II work) which allows for signed content, with an English voice-over to be displayed alongside English PowerPoint texts. CDS’ work on the D-Signs project (led by the University of Bristol, UK) has led to the creation of interactive learning materials in ISL and four other signed languages.

Other work has seen CDS course content localised for delivery in a range of other EU countries including Belgium, Finland, the UK, Poland, and the Czech Republic via Leonardo da Vinci project work. This work also entails content aimed at increasing awareness of signed languages, Deaf communities and Deaf culture in targeted ‘hearing’ communities (e.g. frontline medical staff, professionals in mental health settings, teachers in mainstream educational contexts and the Gardai,). Some of this work (led by Interesource Group (Ireland) Limited) has been awarded the Léargas Language Label and Dr Leeson was named a Léargas ‘Language Ambassador of the Year’ for her contributions to the field in 2008.

Futureproof will be broadcast on Newstalk, 6pm on Saturday, December 18th you’ll be able to watch the programme in Irish Sign Language (sponsored by Bridge Interpreting) as it goes out on the radio, log on to