The British Deaf Association Northern Ireland (BDA NI) has said it was delighted by the support shown in Northern Ireland yesterday when Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), across all parties, signed a pledge calling for a British Sign Language / Irish Sign Language Bill in Northern Ireland.
The event, which was fully endorsed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, saw MLAs publicly pledge their support calling for a British Sign Language / Irish Sign Language Bill.
Now today, Northern Ireland’s Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has announced a public consultation on a new Sign Language Framework.
The framework aims to lay the foundations for legislation to be introduced that will protect the rights of the Deaf community. The consultation opens today and will run until 5pm on 4th July 2016.
Speaking about the framework, the Minister said:
“In December last year I stated my intention to publish and consult on a Sign Language Framework that includes the introduction of legislation proposals to safeguard the Deaf community’s rights as a cultural and linguistic minority.
“The public consultation I am opening today will lay the groundwork for legislation in the new mandate that will seek to secure real equality for the Deaf community. I want to hear views from everyone with an interest in the issue, and for the first time people will be able to submit their response using British or Irish Sign Language by visiting the dedicated Facebook page and uploading video.
“I am committed to ensuring that the local Deaf community gets the equality it deserves in our society. I also want to put in place measures that will prevent future generations of deaf children and young people from experiencing social exclusion.
“Legislation for the Deaf will secure better life chances and outcomes and I hope that this work is carried on when responsibility transfers to the Department for Communities in the new Assembly mandate.”
The BDA believe that a BSL / ISL Bill, if enacted, would empower Deaf people and improve their lives by removing direct and indirect discrimination.
It would also increase knowledge of BSL / ISL and raise awareness of the issues affecting the Deaf community, ensuring that Deaf people across Northern Ireland are given better access to services.
Practical examples of how a proposed Bill could positively impact on the Northern Irish Deaf community include but are not limited to:
- Health: Deaf people having better access to medical care and hospital information leaflets being translated into BSL or ISL
- The elderly: Nursing homes and carers being legally required to communicate using BSL or ISL, which would greatly improve their quality of life and of care
- Employment: More Deaf people being able to access work as BSL and BSL Interpreters become more visible and more employers learn about support programmes
- Leisure & the arts: Legal requirements put in place to provide information in BSL or ISL – making concerts, theatre etc. more welcoming and accessible
- Education: The younger Deaf community would be able to cultivate similar beliefs about their future to their hearing peers allowing for more equal opportunities
For more information and to view the full consultation document, visit http://www.dcalni.gov.uk/
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