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Deaf people face a tidal wave of discrimination compared to speakers of Ulster-Scots and Irish

 

IMAGINE growing up in your own home city and not being able to use your native language at the post office or when you visit the dentist or doctor. Imagine having to rely on a family member to translate for you, even when in hospital. This is the language discrimination suffered by our deaf community.

We hear a lot about the rights of speakers of Ulster-Scots and Irish, but for these people communicating in spoken English is always an option when they need medical attention.

I was hoping that when Belfast City Council decided to appoint two language officers, it would have taken the needs of the deaf community seriously, but apparently not.

Look at how it has have allocated roles to the two language officers. One post looks after the needs of Irish speakers, and requires fluency in both spoken and written Irish.

By contrast, for applicants for the other language officer post, which supposedly caters for the need of users of sign language, there is no requirement that they can communicate in sign language, either British Sign Language (BSL) or Irish Sign Language (ISL).

Someone who wants to talk to the Irish language officer about the needs of the Irish language community will be capable of speaking temporarily in English, but most deaf people simply do not have the option of communicating in spoken English. There is a greater need for one of the officers to have BSL, or ISL than there is to have fluent Irish.

The needs of the deaf community are less visible due to communication difficulties, but it is shocking that, just because the deaf have not taken to the streets to protest, their needs are virtually ignored by our elected councillors.

ARNOLD CARTON

Belfast

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