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Sinn Féin calls for bursaries to train Sign Language Interpreters and tutors

24 May, 2006


Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Michael Ferguson MLA has called of the Department of Employment and Learning to provide local training opportunities and bursaries to support the training of more Sign Language Interpreters and tutors after it emerged that there are there are only 9 qualified BSL interpreters and no fully qualified ISL interpreters in the north to support a population of over 5000 sign language users.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Over 2 years ago both Irish and British Sign Languages (ISLA and BSL) were formally recognised and the Department of Culture and Leisure formally took responsibility for promoting the use of Sign Languages. This included developing good practice guidance for departments and the development of a business case to enhance the numbers of Sign Language Interpreters and tutors in the Six Counties.

"The RNID is extremely concerned that the case to enhance the numbers of Sign Language Interpreters and tutors, which involved all of the deaf organisations, has not been acted upon despite being submitted in May 2005. The business case is central to equality of opportunity for the deaf.

"In the Six Counties there are only 9 qualified BSL interpreters and no fully qualified ISL interpreters servicing a population of approximately 5000 sign language users. This compares poorly with European levels of provision. It is currently necessary for students to train in England at their own expense.

"The shortage of interpreters for the deaf and tutors to teach them creates huge barriers for the local deaf community. It means that things like a visit to the doctor, attend meetings in work or pursuing further education can be much more difficult. It undermines the basic right to equal access to public services.

"The lack of interpreters also has implications in terms the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act, the Human Rights Act and Section 75. Currently deaf sign language users often depend on family members to interpret for them or unqualified individuals.

"The Department for Employment and Learning should now accept responsibility for this work and provide local training opportunities and bursaries to support the training of more Sign Language Interpreters and tutors. I have raised this matter with the Permanent Secretary for DEL and it will be on our agenda for the next meeting with British Direct Rule DEL Minister Marie Eagle." ENDS

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