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Funding difficulties with Irish Deaf Society ‘unacceptable’, says McGrath

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian  McGrath told an Oireachtas committee he too was ‘very upset’ about  the situation regarding finances for the Irish Deaf Society. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

The Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath has said funding difficulties that have arisen at the Irish Deaf Society are “unacceptable to him”.

The Independent TD told the Justice committee on Wednesday morning he is aware of the financial difficulties and concerns regarding the organisation’s future sustainability but hopes to have the matter resolved this week.

The Irish Deaf Society warned earlier this month that it will have to close unless the State grants €300,000 in funding. The organisation said it had failed to get adequate State funding and is surviving on a series of “lucky instances of bequests which have kept us on the road”.

The issue has been raised at Cabinet meetings by Mr McGrath recently who requested the Minister for Finance Donohoe to make the required money available, with one source saying the Independent TD was “going ballistic”.

At the Oireachtas committee, Independent TD Mick Wallace asked Mr McGrath “why are things allowed to get to this point” and that he was contacted by people from the IDS who were “pretty upset about the approach of the Government”.

Mr McGrath said he too was “very upset” with the situation and that there was “a few differences of opinion in recent weeks over it” among State bodies.

“As far as I was concerned, they [IDS] had a problem last year and we came in and gave them bridge funding of €195,000 and the plan was that would keep them sorted in 2018 and then we would have a proper plan for 2019,” he told the committee.

“I told people to get on with it, it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to happen and then it exploded as you know yourself.

“It’s unacceptable for me the way that happened and I’ve made it twice at two Government meetings, I made that very exact same point, why did we have to come to that stage . . . different sections [of State organisations] have to get their act together and we’ll decide on core funding and that is being done over the next couple of days.”

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LRFD Gives Multi-Sensory Alarms to Schools for Deaf & Blind

Image result for LRFD Gives Multi-Sensory Alarms to Schools for Deaf & Blind

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A $50,000 grant allows the Little Rock Fire Department to hand out multi-sensory smoke alarms for the hearing and visually impaired.

The department, along with the mayor, visited the Arkansas School for the Deaf and the Arkansas School for the Blind today.

They gave a demonstration of how these alarms work.

The alarms make noise, shine lights and shake the bed to alert those who are impaired.

“I think a lot of times the hearing impaired and the blind or visually impaired, they are forgotten about because they have their own little community, and we wanted to do something different and we wanted to reach out and help,” says Melissa Peabody.

The fire department received 100 of the alarms and installed some at the school’s dorms today.

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Sign languages are fully-fledged, natural languages with their own dialects – and they need protecting

Sign languages are fully-fledged, natural languages with their own dialects – and they need protecting

We most often think of indigenous languages in the context of colonisation – languages used by people who originally inhabited regions that were later colonised. These are the languages that the UN had in mind when it stated a deep concern about the vast number of endangered indigenous languages. And rightly so. More than 2,400 of the about 7,000 languages used around the world today are endangered and most of these are indigenous languages in the above sense.

It’s welcome, then, that 2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, along with the awareness raising this will bring, as indigenous communities who speak these languages are often marginalised and disadvantaged. But there are other communities who speak indigenous languages that may still not receive much attention: deaf communities around the world who use sign languages.

Linguistic diversity

Sign languages are fully-fledged, complex, natural languages, with their own grammar, vocabulary, and dialects. There are over 140 recorded living sign languages in the world today.

These sign languages have evolved naturally, just like spoken languages. There is no “universal” sign language that is understood by all deaf communities around the world. For example, British Sign Language and American Sign Language are completely unrelated languages; speakers of these two languages cannot understand each other without the help of an interpreter.

Overall, indigenous peoples and their languages drive much of the world’s cultural and linguistic diversity, and sign languages make up only a small portion of this. But the particular diversity that sign languages exhibit contributes tremendously to our understanding of what language is.

Sign languages are acquired and processed in the brain just like spoken languages and fulfil all the same communicative functions. Yet they do so through vastly different means. Sign languages and tactile sign languages have taught us that our capacity for language is independent of any medium.

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Family-friendly Horrible Histories – Dreadful Deaf show announced for D/deaf audiences

Horrible Histories – Dreadful Deaf

Birmingham Stage Company and Deafinitely Theatre will collaborate on a new family show for D/deaf and hearing children based on the Horrible Histories franchise.

Entitled Horrible Histories – Dreadful Deaf, the piece delves into stories of deaf individuals throughout history. Performed in both spoken English and British Sign Language, the bilingual show will be directed by Deafinitely Theatre’s artistic director Paula Garfield.

Garfield said: “A few years ago I watched my deaf children reading and enjoying Horrible Histories and I was struck by the thought that it would be wonderful for them to have a ‘Deaf Horrible Histories’, showcasing the stories, culture and communities of deaf people throughout history.”

The piece is a new instalment in the Horrible Histories series of stage shows, which have been produced by Birmingham Stage Company over the last few years.

Dreadful Deaf will open at Bristol Old Vic on 29 May, with the show touring to York Theatre Royal, The North Wall in Oxford and Derby Theatre. Further dates and casting are to be announced.

The show is designed by Paul Burgess with lighting by Joe Horsnby and composition and sound design by Chris Bartholomew.

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NYPD rolling out new sign-language app to help officers speak with the deaf

NYPD rolling out new sign-language app to help officers speak with the deaf

The NYPD has given a thumbs up to a new video teleconferencing system that will help cops communicate with the deaf, the Daily News has learned.

As of Friday, every police officer in the five boroughs was given access to a Skype-like app on their NYPD smartphones, which will bring city sign-language interpreters face-to-face with victims in the field.

The decision to roll out the service comes after a successful two-month pilot program in three precincts in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman, the head of the department’s Office of Collaborative Policing.

“We got terrific feedback from people, both the officers and members of the public who said they were so pleased to be able to communicate that well,” Herman explained. “I think that there’s growing awareness that the NYPD is focusing on maximizing our communication with the public in many different ways. This is just the latest example.”

The program was tested in communities with “significant” deaf populations — in the 9th Precinct in the East Village, the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights, Queens, and the 121st Precinct in Graniteville, .

Cops in the three precincts used American Sign Language teleconferencing about a dozen times — helping deaf crime victims with everything from executing an order of protection to filling out complaint reports.

Police Officer Kevin Seidita was sitting at the telephone switchboard at the 9th Precinct stationhouse when a deaf woman came in to report that her groceries had been stolen.

She immediately took to a pen and paper — how deaf people historically communicated with cops — until Seidita used his smartphone.

The woman brightened up almost immediately — happy that she could sign to an interpreter, the officer said.

“It was so cool,” Seidita recalled. “It definitely establishes a positive line of communication. She was very thankful when we took the report. She kept signing, ‘Thank you so much.’ ”

The Police Department is informing leaders of the deaf community — as well as the 11,000 motorists who have registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles indicating they have issues with their hearing — about the service.

The NYPD has already sent picture cards out to deaf motorists to help police explain why they were pulled over, Herman said.

“Communication is the cornerstone of making public safety a shared responsibility,” said Herman. “If you can’t communicate, you can’t participate as well.”