Providing sign language interpreter would have made course ‘unviable’

Providing sign language interpreter would have made course ‘unviable’
Cork Deaf Club Chairman Graham O'Shea. Picture: David Keane.

THE chairperson of the Cork Deaf Club has criticised the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) for failing to provide an Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreter for courses.

Graham O’Shea said the policy goes against the ISL Act, which was signed into law in 2017 and which requires public bodies to “do all that is reasonable to ensure” that ISL interpretation is available.

Mr O’Shea purchased a new camera last year and wished to attend a course in artistic photography at Cork College of Commerce, so he enquired about the provision of ISL interpretation.

“In the end, the course didn’t run due to small numbers, but I would have been blocked from attending in any case as I would not have been able to follow the tutor’s explanations and instructions,” he told The Echo.

“Sometime after the course was due to start, I received an email from acting CEO John Fitzgibbons in relation to my enquiry.”

In his email to Mr O’Shea, Mr Fitzgibbons said the class he tried to attend does not come under the ISL Act.

Interpreters have been provided occasionally for evening classes, but always on an ad hoc basis, explained Mr O’Shea.

“The CETB’s current position is that it is not possible to provide interpreters and they believe that they have no legal obligation to do so,” said Mr O’Shea.

He said this flies in the face of the CETB values, which state a commitment to providing “a pathway for every learner”.

“Of course, Cork ETB saves money if they refuse to provide interpreters for evening courses, but they are ignoring all of their stated principles, including treating people with dignity and respect.”

The ISL Act calls on all public bodies to provide Irish Sign Language users with free interpretation when availing of or seeking to access statutory entitlements and services.

The ETB falls under the public body term in the act.

In a statement to The Echo, Mr Fitzgibbons said the CETB prides itself on its commitment to assisting all learners.

“CETB makes provision for learners with different needs and abilities across all our services, and is conscious of its social, as well as legal obligations,” he said. “In this particular instance, however, the course was run on the basis of being self-financing, meaning that providing an ISL interpreter would have rendered the course unviable.

“We regret that this was the situation and have already indicated to the individual our willingness to help him with any further options whereby he may be able to avail of courses provided by CETB.”

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