Elm Park native Linda Rankin’s first language is Irish Sign Language.
A Clonmel woman “living in an isolated world” is campaigning for Irish Sign Language (ISL) to be recognised in society and for the necessary supports to be put in place in the areas of employment, education and access to public services for the deaf community.
Elm Park native Linda Rankin’s first language is ISL. Linda, the daughter of Lena and Norman who used to own a welding workshop in Irishtown, is actively involved in Irish Deaf Society’s ISL Awareness Week (runs until September 24), which has seen the organisation lead negotiations with Government over the passage of an Oireachtas bill that would officially recognise ISL. If passed, the bill would give deaf ISL users the legal right to access information in their preferred, accessible language.
A teacher at Holy Family School For The Deaf in Dublin, Linda began to realise the difficulties the deaf community face daily when she was in the latter stages of her education. “I went to St. Mary’s School for Deaf Girls in Dublin from the age of five and never had a struggle,” Linda tells The Nationalist through an interpreter.
“I had a good experience doing my honours degree in Business at LIT Clonmel - the classes were small, I had a supportive network around me and a note taker. It was only when I went on to do a Masters of Education at the University of Limerick that things became more difficult. I was lost in a theatre packed with 300 students,” she explains.
Clonmel's Linda Rankin.
Linda wants interpreters in mainstream schools for deaf kids who need to study the curriculum through ISL. “The supports in mainstream schools are questionable. Deaf children who rely on ISL should have an interpreter in their classroom - how are they suppose to learn through English? Of course there are posters on the walls of classrooms but they aren’t enough. Partially deaf kids need their own assistant. Special needs assistants in some schools have to share their time between five kids,” she underlines.
Four generations of Linda’s family are deaf, including parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and sister Siobhan. She feels passionately about getting ISL recognised, citing hurdles the deaf community have to overcome everyday. “Simple things like going to the cinema can be a struggle because you are relying on lip movement - there needs to be subtitling.
“There needs to be a service available if we have to ring an ambulance or the fire brigade in emergency situations. An interpreter should be provided if we end up in hospital,” the 32-year-old continues.
Linda also works at Deaf Enterprises in Cork, and highlights the difficulties deaf people have in their search for employment. “There is a struggle to find jobs - who is going to pay for the interpreter in the interview?” Linda questions.
Linda is helping with Irish Deaf Society’s fundraising for a suicide prevention workshop to be set up for the deaf community. She encourages the public to get involved in ISL Awareness Week and to check out the variety of community events nationwide including public talks that are being hosted by Irish Deaf Society under the theme of 'Full Inclusion with Sign Language'. The week aims to highlight the importance of gaining official recognition for ISL - Ireland’s native sign language used daily by up to 40,000 people - and to help break down barriers and increase public accessibility for deaf people. ISL Awareness Week is also part of a global celebration of deaf communities and sign languages worldwide.
ISL is not based on English or any other spoken language, but possesses all the agreed linguistic features that define a language, including its own structure, grammar and syntax.
Visit www.deaf.ie for more information. Donate €4 to the deaf community by texting DEAF to 50300 (Irish Deaf Society will receive a minimum of €3.25. Service provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 0766805278).