The following information is not intended to be used as a legal guide; please consult a solicitor/barrister, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and/or Office of the Ombudsman for legal advice.
Many organisations have staff with responsibility in this area (such as an equality officer, disability officer, access officer, diversity officer, etc.), who can also offer guidance.
For information on the Dept. of Social Protection interpreting access policy, which covers Intreo, CWO, social welfare offices, CIC, MABS, NAS, click here.
For information on interpreters at schools, i.e. parent-teacher meetings etc., please scroll down or go to Interpreting FAQs.
Certain Irish legislation and Statutory Instruments relate to the provision of access through Irish Sign Language (ISL) to members of the Deaf community, including —
- Irish Sign Language Act 2017
- Equal Status Act 2000
- Disability Act 2005
- Employment Equality Act 1998
- Education Act 1998
- Criminal Justice Act 1984
A detailed summary of the Irish Sign Language Act 2017 is available on the Deaf Community page of this website. The Act recognises Irish Sign Language as the native language of the Irish Deaf community and places clear responsibilities on government bodies to provide access to services through ISL.
Equal Status Act 2000: The Equal Status Act 2000 section 4 (1) states that “…discrimination includes a refusal or failure by the provider of the service to do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability by providing special treatment or facilities, if without such special treatment or facilities it would be impossible or unduly difficult for the person to avail himself or herself of the service”.
Disability Act 2005: The Disability Act 2005 sets out requirements relating to access to buildings, services and information. Government departments and public bodies are required to make their mainstream public services accessible to people with disabilities. This includes making information available in accessible formats and providing supports to access services where practicable.
“26.—(1) Where a service is provided by a public body, the head of the body shall—
(a) where practicable and appropriate, ensure that the provision of access to the service by persons with and persons without disabilities is integrated,
(b) where practicable and appropriate, provide for assistance, if requested, to persons with disabilities in accessing the service if the head is satisfied that such provision is necessary in order to ensure compliance with paragraph (a), and
27.—(1) Where a service is provided to a public body, the head of the body shall ensure that the service is accessible to persons with disabilities.”
In relation to access to information the Disability Act 2005 states: “28.—(1) Where a public body communicates with one or more persons, the head of the body shall ensure—
(a) if the communication is an oral one and the person or persons aforesaid has a hearing impairment and so requests, … that, as far as practicable, the contents of the communication are communicated in a form that is accessible to the person concerned.”
Employment Equality Act 1998: The Employment Equality Act 1998 outlaws discrimination in employment on nine distinct grounds: Disability, Gender, Marital Status, Family Status, Sexual Orientation, Religious Belief, Age, Race, Membership of the Traveller Community.
The Employment Equality Act 1998 imposes an additional duty of ‘reasonable accommodation’ on employers in relation to people with disabilities. An employer must do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability, unless the employer can show that there is a cost to him/her other than a nominal cost.
“…a person with a disability will be regarded as fully competent and capable of performing the duties attached to a post if, with the provision of special treatment or facilities, the employee would be fully competent and capable:
(2) In relation to—
(a) the provision by an employment agency of services or guidance to an individual in relation to employment in a position,
(b) the offer to an individual of a course of vocational training or any related facility directed towards employment in a position, and
(c) the admission of an individual to membership of a regulatory body or into a profession, vocation or occupation controlled by a regulatory body, subsection (1) shall apply, with any necessary modification, as it applies to the recruitment of an individual to a position.
(3) (a) For the purposes of this Act, a person who has a disability shall not be regarded as other than fully competent to undertake, and fully capable of undertaking, any duties if, with the assistance of special treatment or facilities, such person would be fully competent to undertake, and be fully capable of undertaking, those duties.
(3) (b) An employer shall do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person who has a disability by providing special treatment or facilities to which paragraph (a) relates.
(3) (c) A refusal or failure to provide for special treatment or facilities to which paragraph (a) relates shall not be deemed reasonable unless such provision would give rise to a cost, other than a nominal cost, to the employer.”
Equal Status Act 2000 (Colleges & Schools): Section 7 (2) (a-c) of the Equal Status Act 2000 prohibits colleges from discriminating against students on the basis of disability. The Act applies to all education institutions, both public and private, which are prohibited from discriminating against students with disabilities in terms of:
- Terms and conditions of admission
- Access to any course
- Access to any facility or benefit provided
- Any other terms or condition of participation in the establishment
Education Act 1998: According to the Education Act 1998 Deaf people in the education system in Ireland are legally entitled to support services in order to facilitate their education. This encompasses provision for students learning through Irish Sign Language and includes interpreting services. Section 7 of the Education Act 1998 stipulates:
Each of the following shall be a function of the Minister under this Act:
- To ensure, subject to the provisions of this Act, that there is made available to each person resident in the State, including a person with a disability or who has other special educational needs, support services and a level and quality education appropriate to meeting the needs and abilities of that person
- To plan and co-ordinate such “support services”.
Support services are defined as follows: “Support services,” means the services which the Minister provides to students or their parents, schools or centres for education in accordance with section 7 and shall include… “Provision for students learning through Irish Sign Language or other sign language, including interpreting services”.
Criminal Justice Act 1984: (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána Stations) Regulations. 1987, Statutory Instrument No. 119 of 1987). Interviews (general).
- (8) (a) Where an arrested person is deaf or there is doubt about his hearing ability, he shall not be questioned in relation to an offence in the absence of an interpreter, if one is reasonably available, without his written consent (and, where he is under the age of seventeen years, the written consent of an appropriate adult) or in the circumstances specified in paragraph (7) (a) (iii).
Sign Language Interpreting in Schools (parent-teacher meetings etc.):
- NCSE’s Policy Advice Paper The Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Ireland (2011) recommends the use of sign language interpreters when meeting parents who are Deaf sign language users. Click here for a copy of this policy advice paper.
- Interpreting provision in schools was the subject of two Dail questions in October and November 2007. The Minister for Education responded by stating that “schools’ running costs are met by my Department’s scheme of capitation grants which affords schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. These grants are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of schools. This flexibility allows schools to engage interpreters to facilitate interaction with deaf parents where necessary.”