Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Languages and Lives in Deaf Communities

John Conama

Direktor des Zentrums für Gehörlosenstudien am Trinity College Dublin (Irland)

John Conama ist Direktor des Zentrums für Gehörlosenstudien am Trinity College Dublin (Irland) und ehemaliger Leiter der irischen Gehörlosengesellschaft. Er ist Experte für die Sprachpolitik der Gebärdensprachen, einschliesslich der Anerkennung der irischen Gebärdensprache als offizielles Medium für die Kommunikation mit Behörden.


Sense of Community – the Irish Deaf Community: Results & Reflections

There is a strong perception among members of the Irish deaf community that the community is in gradual decline, with dwindling traditional bases for producing Irish Sign Language (ISL) users. For instance, enrolments in residential schools for the deaf have been declining steadily, and the numbers involved in social, sports and cultural activities in the community have been falling. Therefore, this ongoing research entitled Sense of Community – the Irish Deaf Community seeks to explore the notion and strength of community belonging amongst the deaf community in Ireland. This project report presents the results of one element of this research, i.e. an online survey study conducted in June 2020. Initial analysis of the results of this survey indicates that ISL is one of the primary bonds holding the Irish deaf community together. Preliminary results were discussed in a series of community dialogues. Issues discussed, such as technological advances, educational policies for deaf children in mainstream education, and individualisation and increased social mobility, have also impacted how this community operates. Yet, there is a general sense of vagueness regarding how the community as a concept can benefit them. In recent months, interviews have been carried out with several deaf people from various backgrounds. Their responses are being analysed at the moment, but there are early indicators of how they perceive the current situation of how the community functions.  There is an ongoing but informal discussion on the unsustainability of current community models.