05/04/2004

Human Rights Commission welcomes sign language recognition

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission today welcomed last week's announcement that the Government has formally recognised British and Irish Sign Languages as minority languages in Northern Ireland.

The Commission paid tribute to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) for the work it has done in persuading the Government to take this important step.

The Commission emphasised that it had long held the view that sign languages needed to be protected by law in Northern Ireland.

Brice Dickson, the Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, said: “This formal recognition of British and Irish Sign Languages by the Government is long overdue. Deaf people’s basic right to communicate has for far too long gone unprotected by our law.

"We look forward to further practical steps being taken to give this recognition some real meaning. The Commission will be pleased to work with the RNID in trying to ensure that this happens.”

Secretary of State, Paul Murphy announced the news last week at a special reception at Hillsborough Castle to mark the success of the European Year of People with Disabilities.

He said: "As well as helping to raise awareness of the particular requirements of deaf people, this recognition will also see the 11 Northern Ireland Government Departments joining forces to work proactively in partnership with representatives of the Deaf community to develop ideas for improving access to public services."

The Secretary of State explained that such improvements could, for example, include the provision of more tutors of sign language, better interpretation services and the installation of specialist equipment in public offices.

(MB)

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