RTÉ One, Saturday, 12.30pm, Repeat Sunday 10.30am
Hands On

This week - 4th May 2008

Fergus Dunne
Fergus Dunne
ISL Parade
ISL Parade

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Short Film Competition
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Tune in this Sunday for another great Best Of Hands On programme. This week we put together our two History of Irish Sign Language programmes into one fascinating look at an amazing history. Sean Herlihy presents with some interesting facts from Senan Dunne.

In this programme we track the development of Irish Sign Language from its origins up to the introduction of oralism - a method that banned the use of sign language in the Deaf schools. Through interviews with historian Rachel Pollard we see the role the first Deaf school, Claremont, played in the development of the language. We also learn that, uniquely to Ireland, gender division in the Deaf schools led to the language developing in such a way that Male and Female signs were, and to a certain extent still are, radically different. Stan Foran tells of how with the "Blue Book" there was an attempt to unify both languages.

From interviews with John Bosco Conama, Carmel Grehan, Marian Moloney and Fergus Dunne, we find out the huge impact Oralism had on the language and that for a time there were fears it could mean an end for ISL. Past pupils explain how the schools were divided into oral and signing classes and tell us about the attitude that existed towards "Deaf and Dumb" pupils, who were largely hidden from the other pupils.

We also look at how ISL survived 40 years of Oralism. We see how the ban on signing in schools led to a generational difference in the language of older generation and younger generations of Deaf people.

We find out that in 1979 that the planned International Year of the Disabled for 1981 was the catalyst for the setting up of the Deaf Action Group. This was a committee that campaigned for rights for the Deaf Community and later became the Irish Deaf Society.

We see that in the 1960's and 1970's research in America showed that ASL and other national Sign Languages were separate languages with their own structure and grammar. This motivated Irish Deaf people and they realised ISL was a unique language and they had a right to use it.

In the 1980's ISL got back into schools and around the country Deaf Units began to be set up. This led to regional differences in ISL. From Cathy McCormack we find out how mainstreaming can be difficult both while at school and later when trying to fit in with the Deaf community without having ISL.

We look at the ongoing campaign for the recognition of ISL and how although it has recognition in the Education Act, the next step is for constitutional Recognition.

Don't miss it this Sunday at 10.45am on RTÉ One!


The Deaf Heritage Centre has published a book on the 150th Anniversary of St. Joseph's School for Deaf Boys. If you would like to purchase the book or for more information contact: St. Joseph's Deaf Heritage Centre, Cabra, Dublin 7 or Email: deafheritagecentre@eircom.net

Irish Deaf Society (IDS)

Centre for Deaf Studies

St. Mary's School for Deaf Girls

St Joseph's School for Deaf Boys

St Joseph's Deaf Heritage Centre
Email: deafheritagecentre@eircom.net
Navan Road,
Dublin 7
Dublin Deaf Association (Deaf Club)
40 Drumcondra Road Lower,
Dublin 9
Tel: 01 830 0522
Fax: 01 860 0231.

Gallaudet University

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