Message for the International Week of Deaf People
26th September, 2021
May I send my best wishes to all those taking part in this year’s International Week for Deaf People.
The theme that has been chosen for this year’s event is ‘Celebrating Thriving Deaf Communities’, reminding us of the importance of the benefits of working together, in solidarity, so as to ensure that the needs of all citizens are recognised, and that the most fundamental right – the right to a voice in your community – is respected.
We know that, in Ireland, an estimated five thousand people are recorded as deaf. We also know, however, that the deaf community is far bigger than that, comprising those who are deaf, those who are hard of hearing, their families, hearing people who work with the deaf, and friends of the deaf. It makes up, therefore, a broad and generous community that working together provides a great opportunity for the creation of a more inclusive Ireland.
Life for those who are deaf and hard of hearing may have changed significantly since the first International Week for Deaf People was held in Rome in 1958, but so much more needs to be done. Technological advances, better informed policies, and increased recognition of national sign languages have certainly all helped to create a more inclusive society or economy for deaf people.
It is a transformation which did not, of course, happen overnight but came about over many years, as a result of persistent effort and advocacy by committed deaf communities in countries across the globe, that were determined to effect positive change; and to ensure that those who are deaf or hard of hearing would no longer be invisible members of society, but active and very visible participants.
Despite the many improvements we have witnessed there remains, however, much work to be done if we are to create a fully equal and inclusive landscape for citizens who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Many obstacles still remain between deaf citizens and their right to fully access public and private services and information, for example. Many hurdles are still placed between deaf citizens and access to educational and employment opportunities. Many organisations and individuals continue to thoughtlessly stigmatise and discriminate against deaf citizens. In short, many deaf citizens continue to experience exclusion and isolation in their daily lives, and thus a denial of a full voice in the societies and economy to which they have so much to contribute.
I am deeply grateful to our deaf community for all they have done to improve the landscape here in Ireland for citizens who are deaf or hard of hearing. Your achievements have been many, and I know you will continue to work with vision and determination, building on those achievements and helping to create a nation truly founded on the principle of a citizenship, that is defined by participation and the right of all citizens to be represented and to have their voice heard.
Beir beannacht don todhchaí.
Go raibh maith agaibh.