• Lero backed programme also aims to improve communication between deaf and non-deaf

UCD has developed an initiative to boost communication between deaf and non-deaf people on campus and promote the College as a welcoming place for deaf students in Ireland. The programme is backed by Lero, the SFI Irish Software Research Centre.

The initiative, the UCD Deaf Awareness Series, grew out of a separate R&D programme announced last month under which Lero researchers at UCD are working with Microsoft Skype on an application to facilitate communication between deaf and non-deaf people in situations where a human interpreter is unavailable or the non-deaf individual has no knowledge of Irish Sign Language.

“UCD’s Access & Lifelong Learning Centre provides interpreters to deaf students for all lectures but this is not generally known outside the College. Internally, we have also identified a need to increase awareness amongst students and staff around how they can communicate better with deaf students even if they don’t know Irish Sign Language,” commented Elayne Ruane, a UCD Computer Science student and a Lero researcher.

The UCD initiative will involve a series of TEDx style cultural and scientific talks before the Irish Sign Language Awareness Week kicks off. Videos of the talks will be posted on social media after the event.

“There are many simple adjustments that can be made when interacting with a deaf person to improve communication even if you don’t know any Sign Language,” pointed out Dr Anthony Ventresque, Lero researcher and Director of the UCD Complex Software Lab.

“For example, if a deaf person can lip read, common actions like turning your head mid-sentence or engaging in side conversations in a group can totally disrupt what is an already challenging task. We aim to raise awareness of similar behaviours as part of our UCD Deaf Awareness Series.”

“All programmes in UCD are available through ISL and it's important to keep spreading that message,” said Dr. Lisa Padden, Inclusive Education Coordinator in the UCD Access & Lifelong Learning Centre.

“We wish to increase participation of the deaf community in higher education and specifically increase the number of ISL users on campus in UCD. UCD is a University for All: we want the student population in UCD to reflect the diversity of Irish society.”

The event is part of the SPARC programme run by the UCD Career Development Centre to enable UCD staff and students to work together on projects that make UCD and/or the surrounding community a better place to learn, work and live.