An Tochar GAA talk with their hands to help the hard of hearing

A new campaign – #signmeup– to promote sign language and raise awareness of the challenges faced by people with hearing difficulties has been launched in GAA clubs across County Wicklow.

An Tochar GAA Club Wicklow, Irish Deaf Society, Wicklow Sports and Recreation Partnership, the GAA, the Camogie Association, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) and Wicklow GAA Health & Wellbeing Committee are behind the initiative.

The HSE reports that one in six people have some level of hearing loss, with one person in a thousand acutely deaf using Irish Sign Language (ISL) to communicate. The capacity to communicate, to be understood and to understand influences our sense of social inclusion and belonging. 

Rita Brady, Healthy Club Officer in An Tochar GAA Club is an ISL user who wanted to find a way to make her GAA community more aware of ISL and give people the opportunity to learn some Gaelic games ISL signs.

Her passion to achieve this was the catalyst to bring together a working group which included representatives from An Tochar GAA, the Irish Deaf Society, Wicklow Sports and Recreation Partnership, GAA, The Camogie Association, LGFA and Wicklow GAA Health & Wellbeing Committee to create an Irish Sign Language video. 

On the night the project was launched, Chris Brady, Rita’s husband, complimented the drive and ambition of his wife to see an idea of the videos come to fruition and be launched in such a manner in An Tochar.

The ISL working group put their creative minds together to develop content for Gaelic games ISL videos.  The Gaelic games ISL videos production was funded by Wicklow Sports & Recreation Partnership and Irish Life. Local Club and County Gaelic games players, referees, and volunteers along with Irish Deaf Society presenters from County Wicklow were delighted to be involved in creating the video and bringing #signmeup to life.  

Clara Jenkinson, Wicklow Sport & Recreation Partnership said: “This #Signmeup Irish Sign Language video embodies the vision of Wicklow Sport & Recreation Partnership, to have more people enjoying taking part.  The ISL video comes from a community passion to be inclusive in our sports, in our community and reduce barriers to participation in local GAA clubs for the deaf community of Wicklow and Ireland.”

The #Signmeup initiative includes the Gaelic games ISL video which shows the most commonly used GAA terms in Irish Sign Language.  Throughout the video as a Gaelic Games skill or action is demonstrated, the related ISL Sign is being shown.  The aim of the video is to create greater awareness of ISL and provide the viewer with the opportunity to learn some elements of our third national language and how it can be integrated into Gaelic games activities.  The video is accompanied by signage for club grounds providing QR codes directly linking to the videos.  It will also be shared widely on online channels and social media.

Speaking at the launch, Leas Cathaoirleach, Cllr Aoife Flynn Kennedy, took part in a panel discussion and highlighted the planned Disability Inclusion Strategy for Wicklow that is in development for the county and its importance adding: “Projects like this show the need and willingness of communities to adapt and do all that they can to be more inclusive”.

Brian Gleeson, Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council congratulated Rita and the committee on the videos and reinforced the supports available from Wicklow County Council for inclusion activities by both sports and community groups.  These are available through Wicklow Sports & Recreation partnership and the Community section in Wicklow County Council. 

With support from Wicklow County Health & Wellbeing Committee, several An Tochar GAA Club coaches, over a six-week period will roll out the #signmeup initiative by integrating the signs shown in the ISL Gaelic games video into their weekly training sessions as a way of creating awareness and embedding ISL in the club.  Other clubs in the county will be invited to take part in the #signmeup initiative and will be provided with pitch and indoor signage to promote it.

David Murray, Chairperson of Wicklow County Health & Wellbeing Committee, said: “The priority for County Health & wellbeing Committees is to support our clubs to respond to their needs. Being part of the #signmeup working group has been a fantastic experience! Creating a resource that generates awareness of ISL and how it can be introduced into our clubs will help create greater opportunity for those with hearing difficulties or loss to participate in more in club activities.”

As a community-based sports organisation that reaches into every corner of Ireland, the GAA know that the #signmeup initiative creates greater awareness of ISL and provides opportunities for its integration into our clubs with the aim of supporting our members who live with some level of hearing loss or are profoundly deaf by offering an inclusive, diverse, and welcoming environment for everyone.

GAA National Diversity & Inclusion Officer Geraldine McTavish stated: “The aim of the Gaelic Games Associations is to offer an inclusive, diverse, and welcoming environment for everyone. In the past number of years, we have been committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion within the GAA at all levels and in recent years we’ve seen the success of campaigns to increase participation in our games. It is another big breakthrough for us to bring this Gaelic Games Associations ‘Sign me up’ initiative to life for all of our members”.

For more information on the #signmeup initiative visit https://wicklowlsp.ie

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