Wednesday 19 June 2019

Show of hands to spell awareness for sign language

Allison Bray

A HOST of well-known faces will be gracing the walls of a photo exhibition as they spell out the alphabet in sign language.

Footballer Robbie Keane, novelist Roddy Doyle and singer Andrea Corr are just some of the 26 celebrities who posed for portraits taken by deaf photographer Johnny Corcoran to raise awareness of Irish Sign Language (ISL).

Each participant was assigned a letter of the alphabet that personally resonates with them to "sign".

For Roddy Doyle, it was the letter "L" representing literature. Celebrity chef Rachel Allen was given "C" for chef; while Robbie Keane and Giovanni Trapattoni were assigned "I" for Ireland.


The celebrities, including Westlife and Jedward, can be seen at the 'Signs of Life' exhibit at Filmbase in Dublin's Temple Bar.

But organisers of the event are keeping the identity of the other celebrities involved a closely-guarded secret in order to lure as many people to the show as possible.

The exhibition is free and opens on October 11 and runs until October 15, after which it will tour the country as a roadshow. Volunteers from the Irish Deaf Society will also be on hand to give short lessons in the sign language.

The concept behind the exhibit is to raise awareness of ISL.

The sign language which is unique to Ireland is used by an estimated 40,000 people here.

Although there is a basic international sign language used by hearing impaired people across the globe, Ireland's own ISL is distinctly Irish, reflecting Irish culture and dialects, according to Kevin Mulqueen, chairman of the Irish Deaf Society (IDS).

"We want to raise awareness about ISL, which many people are amazed to find has its own linguistic structure -- just the same as any other language," said IDS chairman Kevin Mulqueen.

"Despite its status as one of the most widely used languages in this country, ISL is not officially recognised by the Government, meaning deaf people struggle to access basic services in what might be their first language," he said.

Some of the participants, including TV3 presenter Sinead Desmond -- who has a deaf brother -- are already well versed in ISL.

Irish Independent

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