Monthly Archives: September 2013

Educational Policy and Language Rights for the Irish Deaf Community

We want to welcome our new colleague visiting from Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Lorraine Leeson, Cornell Visiting Distinguished Professor in Linguistics!

We also want to invite you to an upcoming lecture she will be offering at Swarthmore College:

“Going Against the Current: Educational Policy and Language Rights for the Irish Deaf Community”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lecture: 4:30-5:30, Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall, Swarthmore College

Faculty Reception: 5:45-7:00, Wister Center, Swarthmore Collegee

Prof. Lorraine Leeson

Cornell Visiting Distinguished Professor Lorraine Leeson

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are an estimated 72 million deaf people in our world today, but only 17% access education. Of these, some 3% have access to bilingual education: that is, an education where the local signed language is a language of the curriculum. This talk considers the impact that lack of access to an education in a signed language has had for members of one particular Deaf community – the Irish Deaf community. (Unintended) outcomes of Irish educational policy have included the evolution of gendered and generational variants of Irish Sign Language, and for many, functional illiteracy in English, limited access to higher education, underemployment, poor access to public services and relative poverty. These are not natural outcomes of being Deaf, but rather outcomes emerging from a societal response that sees “deafness” as a deficit, as “problem”, as a medical condition requiring mitigation or cure. Against this rather bleak backdrop we consider how the Irish Deaf community attempts to swim against the tide of policy that impacts negatively on their linguistic position and we ask what the future may hold for Irish Sign Language users.


Theatre of Witness at the Derry Playhouse

Photo Credit: Arts Council Northern Ireland

Photo Credit: Arts Council Northern Ireland

Several students who have participated in the Northern Ireland Semester program have worked with former Swarthmore professor, Teya Sepinuck, in Theatre of Witness programs at the Playhouse in Derry.

In her book,Theatre of Witness: Finding the Medicine in Stories of Suffering, Transformation and Peace, Sepinuck writes about the method used in these productions that draw on the experiences of people deeply impacted by violence and suffering. The participants develop their stories and become the cast.

Listen to this excellent RTE radio documentary presented by Barbara Walshe about the Theatre of Witness project in Northern Ireland.