Authorities in Ireland have been slow to ensure accessible information and it is clear that it is not included in standard emergency communication protocols. After sustained lobbying over the last month by organisations and the Deaf community the situation has improved.
In Ireland, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Government have been continuously providing information on the Covid-19 situation. The Coronavirus outbreak in Ireland started on the 29th February. At that stage there were no Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreters provided and no information available in ISL.
This was a source of great concern for the Irish Deaf community and service organisations.
The Irish Deaf Society (IDS), the Council of Irish Sign Language Interpreters, Sign Language Interpreting Services, Bridge Interpreting, Chime, members of the Deaf community and many more gave critical feedback and lobbied for this to be addressed.
There are 3 main organisations in Ireland providing briefings on Covid19: The Health Services Executive (HSE), the Department of Health and the Government Press Office. After a slow start they have all introduced live interpreting with the HSE and Department of Health responding reasonably quickly to feedback. However, the Government Press Office was not including it for every briefing up this week. It looks now like we have finally reached a point where we can presume there will be a live interpreter for all Covid19 briefings from the main authorities and we will continue to monitor.
There have been quality issues in terms of interpreter positioning and environmental issues such as lighting, however these have been isolated and feedback has been accepted and acted on.
The HSE have their own website with information about the Covid19 in English. Initially their response was disappointing and four ISL videos were created but included only summary information. This week we have partnered with HSE to produce ISL translations for all key content and monitor their updates to determine the need for additional translations in the coming months, this work is funded by the HSE.
The IDS has developed a webpage where we will post all information we translate regarding the Coronavirus, you can see this at the following link: https://www.irishdeafsociety.ie/coronavirus-isl-support/. All the information on that page has come directly from the HSE, RTE and the Government as they are the most trustworthy sources for our information. The translations to date have been done by our own staff and volunteers. We are looking forward to adding more significant content next week, noting that it will be supplied to our community many weeks after information was provided for the hearing community.
The quality of subtitles have been impressive, in the past this was not the case and RTE's provision of subtitles was not sufficient. However, the quality of subtitles depends on the platform such as Virgin Media and Sky, this split responsibility can make it difficult to follow up and report on. We have not yet received significant feedback from the Deaf community regarding subtitles as everyone is focused on ISL provision.
The IDS are working hard with the CISLI, SLIS and the HSE to ensure access for the Deaf Community, including access at the Covid-19 testing centres.
There is still a long way to go but we are making good progress. Overall, there needs to be a big improvement as this is not the first time we have had to lobby for access to vital information.