The following is a list of sections and quotes in current Irish legislation and Statutory Instruments (SIs) that mention provision of an interpreter. This is NOT intended to be used as a legal guide; please consult a solicitor or the Equality Authority for more detailed information.
Irish Sign Language Act 2017
The Irish Sign Language Act 2017 recognises the right of the Deaf community to use ISL as their native language and to use, develop and preserve it. The Act places a corresponding duty on all public bodies to provide ISL speakers with free interpretation when availing of or seeking to access statutory entitlements and services. The full Act is available here.
The Act has now been commenced as at 23 December 2020.
As part of the Act, a Register of Irish Sign Language Interpreters (RISLI) has been established. Please note that a court or a public body, in compliance with its obligations under the Act, shall not engage the services of an interpreter unless their competence has been verified by membership of this Register.
A new company, the Regulatory Centre for Irish Sign Language, CLG has been established by SLIS, supported by CIB. Its function is to maintain the Register, and the quality assurance scheme which will strengthen and guarantee the quality of ISL provision, by ensuring that Interpreters reach specified standards to be admitted on the register and then partake in continuous professional development to maintain their registration status.
A Voucher Scheme has also been established, which will allow individuals to book interpretation services to meet their needs in respect of access to social, cultural and education activities. Covid19 health guidelines have impacted on the project timelines in this regard, and the commencement of the pilot is now scheduled for Q 2 2021, subject to compliance with public health guidelines in place at that time.
On Speaking Terms – Good Practice Guidelines for HSE Staff in the Provision of Interpreting Services.
p10 – “Staff should let patients know that they have the right to an interpreter to assist in communication. It should be made clear that there is no cost to the patient and that staff will arrange for the interpreter (the patient does not have to do this). The patient can use or refuse the assigned interpreter.”
P19 – “Using family or friends to interpret is not recommended for a number of reasons… Using family or friends to interpret must be discouraged. Attempting to ‘muddle through’ with a patient’s family or friend is not good practice.”
P20 – “Children should never be used as interpreters. Using children as interpreters totally disregards the harmful effects it may have on the child.”
p21 – “Under no circumstances should staff be asked to interpret in clinical situations. It is unethical and unprofessional to use, or to ask, a member of staff to interpret in a clinical situation, regardless of their proficiency in the language needed. “
National Guidelines on Accessible Health and Social Care Services – A guidance document for staff on the provision of accessible services for all
p. 52 – “Patients and service users are entitled to request and be provided with a qualified sign language interpreter. While the onus is on the service user to request an interpreter, it is the responsibility of staff to make the arrangements.
Staff should routinely let service users know that:
- they have the right to an interpreter to assist in communication
- there is no cost to the service user; and
- staff will arrange for the interpreter
It is considered good practice for services to arrange an interpreter without being prompted in cases where repeat visits are necessary or where it is known in advance that the service user needs one. Not providing a qualified sign language interpreter when delivering care to a patient or service user places the health or social care provider in a precarious situation:
- information may be misinterpreted or misunderstood which may lead to a potential adverse
outcome for the patient or service user; or
- the lack of provision of a qualified sign language interpreter may result in invalid consent for
invasive medical or surgical procedures
An interpreter may also be necessary if the primary carer or advocate of a patient / service user is Deaf; for example, Deaf parents with a child who can hear. “
Criminal Justice Act, 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána Stations) Regulations. 1987; S.I. No. 119 of 1987
12. (8) (a) Where an arrested person is deaf or there is doubt about his hearing ability, he shall not be questioned in relation to an offence in the absence of an interpreter, if one is reasonably available, without his written consent (and, where he is under the age of seventeen years, the written consent of an appropriate adult) or in the circumstances specified in paragraph (7) (a) (iii).
Courses and Education
Education Act 1998
According to the Education Act 1998 Deaf people in the education system in Ireland are legally entitled to support services in order to facilitate their education. This encompasses provision for students learning through Irish Sign Language and includes interpreting services. Section 7 of the Education Act 1998 stipulates:
Each of the following shall be a function of the Minister under this Act:
To ensure, subject to the provisions of this Act, that there is made available to each person resident in the State, including a person with a disability or who has other special educational needs, support services and a level and quality education appropriate to meeting the needs and abilities of that person
To plan and co-ordinate such “support services”.
In the Interpretation section of the Education Act 1998, there is the following definition of support services:
“Support services,” means the services which the Minister provides to students or their parents, schools or centres for education in accordance with section 7 and shall include…
- “Provision for students learning through Irish Sign Language or other sign language, including interpreting services”.
Equal Status Act 2000 (Colleges & Schools)
The Equal Status Act 2000 prohibits colleges from discriminating against students on the basis of disability. The Act applies to all education institutions, both public and private, which are prohibited from discriminating against students with disabilities in terms of:
- Terms and conditions of admission
- Access to any course
- Access to any facility or benefit provided
- Any other terms or condition of participation in the establishment
(Section 7 (2) (a-c)
The Equal Status Act 2000 section 4 (1) states that
“…discrimination includes a refusal or failure by the provider of the service to do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability by providing special treatment or facilities, if without such special treatment or facilities it would be impossible or unduly difficult for the person to avail himself or herself of the service”.
Revenue facilities for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing (see here)
- An Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreter service will be arranged on request for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Please contact your Access officer to arrange this service.
- All members of the deaf community can access our services through Irish Remote Interpreting Service (IRIS). This free service is provided by the Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS), the national SLIS for Ireland. Deaf people can communicate with Revenue staff in their own language (Irish Sign Language) with an ISL interpreter on screen. To book an appointment with Revenue for this service, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact an Access officer.
General Access to Public Services
Disability Act 2005
The Disability Act 2005 sets out requirements relating to access to buildings,services and information. Government departments and public bodies are required to make their mainstream public services accessible to people with disabilities. This includes making information available in accessible formats and providing supports to access services where practicable. This legislation was enacted on 8th July 2005.
The Disability Act 2005 states:
26.—(1) Where a service is provided by a public body, the head of the body shall—
(a) where practicable and appropriate, ensure that the provision of access to the service by persons with and persons without disabilities is integrated,
(b) where practicable and appropriate, provide for assistance, if requested, to persons with disabilities in accessing the service if the head is satisfied that such provision is necessary in order to ensure compliance with paragraph (a), and
(c) where appropriate, ensure the availability of persons with appropriate expertise and skills to give advice to the body about the means of ensuring that the service provided by the body is accessible to persons with disabilities.
27.—(1) Where a service is provided to a public body, the head of the body shall ensure that the service is accessible to persons with disabilities.
Access to Information
The Disability Act 2005 states:
28.—(1) Where a public body communicates with one or more persons, the head of the body shall ensure—
(a) if the communication is an oral one and the person or persons aforesaid has a hearing impairment and so requests, or
(b) if the communication is a written one and the person or persons aforesaid has a visual impairment and so requests,
that, as far as practicable, the contents of the communication are communicated in a form that is accessible to the person concerned.
Employment Equality Act 1998
The Employment Equality Act 1998 outlaws discrimination in employment on nine distinct grounds: Disability, gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, race, membership of the Traveller community.
The Employment Equality Act 1998 imposes an additional duty of ‘reasonable accommodation’ on employers in relation to people with disabilities. An employer must do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability, unless the employer can show that there is a cost to him/her other than a nominal cost.
An employer is not obliged to recruit, train or retain in employment a person who is not fully competent or capable to undertake the duties attached to the post:
16.—(1) Nothing in this Act shall be construed as requiring any person to recruit or promote an individual to a position, to retain an individual in a position, or to provide training or experience to an individual in relation to a position, if the individual—
(a) will not undertake (or, as the case may be, continue to undertake) the duties attached to that position or will not accept (or, as the case may be, continue to accept) the conditions under which those duties are, or may be required to be, performed, or
(b) is not (or, as the case may be, is no longer) fully competent and available to undertake, and fully capable of undertaking, the duties attached to that position, having regard to the conditions under which those duties are, or may be required to be, performed.
However, a person with a disability will be regarded as fully competent and capable of performing the duties attached to a post if, with the provision of special treatment or facilities, the employee would be fully competent and capable:
(2) In relation to—
(a) the provision by an employment agency of services or guidance to an individual in relation to employment in a position,
(b) the offer to an individual of a course of vocational training or any related facility directed towards employment in a position, and
(c) the admission of an individual to membership of a regulatory body or into a profession, vocation or occupation controlled by a regulatory body,
subsection (1) shall apply, with any necessary modification, as it applies to the recruitment of an individual to a position.
(a) For the purposes of this Act, a person who has a disability shall not be regarded as other than fully competent to undertake, and fully capable of undertaking, any duties if, with the assistance of special treatment or facilities, such person would be fully competent to undertake, and be fully capable of undertaking, those duties.
(b) An employer shall do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person who has a disability by providing special treatment or facilities to which paragraph (a) relates.
(c) A refusal or failure to provide for special treatment or facilities to which paragraph (a) relates shall not be deemed reasonable unless such provision would give rise to a cost, other than a nominal cost, to the employer.
Television and Broadcasting
Broadcasting Act 2001 sect 19 (11): Access rules
The Broadcasting Act 2001 Section 19 (11) provided for Access Rules to beestablished. In February 2005 the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI)officially launched the Access Rules. The Access Rules refer to the actions that broadcasters must take to enhance access to their services among people with visual and hearing difficulties. The rules took effect from 1st March 2005.
Section 19 (11) of the Broadcasting Act 2001 states:
• “The Commission shall make rules requiring each broadcaster to take specified steps to promote the understanding and enjoyment by… Persons who are deaf or have a hearing impairment”.