Towards Ensuring Access Provision to Public Health Services for the Irish Deaf Community



International evidence indicates that sign language users experience inequalities and disparities when accessing public health systems, as compared against their hearing peers. Among the most persistent barriers are poor communication and low deaf awareness levels among healthcare professionals. In order to eradicate this disadvantage from our public health system, it is important to first fully understand the audist systems and practices which privilege hearing ways of being, so that we are better-placed to dismantle them.  

Aims and Objectives

The project sets out to understand the persistent gap between best practice standards and inconsistent access provision for Irish Sign Language users in public health services, towards identifying strategies to eliminate the discrimination experienced by members of the Deaf community.

The project objectives are to:

  • ascertain the levels of awareness among HSE Access Officers of the standards enshrined in the Irish Sign Language Act 2017 and the associated public sector duty
  • examine the perceived challenges associated with implementing the legislation
  • explore the potential for procedural innovation to support the HSE towards fulfilment of its public sector duty in accordance with the Act.

ISL HEALTH Research Report (Sept. 2023)Key findings and recommendations from a project aiming to support the effective implementation of the Irish Sign Language Act 2017 in public healthcare settings.

Project Funding and Dates

Funded by the Irish Research Council New Foundations Programme 2021, this project runs from 2022 - 2023.

Project Team

Dr Gill Harold (PI) and Dr Noel O' Connell (Post-doctoral Researcher) from the School of Applied Social Studies & ISS21, working in partnership with Cork Deaf Association and Kerry Deaf Resource Centre (endorsed civil society partners); and the HSE’s National Office for Human Rights and Equality Policy (Advisory/consultative partner).

To contact the project team, please email Gill Harold at 


Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21)

Top Floor, Carrigbawn/Safari Building, Donovan Road, Cork, T12 YE30