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  • Resources
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  • Range of information leaflets
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The following information may assist you with planning access to your service/event to ensure your service is accessible to a person(s) with a disability who wishes to avail of a service, participate in or attend an event, session, service, etc.

Language and Access to Public Services

The EU Race Equality Directive was incorporated into Irish law in the form of the Equal Status Acts 2000-2004. The Acts relate to discrimination based on the following nine grounds:Gender, Marital Status, Family Status, Age, Race, Religion, Disability, Sexual Orientation, Membership of the Traveller community.A spokesperson for the Equality Authority stated that good governance and best practice would indicate that competent interpreters should be provided. Failure to appoint an interpreter could contravene the Equal Status Acts. However, no case has been taken on this issue to date and ultimately the final arbiter would be the Equality Tribunal.

Key pieces of legislation
  • Employment Equality Act, 1998
  • Safety Health and Welfare at work Act, 2005
  • Equal Status Act, 2000-2009
  • The Comhairle Bill, 2004
  • The Disability Act, 2005
  • International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights
  • Document 1966 (in force 1976)
  • People with DS
  • The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination
  • The Irish Constitution, 1937
  • Individual Needs Assessment, initially for under 5 years old (HSE)
  • Special Education Support Services
  • Disability Services HSE
  • FAS, Job interview Grant, Workplace adaptation Grant, Job
  • Coaching, etc see FAS Website
  • Children First Guidelines

Entitlements for People with Disabilities 2008

The Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle), set out entitlements for people withdisabilities. Chapter 16 (12th edition) provides information specifically on Equality for people with disabilities.

More information on Equality legislation is available from Citizens Information Board,

Citizens Information, Irish Statute Book, and the Equality Authority.

The Equal Status Act

The Equal Status Act, 2000-2004 gives protection against discrimination in non-employment areas including education, provision of goods, services and accommodation and disposal of property. It prohibits discrimination on nine grounds, including disability.  Services are defined broadly to include access to public places, banking and insurance services, entertainment, facilities for refreshment and transport.  The definitions of discrimination and disability are similar to those in the Employment  Equality Act,  1998-2004....A person selling goods or providing services, providers of accommodation  and educational institutions must do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability by providing special treatment or facilities in circumstances where without these, it would be impossible or difficult to avail of the goods, services, accommodation, etc.

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.

Access to services:

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.(3) (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.

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”.

Broadcasting Act 2001 sect 19 (11)

Access rules (now there)

The Broadcasting Act 2001 Section 19 (11) provided for Access Rules to be

established. 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”

Criminal Justice Act, 1984

(Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána Stations) Regulations. 1987 S.I. No. 119 of 1987

Interviews (general).

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).

Interpreters and the Legal Process

An Garda Siochana

The right to an interpreter in Garda stations and in criminal cases in court is clearly laid down in Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which was incorporated into Irish law in the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003.Article 5 Right to liberty and security5 2 Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.Article 6 Right to a fair trial6.3 Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.The right to an interpreter in garda stations and in the courts is very clearly set out in the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. However, the Criminal Justice Act 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána Stations) Regulations 1987 mentions sign language interpreters for deaf people in the section on Custody Regulations but when it comes to foreign nationals it merely mentions contact with the relevant consul. The C72 Information for Persons in Custody makes no mention of interpreters or the right to an interpreter.Intercultural Ireland Your Changing Community was drawn up by the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office in Harcourt Square. It contains the following extract from the Garda Manual of Crime Investigation Techniques (1994):When a person who does not understand either the Irish or English language is to be questioned, it will be necessary to secure the service of an interpreter. The following procedures should be observed:The person should be questioned through the interpreter who should record the statement in the language in which it is made.

A verbal translation should be made as the statement is taken so that any ambiguities can be rectified at the time.

All statements should be read over to the person making the statement and signed.

An official Irish or English translation should then be made and proved by the interpreter, as an exhibit with the original statement.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 Article 62 (1) states:A person who is or was a member of the Garda Síochána or of its civilian staff or who is engaged under contract or other arrangement to work with or for the Garda Síochána shall not disclose, in or outside the State, any information obtained in the course of carrying out the duties of that person’s office, employment, contract or other arrangement if the person knows the disclosure of that information is likely to have a harmful effect.An interpreter who discloses sensitive information about an assignment in a Garda station could be liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to €3,000 and/or a prison term of up to twelve months. If convicted on indictment the interpreter could be fined up to €50,000 and/or imprisoned for up to five years. It is unclear if interpreters who work in Garda stations are aware of this legislation.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales:

In all cases, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that an interpreter be fully competent for the task assigned;It is, therefore, important to be satisfied that the interpreter is both competent and appropriate for the task before engaging their services. This means checking the interpreter.s qualifications, experience of police and court procedures, professional accountability etc., and ensuring that gender, religious, political or cultural issues are addressed at the outset.


Caselaw dating back to 1929 covers the right to an interpreter. Indeed the judgement of Chief Justice Kennedy in the case of Attorney General v Joyce and Walsh is very clear:

It would seem to me to be a requisite of natural justice, particularly in a criminal trial, that a witness should be allowed to give evidence in the language which is his or her vernacular language, whether that language be Irish or English, or any foreign language; and it should follow, if the language used should not be a language known to the members of the court, that means of interpreting the language to the court (judge and jury) and also, in the case of evidence against a prisoner, that means of interpreting it to the prisoner should be provided.

The right to a fair trial obviously includes the right to understand proceedings and in adversarial proceedings the right to challenge testimony.

Public Services - Hospitals

Many Irish hospital websites include the 1994 Patients. Charter which although drawn up at a time when Ireland was mainly English speaking, includes the following:

You have the right to be informed of the nature of your illness or condition in language which you can fully understand, and to be informed concerning:

The results of your tests and x-rays;

The purpose, method, likely duration and expected benefit of the proposed treatment;

Alternative forms of treatment;

Possible pain or discomfort, risks and side-effects of the proposed treatment

You have the right to be treated with respect for your religious and philosophical beliefs.

Extract from Hands On website:

Tune in this Sunday the 24th of February for the first in a two part report on the biggest crisis facing the Irish Deaf Community today. We look at how Deaf people are being denied access to the most basic public services, the most worrying of these being the health services - including hospitals.The main reason for this is a lack of awareness among the health services and the Deaf community about their right to access services through Irish Sign Language Interpreters. A right that is enshrined in the Disability Act and Equal Status Act.We meet Deaf people who tell us about the difficulties they face every time they visit the hospital, and even more dangerously when they find themselves in emergency situations. We meet children of Deaf people who have been left with no option but to interpret for their parents at a time of much stress to themselves and in areas they are not qualified in.As well a reluctance on the part of many hospitals to provide qualified interpreters, or the use of inappropriate alternatives, we discover that SLIS, the government funded interpreter agency, is not providing a national 24 hour emergency service - we ask them why.As the Health Service Executive launch the Intercultural Health Strategy, which aims to improve access to the health services and interpreter provision for immigrants whose first language is not English, we ask why the Deaf community where not included in the scope of this strategy.Despite our requests, neither the HSE, who have responsibility for ensuring access to hospitals, or the Citizens Information Board, who are charged with overseeing SLIS, were able to provide us with a representative for an interview, they did however provide statements which you can read in full by clicking below.The main reason for this is a lack of awareness among the health services and the Deaf community about their right to access services through Irish Sign Language Interpreters. A right that is enshrined in the Disability Act and Equal Status Act.This week we look at the shortage of Interpreters in Ireland. We currently have less than 50 ISL/English Interpreters, of which only 13 are registered to work in medical or legal situations. This compares poorly to a country like Finland, who have a similar Deaf population but where there are 630 registered Interpreters. We meet Lorraine Leeson, director of Trinity College's Centre for Deaf Studies and Anne Coogan from the national Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS) to ask what is being done about the shortage.We also meet members of the Deaf community and health professionals to ask about their views and experiences, among them, Teresa Lynch, who tells of her experience with the US maternity services and her subsequent campaign for improved access to maternity services here. Eddie Redmond has a frightening story about being admitted to hospital for a simple finger surgery and how a communication breakdown meant he almost had a triple  bypass instead. Mary Stringer, a hearing child of Deaf parents tells us how interpreting for her critically ill father as a teenager led to an extremely dangerous situation and Professor Arnie Hill from Beaumount Hospital also expresses his views on treating Deaf patients without an interpreter.Finally Niall Crowley from the Equailty Autrority explains how you should and can go about making a complaint if you feel a service provider has not fufilled their obligations under the Equal Status Act.Don't miss all this vital information on Hands On this Sunday at 10.45am on RTÉ One!NB: In the first programme about access to the health services we mentioned that SLIS have received €3 million in funding from the government. It has come to our attention that this information is not correct and that this figure does not accurately represent the level of funding the agency receives. We would like to apologise for this mistake.

Interpreting, Translation and Public

Bodies in Ireland: The Need for Policy and Training

Acknowledgement:  Thanks are due to Cormac Leonard for his contribution to some of the content on this page.