AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


Irish Sign Language Interpreting

Irish Sign Language (ISL) is the indigenous language of the Deaf community in Ireland. It is a visual, spatial language with its own syntax and complex grammatical structure. An ISL interpreter is a person who is qualified to interpret and facilitate successful communication for both the deaf and hearing person. Sign language interpreting is a highly complex skill. Interpreters are expected to have a formal qualification and membership of a professional interpreting association or registration body. Always use a qualified, professionally trained interpreter, ideally one with interpreting experience in employment settings and has knowledge about your organisation.

At present, during the pandemic, interpreters are working virtually at both in-person and virtually and most interpreters will be flexible and adaptable to working within your organisation’s video-calling platform.

When should I provide ISL interpretation?

It's very important to provide meaningful access, essentially this means only booking ISL interpreters if someone has requested it. Due to the high demand and short supply, booking an ISL interpreter when there has been no requests may mean preventing access for someone or an organisation who requires it elsewhere. 

  • Recruitment: if you have any Deaf candidates who use ISL as their first or preferred language and indicate that they will require an ISL interpreter as an accommodation, your organisation is required by law to provide this for their interview, be that in-person or virtual.
  • Onboarding: an ISL interpreter should be provided for a Deaf sign language user for induction, and any training or presentations, be that in-person or online. 
  • In the workplace: an ISL interpreter should be provided for team meetings or important meetings with their manager, be that in-person or online.
  • Employment progression: Deaf employees should have access to appropriate training opportunities and continuous professional development. Employers should be conscious that ISL interpretation may be required in these circumstances, be they in-person or online. Performance appraisals, virtual or in person, should also have an interpreter present.
  • Disciplinary procedures: if a formal discussion is required in relation to misconduct or poor performance of a Deaf employee, it is strongly recommended that an interpreter be provided, be that in person or online.

Always remember to ask the Deaf candidate/employee themselves in what situations they would like to have ISL interpretation present. They will know best when this will be required!

Where do I provide ISL interpretation?

  • Sign Language Interpreting Service offers two differences services; a referral service which will match an appropriate freelance interpreter for your organisation’s needs; and the Irish Remote Interpreting Service called IRIS which provides a live video-link to an ISL interpreter for short meetings for under 22 minutes. This is suitable for meetings with staff members, documentation and form filling.  
  • Bridge Interpreting are a booking agency who will work with your company in sourcing interpreters for your company.

Additional Resources

AHEAD partnered in an Eramus+ funded project, entitled DESIGNS. Part of this, a wealth of resources was produced for employers, interpreters and graduates.

Download the Employer Guide here

Download Working with Sign Language Interpreters Toolkit for Employers here

WAMinar: John Stewart - National Manager of SLIS

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