Shock announcement by sign language group in Laois

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Midlands ISL Learners group annnounces closure.

Midlands ISL Learners group annnounces closure.

An innovative Laois group that has made huge progress in just three years to integrate people without full hearing into the community, has made a sad announcement.

Midlands ISL Learners announced that it is to wind up over a lack of funding and supports, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group teaches hearing people including many students Irish Sign Language so they can communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing or non-verbal.

It was founded by Karen Malone who made the announcement last Wednesday, June 3.

"Good evening everyone. I hope you are all keeping well in these strange times. Unfortunately, it is with great sadness that we must announce that Midlands ISL Learners has had to close its doors permanently due to lack of funding and supports, particularly in this time of covid 19. On behalf of the tutors and board, I would like to thank you all for being a part of our journey and sincerely hope that you will continue to keep up your ISL. Wishing you all the very best," she said.

She has added that there were several reasons for the decision, "including a lack of support from volunteers to county council".

"It was a very difficult choice but it got to the point where it was too difficult to sustain. We lost out on a lot of fundraising this year and class fees etc which are vital in keeping us afloat. With social distancing now and new regulations our classes that we aimed to keep affordable, will just not be viable anymore," she told the Leinster Express.

"We are such a tiny organisation that volunteer support is essential to us and unfortunately it was incredibly hard to source volunteers that could give their time and commitment to us. We hope that everyone who learned Irish Sign Language with us will continue to keep up their practice and if they would like to continue, they can find great resources in regards to classes and tutorial videos on YouTube with the Irish Deaf Society or Chime," she said.

Her decision was met with sadness from many.

"God Im so sorry to hear. I really really will miss you all so much. Fiona and Karen, you two have taught me loads and have been absolutely amazing. You all have taught me something that I will never forget and taught me things I truly do appreciate and will remember forever. Thank you all so so much. Ill miss seeing you all," said Brigid Reidy Dundon.

"After working from such humble begnings of a few friends in your kitchen to several children and adults classes plus the choir it's very sad to see that such an affordable way of learning ISL, making our community more inclusive, has to close down," said Caitriona Fingleton.

"Oh no, it was such a pleasure to work with the group and also see the amazing work Karen Malone does with them, this is sad indeed and we hope you are able to continue however if not possible all the best in the future," said Bolaji Adeyanju from Laois Africa Support Group.

Midlands ISL Learners was a voluntary community organisation that sought to bridge the gap between the Deaf and Hearing communities, encouraging inclusivity and making Laois a Deaf Friendly place to live.

"Our goal is to create awareness, promote ISL and to ensure that Deaf/Hard of Hearing children and adults can work, live and play side by side with their Hearing peers without communication difficulties, whether that be in school, attending their GP or Hairdresser or ordering their food in a restaurant," they said.