A new education and cultural hub for Londonderry’s minority deaf community has opened in the city centre.
The new premises in Queen Street were officially launched by the Foyle Deaf Association (FDA) on Friday (May 1).
Richard McFadden from the FDA said: “We are a unique centre for a minority deaf community, many of whom are sadly lacking in confidence and often feel intimidated.
“Our aim is to build the confidence of all those who use our centre, to enable them to go on to integrate in all other non-deaf facilities in our shared region.
“Our centre is a safe hub for all those who use it and we aim to branch out into the wider community with our outreach projects.
“This will result in more deaf people then using the shared local facilities and having a positive impact overall.
“We attract a culturally diverse cross section from our community, from within an already minority group.
“Known to our centre currently are deaf foreign nationals from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Armenia and Africa.
“Inclusion is of our highest priority and we are working hard to build bridges in the gaps that are currently a challenge.”
The FDA was established six years ago by a group of deaf sign language users in both Irish (ISL) and British Sign Language (BSL) to relieve the needs of hearing impaired people in any part of the world (but especially in Ireland and the UK and Northern Ireland).
Since then it’s aimed to advance education through sign language; to educate people about signed languages, deaf awareness and cultures; to promote sign language cultural activities (including the visual and performing arts, music and literary activities) in all its forms; to educate the general public by promoting awareness and organising research into the history, folklore and cultural heritage of the sign languages community; to promote public events delivered through or taken in sign language; to train and develop the skills of people in the sign language field; to function as a sign language community organisation and as a language development agency; to assist sign language users with issues concerning sign language rights; and to promote sign language medium education and encourage the growth of early years education and beyond through sign language.
Mr McFadden added: “In addition we aim to reduce discrimination of deaf people through promotion of barrier breaking projects and promoting awareness of our culture and language.
“We also exist to reduce social isolation through a range of activities that will bring deaf people together so that they can participate using their own language through the use of deaf facilitators.”