Education & Classes

The Cork Deaf Association hold a variety of Sign Language classes at their centre in MacCurtain Street, Cork. Contact us for more information on:

  • Accredited Sign Language Courses
  • Introduction to Sign Language courses

We can also provide you with information for:

  • one-to-one ISL tuition at the CDA centre or the venue of your choice
  • ISL classes for your class, group, workplace or organisation
  • Home Tutors

What is Irish Sign Language (ISL)?

ISL is the indigenous language of Irish Deaf people and of the Deaf community. ISL has been passed down by many generations of Deaf people. It is a visual, spatial language with its own distinct grammar. Not only is it a language of the hands, but also of the face and body.

Who uses ISL?

There are approximately 5,000 Deaf people in Ireland whose first or preferred language is ISL. Approximately 40,000 other people, Deaf and Hearing, use ISL in addition to their first language.

Is ISL recognised in Ireland?

Yes. The Irish Sign Language Act 2017 recognises Irish Sign Language as an official language of Ireland.

The Campaign for Irish Sign Language Recognition

On Wednesday 22nd January 2014, a proposed Bill to enact the legal recognition of Irish Sign Language was rejected by just three votes in Seanad Eireann. The Bill was put forward by Senator Mark Daly and would have placed the Deaf Community on a much firmer footing in relation to accessing services. In discussing the Bill, Senator Daly referred to the current ‘ad hoc’ system of interpreter provision, which gives inconsistent access to services, including hospitals. The Bill included a requirement that public bodies and government departments implement action plans for Irish Sign Language, permitted the use of Irish Sign Language in Legal proceedings and provided for the regulation of Sign Language interpreters.

Ireland lagged seriously behind many other European countries in failing to legally recognise it’s indigenous Sign Language. It was also in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, which provided for the official recognition of Irish Sign Language by both the North and the South. In debating the issue in the Seanad, many argued that it was important to develop services for the Deaf Community before legally recognising Irish Sign Language. They believed that the alternative would be ‘putting the cart before the horse’. However, for many members of the Deaf Community, this argument side stepped the main issue which was rooted in civil rights. While Irish Sign Language remained an officially ‘unrecognised’ language, the Irish Government curtailed the ability of Deaf people to fully participate in Irish society. Consequently, Deaf people were denied the opportunity to be full Irish citizens.


There were emotional scenes in Leinster House on Thursday 14th December 2017 when an Irish Sign Language (ISL) Recognition Bill was passed in the Daíl. One hundred people involved with the Deaf Community from all over Ireland were there to witness this historic event. The legislation is an important step towards equal rights for Deaf citizens of Ireland.

The ISL Bill recognises Irish Sign Language as an official language of the Irish state. It is hugely symbolic and importantly, it introduces a range of measures to improve ISL access to education, information and public services. These measures are desperately needed. As acknowledged in the Daíl, Deaf people are extremely marginalised in Ireland. Nearly 80% of Deaf adults have literacy levels of an 8-9 year old. Deaf people in general are ten times less likely to attend University than their hearing peers and they are 2-4 times more likely to be unemployed. They are also 2-3 times more likely to suffer abuse and 2-4 times more likely to experience clinically significant emotional distress. It is hoped that this new legislation will mark the beginning of a brand new chapter for Ireland’s Deaf Community.

The Irish Deaf Society (IDS) has been tirelessly campaigning for ISL Recognition for three decades. A range of organisations and individuals from around the Country, including Cork, joined the Campaign in recent years. Senator Mark Daly brought the Bill before the Seanad on two previous occasions but it was defeated both times. It was third time lucky for the tenacious and dedicated Senator Daly!

Chairperson of the Cork Deaf Association, Tom O’ Brien, was profoundly moved by the passing of this new legislation. Mr. O’ Brien is a 71 year old Deaf man who always hoped to see ISL Recognition in his lifetime. “ It was my happiest day after many sad years”, said Mr. O’ Brien. He also extends his thanks to Campaign leaders the Irish Deaf Society, Senator Mark Daly and everyone else who worked so hard to make the Bill a reality.

On 24th December 2017, the Irish Sign Language Act was signed into Law by President Michael D. Higgins.

Read the Act in full –  Irish Sign Language Act 2017.


The Cork Deaf Association is located only ten minutes walk from Cork City’s central train and bus stations. See map. If you would like to get in touch with us please email us at visit our Facebook page or call now on (021) 450 6190. Alternatively you can use our Contact form. [/box]