When Executive Oficer, Denise McConnell-Dillon says a vote for Dungiven charity Hands That Talk will help change people’s lives she really means it.
The lifeline charity started a decade ago and has proved to be a lifeline for the deaf community. The charity is the only one from Northern Ireland to have reached the final three competing for the Best Voluntary/Charity Project. It provides vital services, improving the quality of life for deaf people by providing access to employment, education and services.
“As long as our organisation is here we are going to be changing people’s lives and helping the deaf community in a way no other organisation out there at the minute is doing, so it really is a worthwhile vote,” said Ms McConnell-Dillon.
Hands That Talk run an interpreting service for the Deaf community which provides a Sign Language Interpreter for a Deaf person when needed.
“We currently hold a contract with the Western Health & Social Care Trust. The contract covers appointments for the GP, dental, hospital appointments, optician, social care visits/appointment and any outreach service deemed appropriate by the WHSCT.
“We are currently promoting this service to other health care trusts in Northern Ireland in a bid to make ourselves more sustainable.
“The interpreter service is also available to any individual or organisation that requests the services of an interpreter. We provide Sign Language interpreters in both British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language. We also provide the services of an electronic note taker.
There are currently only 15 fully qualified interpreters in Northern Ireland to cover all appointments in for Deaf people living here. One of our main objectives is to take students through from basic sign language right through to training to become an interpreter.
“In the past year we have provided interpreters for 766 appointments. We are one of two organisations in Northern Ireland that provides this service. The amount of people using this service shows how great the need is.
“We also want to change information so deaf people can acess information the way you and I can. Deaf people read and write in English, but they know a certrain level of English that isn’t their first language. Their first language is sign. English is a completely different structure so they can miss a lot of the important messages so that’s why we are approaching the Public Health Agency to change that. Really it should be mandatory. It’s like having a building with stairs outside and no ramp and a disabled person in a wheelchair not being able to access the building.”
Another key element to Hands That Talk is social interativity.
“The social club is run by deaf people and in conjunction with Hands That Talk and has around 55 people from Omagh, Plumbridge, Limavady, Coleraine, Derry and Donegal and they do travel when there is something on because there is nothing else out there for them.
“One of our volunteers says before Hands That Talk she was isolated and bored at home, she didn’t have much to look forward to but now she has so much to look forward to now. When you meet the people whose lives have changed you see how much a difference the funding makes so it is a lifeline service
“We get deaf people in every day who are able to access our deaf information officer and a communication support worker that works with her and they will resolve any problems.”
Hands That Talk is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hands_that_talk and at www.facebook.com/handsthattalk
“We are over the moon at reaching the finals,” said Ms McConnell Dillon. “A vote for Hands That Talk is a vote to change people’s lives. That’s what it is.”