Deaf Charity ‘Hands That Talk’ has revealed its plans to buy the building it currently operates from in Dungiven.
The charity serves the wider North West area and wants to become more independent and increase deaf awareness among front line services, and the wider community.
The Dungiven-based organisation has employed 19 people since 2000, and offers services for the deaf community from educational courses, sign posting services, sign language, interpreter services and a charity shop.
The organisation recently missed out on £2.5 million funding from the ‘Strategic Investment Fund’ it had hoped would fund a new base in the town to be used by all the community.
Trustee Dorothy Hegarty told Causeway councillors during an hour-long presentation delivered by two deaf Trustees, James McKernan and Coleen Agnew last Tuesday a plan and site had been passed at the top of the town, and the application was proceeding well until the last minute when it fell through.
“Something happened, and we don’t know what, but we didn’t get it,” Mrs Hegarty told councillors.
Sign language is a recognised language in Northern Ireland and should have the same rights as any other language.Hands That Talk Trustee Liam Hegarty
Mrs Hegarty said the group is thinking long term towards a specially-designed deaf building open for use for the whole community.
“It might take 10 or 15 years, but we will get it,” she said.
Meantime, Hands That Talk want to buy their current building which Trustee Liam Hegarty said has been valued at £50,000.
“It would give the deaf community a sense of ownership and help us become independent. It would be the first deaf-owned building in the north and it would be fantastic. We have moved three times in the last 10 to 15 years. We want stability,” he said.
Mr McKernan and Ms Agnew told members, via interpreter Donna McGlinchey, their current building needs to be updated and made more visual friendly.
“We are hoping you can help us,” Ms Agnew told members. “We will continue to develop our services and expand our social enterprise. We want to become as independent as possible but we will need your ongoing support.”
Councillors were given a glimpse into the deaf community and the everyday issues they face.
“I often think what must it be like to be deaf. It must be like being in jail in a public place, like being in a room full of people, but you can’t communicate,” said Mr Hegarty, who asked members to think about someone who is deaf and how they communicate when they see their doctor, for example.
“I’m going to answer by not speaking,” said Mr Hegarty. “That is sad and outrageous in 2015. That’s an equality right. Sign language is a recognised language in Northern Ireland and should have the same rights as any other language.”
Councillors appeared to be captivated by the presentation, and all those who spoke and asked questions praised Hands That Talk for their work.
DUP Colr. Ian Stevenson said he didn’t want it to be a case of “the presentation is over and you go home”.
It was subsequently agreed Causeway Council look at the issue of the Strategic Investment Funding and why ‘Hands That Talk’ missed out.
“Keep in touch to see what we can do to help. Thank you so much. You have inspired me,” said Colr. Stevenson.
Councillors accepted Mr Hegarty’s offer to attend a workshop, who said: “We will cut off your hearing and you will see what it’s like to be deaf for a day.”
Members were also asked to consider learning sign language.