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Abstract

Irish Sign Language (ISL) is an indigenous language of Ireland and is recognized by the EU as a natural language. It is a language separate from the other languages used in Ireland, including Irish, English and, in Northern Ireland, British Sign Language. Some 6,500 Deaf people use ISL on the island of Ireland. Deaf people are the most under-represented of all disadvantaged groups at third level, posing two challenges: (1) getting Deaf people into third level and (2) presenting education in an accessible form. Two higher education institutions, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown, Dublin (ITB) have partnered to create a unique elearning environment based on MOODLE as the learning management system, in the delivery of Deaf Studies programmes at TCD. We intend to create access to education plus the provision of progression pathways into and through third level in the Irish National Quality Framework within the European Bologna model. We deliver third level programmes to students online to resolves problems of time, geography and access, maximizing multi-functional uses of digital assets across our programmes. Signed languages are visual-gestural languages and online content is required to be multi-modal in nature and utilize rich-media learning objects. This presents many important challenges, including (1) Universal design in an online curriculum for Deaf students, (2) Assessing signed language interpreting skill in an online context, (3) Using the Signs of Ireland corpus in blended learning contexts in a MOODLE environment and (4) Issues of assessment in an elearning context. In this paper, we introduce the Irish Deaf community and their language; the educational context that leads to disadvantage and negative outcomes in employment and our work to date in developing accessible elearning with progression pathways for Deaf Studies programmes at TCD.

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