Tonight’s episode of First Dates Ireland features Mr Gay Ireland, Stephen Lehane, who is paired up with design student, John Charles Connolly.
John Charles, from Edenderry, is a member of the deaf community. As well as being the current reigning Mr Gay Ireland, Stephen is also fluent in sign language.
He explained that while he struggled with a speech impediment growing up, he developed an interest in alternative ways to communicate.
He explained: “Growing up I had a really severe speech impediment to the point where I couldn’t even fully pronounce my own name properly. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, I’d talk all the time but people couldn’t understand me.
“It meant that I was really interested in if one way of communication wasn’t working for you that you could just choose an alternative.”
The date, which will be conducted entirely in sign language, is an Irish TV first.
When John Charles and Stephen meet, it turns out that they have met before and they immediately start to communicate using sign language.
John Charles tells Stephen that when he goes on a date with a hearing person who doesn’t sign, they have to use a phone to communicate, passing texts back and forth.
Sign language is used by approximately 5,000 members of the deaf community and countless others to communicate with them.
Late last year, the Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016 passed all stages in the Dáil.
This was an important step in the administering of any LGBT+ services. Those that are publicly funded will now have to provide access via ISL on request too; we encourage all LGBT+ services prepare now for this Act and have a service plan in place, for when it is legally implemented.
“Greenbow Deaf LGBT group will continue to educate on, support and advocate for, access for all our Deaf and Hard of Hearing members. We continue to offer free advice to any LGBT+ services looking to improve access to Deaf and Hard of Hearing clients.”
We can’t wait to see how the pair get on tonight on RTE2 at 9.30PM.
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