Monday 18 May 2015


Young Deaf people in Northern Ireland are demanding better access to services today after a recent visit to Hungary.

They will head to Stormont to ask MLAs for better legislation to support sign language after discovering that more needs to be done here to improve services.

The Hungarian visit, which was organised by the leading deaf youth charity in Northern Ireland, Action Deaf Youth, saw 18 young deaf people from Northern Ireland take part in a bilateral youth exchange with SINOSZ, Hungary’s national deaf association.

Aged 16 to 25, they were able to discover and explore cultural diversity, the rights of deaf people, and the sign language differences between both countries. They also learnt how Hungarian legislation has helped improve the quality of life for those hard of hearing.

The project was made possible after the organisation received €25,376 through Eramsus+ — the EU’s flagship programme for education, training, youth and sport —  and will also see a reciprocal group from Hungary visit Northern Ireland in August.

The programme, which is managed by British Council and Ecorys UK, also saw the young people explore access issues in Hungary, with a visit to the Hungarian Parliament.

Speaking about the importance of the visit, Michael Johnston, Director of Action Deaf Youth said: “In 2009 Hungarian sign language was recognised by law under the UN Convention enabling deaf people to be treated with respect and dignity.  I was there when the agreement was signed and it's important for our young people to see its impact.

“It has enabled deaf people in Hungary to receive better access to education, health, jobs and culture, with even two of their MPs being from, and representing, the deaf community. That is unheard of here in Northern Ireland and currently almost impossible to achieve. They have people in government with the power to make positive change, which is something our young people can now aspire to.”

Today Hungary is one of the world leaders for the deaf community, with low unemployment, a better education system and free transport.

Michael said: “In Northern Ireland unemployment for deaf people is 63%, which is extremely high and something that needs to change.   We need to modify our legislation so we can provide a better education system, reduce unemployment and provide better access to transport.

 “Every citizen should have access to services as a human right, and until there is adequate provision, the deaf community will continue to be discriminated against and there will be constant invalidation.”

Members of the youth group were so inspired by the visit, that today (Monday,May 18) they will head to Stormont to put forward an action plan for Northern Ireland to MLAs.

Michael explained: “10 members of our youth forum will talk to some of our leading MLAs about what needs to be done so we can move forward to create a fairer and more just society. They were amazed that although we have a better standard of living in Northern Ireland, it’s actually better to live in Hungary if you are part of the deaf community. To change this, deaf people must be included in society through better employment opportunities and access to services.”

The visit will coincide with the launch of a consultation response from Northern Ireland’s ten deaf associations in a bid to lobby for change.

Michael said:  “Whatever today’s outcome, we understand that this will be a long and arduous process, but if we all work together; there’s every chance we can create change and a better Northern Ireland for everyone.”

Action Deaf Youth is just one of around 70 organisations in Northern Ireland to benefit from Eramsus+, with more than €6.3m being allocated in the first year of the programme. To mark this, next Thursday, May 21 2015 organisations from around the UK will gather at Belfast’s MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) for the first major Erasmus+ event to be held in Northern Ireland. Several of those organisations receiving funding will highlight what the funding is helping them to achieve.

 Erasmus+ offers a wide range of opportunities for pupils, students and teachers to participate in partnership and exchange activities across Europe. The programme aims to boost skills and employability while modernising education, training and youth work.

The EU has committed £12 billion to Erasmus+ between 2014 and 2020. During this period Erasmus+ will provide opportunities for over 4,000,000 Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad.  

The Erasmus+ Programme is just one of a number of programmes available to organisations through British Council Northern Ireland. For more information visit, or follow on Twitter at @BCouncil_NI


Notes to Editor

To date, Northern Ireland organisations have received €6.3m in Erasmus+ funding. And the proportion of total funding from the total funding pot (5.9%) was more than double the Northern Irish share of the UK population (2.9%).

1. About Erasmus+

Erasmus+ is the new European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020. It significantly increases EU funding (+40%) with an overall budget of €14.7 billion (£12 billion) for the development of knowledge and skills and aims to increase the quality and relevance of qualifications and skills. Two-thirds of its funding will provide grants for more than 4 million people to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad in 2014-2020 (compared with 2.7 million in 2007-2013). The period abroad can range from a few days up to a year. In the UK, it is expected that nearly 250,000 people will undertake activities abroad with the programme. Erasmus+ aims to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe. It is open to education, training, youth and sport organisations across all sectors of Lifelong Learning, including schools education, further and higher education, adult education and the youth sector. Erasmus+ provides funding for organisations to offer opportunities to students, teachers, apprentices, volunteers, youth leaders and people working in grassroots’ sport. It will also provide funding for partnerships between organisations such as educational institutions, youth organisations, enterprises, local and regional authorities and NGOs, as well as support for reforms in Member States to modernise education and training and to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and employability. Erasmus+ replaces the former Erasmus, Comenius, Youth in Action, Leonardo, Grundtvig and Transversal programmes which ran from 2007-2013.

The programme is managed in the UK by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, which is a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK. 

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2. About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes. We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally. For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and

3. About Ecorys UK

Ecorys UK, part of the international research, consulting and management services company Ecorys, provides high-quality communication, research and technical assistance services across education, economic and social policy areas. Ecorys employs over 150 staff in the UK specialising in education and culture, employment and labour markets, economic and international development, communications, public grant managed programmes and capacity building. Our mission is to add value to public service delivery through our experience of the entire policy cycle. 

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About the British Council


For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI