Creating Linguistic Access for Deaf and Deafblind People; A Strategy for Scotland

Thursday 6th March 2003

Linguistic Access for Deaf People in Finland and Scotland Comparisons and Contrasts

Markku Jokinen, Faculty of Education, University of Jyväskylä, Finland


Some basic facts about Finland

Finnish Sign Language in Legislation

The Constitution of Finland (731/1999, (before 1995 Constitution Act, section 14:3) section 17 1999)

Working group of the Ministry of Justice (1996)

Safeguarding legal position (the most important areas according to the Working Group)

7 years have passed after publishing the report of the Working Group. Many measures suggested by the Working Group have been realised, some still not. In this presentation you will see what the situation looks like today in Finland.

School legislation

Law on basic education (628/98)

"10, sect. 1
The language of instruction of the school is either Finnish or Swedish. The Sami, Romany or Sign Language can also be used as languages of instruction.

sect. 2
"Those with an impaired hearing must be taught also in SL, when necessary.

"12, sect. 2
On the basis of the guardian"s choice, also the Romany language, Sign Language or other mother tongue of the pupil can be taught as a mother tongue.

Law on upper secondary school (629/98)

" 6, sect. 1
The language of instruction in the upper secondary school is either Finnish or Swedish. The Sami, Romany or SL can also be used as a language of instruction "

"8, sect. 2
On the basis of the student"s choice, also the Romany language, SL or other mother tongue or the student can be taught as a mother tongue.

Law on vocational education (630/98)

"11, sect. 1
In vocational education, the language of instruction is either Finnish or Swedish. The Sami, Romany or SL can also be used as languages of instruction"

" 12, sect. 3
On the basis of the student"s choice, also the Romany language, SL or other mother tongue or the student can be taught as a mother tongue.

School situation

Core curriculum (grades 1-2 and grades 3-9, experimental phase 2003-2004:

Mother tongue and literature:

Education of linguistic and cultural groups:

Hearing pupils can choose FinSL as an optional subject if it is available at their school. The need for research of FinSL and the development of teaching material in SL has increased.

Class Teacher Programme of Finnish Sign Language Users

Sign Language using class teacher"

Competencies to implement and develop

Sign Language Interpreting services in Finland

Financed by the state since 1979. Services and Assistance for the Disabled Act (380/87) states the municipality shall provide interpreting services in order to manage everyday affairs, free of charge. Support and assistance for the Disabled Decree (759/87) including interpreting services comprising interpreting needed for work, studies, social participation, recreation or an other corresponding purposes for a minimum 120 (deafblind 240) hours during a calendar year; more hours can be applied to individual needs o interpreting services related to studies shall be arranged to the extent needed by the person concerned for coping with his or her studies.

How interpreting services are organised

History of Interpreter training

Vocational qualification in sign language instruction

Finnish Sign Language studies at two universities.

University of Jyväskylä: Basic and subject specific levels (70 ECTS credits). Sign Language as a first language and SL as a foreign language. The courses include SL skills and courses on general linguistics and communication studies; the culture and history of the deaf population; the structure and research of SL, and the acquisition of SL and bilingualism. Sign language at the basic level can also be studies at the Open University (see

University of Turku Basic level, 40 ECTS credits. See

Other laws

Law on Administrative Procedure (598/82, " 22, sect. 1)
"The authorities must take care of interpretation in a case that can be instituted by initiative of the authorities, if the party involved does not speak the language used by the authority, as defined in the Language Act (148/22) or due to a deficiency in the person"s senses or speech, the person cannot be understood."

Law on Criminal Investigation (449/1987, "37
"The criminal investigation authority shall make the arrangements for interpretation if the person being questioned cannot speak the language used before the authority under the Language Act (148/1922) or, owing to a sensory handicap or a speech defect, cannot make himself understood."

Law on the position and rights of the social welfare client (812/00, " 4)
"When executing social welfare, the wishes, opinions, interests and individual needs as well as the mother tongue and cultural background of the client must be taken into account."

The Research Institute for the Languages of Finland is a linguistic research institute of the Finnish State. We study Finnish, Swedish, the Saami languages, Romany and Finnish Sign Language. Our operations include language planning, dictionary compilation and various research projects. We also have an extensive library and comprehensive linguistic archives. See

Law on the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland (591/96) " 1, sect. 2
Among the duties of the Research Institute is to take care of research and the preservation of the purity of Sign Language and the Romany language.

Decree on the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland (758/96) " 1
The duties of the Institute include: Studying Finnish and Swedish, Sami (Lappish) and other related languages as well as the Finnish Sign Language and the Romany language.

The expertise organs for the Research Institute are the Boards for the Finnish, Swedish and Sami languages and the Boards for the Sign Language and the Romany language.

The task of the Board is to decide upon recommendations of principal or general nature in this field.

Act on Yleisradio Oy (746/98) Section 7

Other services in FinSL by FAD

Some comments on "A strategy for Scotland"

The document is well done (clear structure) and it covers the most important areas of Scottish deaf and deafblind people's lives. The linguistic human rights approach is a solution to many problems.

Chief barriers to inclusion (lack of personnel, resources and materials, research information, public awareness and understanding of the relevant linguistic issues) are/were the same as in Finland.

If Scotland adopts this long-term and well-defined strategy, it could reach Nordic countries or even take a lead within EU member states!

The Scottish Centre for Deaf Studies' consortium idea is a must in today's world; makes use of virtual networks and international partners (strong international deaf community); Deaf representatives and well-trained deaf and hearing native signer personnel; government funding plus other long lasting project funding (EU).

BSL as a subject not only for deaf students but hearing children of BSL users (their mother tongue, will grow up bilingual at least) too! Native signers of all ages have a right to study their first language as a mother tongue (many hearing people know much more about SL than native signers) life learning principle.

Use of digital multimedia multilingual material in the internet and mobile communication systems grows rapidly.

Campaigns and work for sound political networks; leadership training for deaf people; UN Standard Rules.

Cooperation with other European Centres of SL, European Union of the Deaf, NADs needed SL status work in Europe.

Strategy with suggestions for practical measures and recognition in legislation is a powerful combination for ensuring linguistic human rights to Scottish native signers.