How was the NDWI set up? It was set up in 1982 by a Deaf woman named Susan O’Reilly. Susan was born in Navan, Co. Meath and went to St. Mary’s school for the Deaf. Susan got married and had 2 children. When the second child was born and the nurses would come to the house to check the children’s health, Susan found her very rude. Susan tried to get information from the nurse about health but she never succeeded, which resulted in her feeling lost. When Susan would meet Deaf mothers she realized they had all had the same problem. The lack of information was very bad. Susan was worried about this and wanted to find a solution. Deaf Women have a right to know this information. She decided to go to Rathmines Deaf Club Women’s Group but it was a different social group. She discussed the issue with mothers there and they all found it to be a big problem.
One day she travelled to BDA British Deaf Conference in Blackpool, England. Susan was shocked to see that they had various supports for Deaf and different groups, including a women’s group. Ireland had nothing like that. From that, she decided to campaign for women’s rights in Ireland. She returned to Ireland and discussed this with other Deaf women, and they decided to go to the Irish Deaf Society. The Irish Deaf Society gave them the go ahead to set up their own Deaf women’s group which they did in 1982. They invited Deaf women to join, and set up a mother and child group and organized social events at night to sharing information and ensure Deaf women had access to whatever information they needed. This was a great time for Deaf women, giving them the confidence to do things for themselves and campaign for their rights.
On the 10th Anniversary, the NDWI had their first conference named “Deaf Women Proud”. On their 20th Anniversary the conference was named “Believe in yourself”. The 25th Anniversary conference was named “Let it go”.
The name changed from Irish Deaf Women’s Group to National Deaf Women of Ireland because of research from 2 Deaf women Ellen and myself. We surveyed 300 Deaf women and asked do we need a National Council for Deaf Women and 100% said yes. We then changed the name and now we are strongly focused on campaigning for the rights of Deaf women.