Michael A. Schwartz Awarded Grant to Study Access to Justice for Deaf People in Northern Ireland

Michael A. Schwartz Tangata Group

Associate Professor of Law Michael A. Schwartz has been awarded a grant of more than $200,000 to explore access to justice for deaf people, working in collaboration with the British Deaf Association, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Rowan University, NJ. This grant is part of approximately $1.5 million awarded to 10 research and pilot projects across the United Kingdom. The funding has been granted as part of the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) program, led by disabled people and funded by the UK's Big Lottery Fund.

Schwartz is one of the principal researchers for the research initiative and will work on gathering, analyzing, and writing up the data. "While studying access to health care for deaf people in Northern Ireland as part of my 2015 Fulbright research project at Queen's University Belfast, I noticed a number of complaints about access to offices of solicitors and barristers where these professionals of the law refused to provide their deaf clients with a sign language interpreter," explains Schwartz. 

He says he realized this implicated Article 13 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, Northern Ireland's domestic anti-discrimination law. "This realization served as the genesis for the movement, ultimately successful, to obtain funding to study and remedy the problem of effective communication and access to justice in Northern Ireland," Schwartz adds.

"The success of the process surrounding DRILL was the critical fact that the research was driven, identified, and delivered through our leadership and expertise for the first time at both a regional and national level," explains Tony O'Reilly, Northern Ireland DRILL National Advisory Group member. "Disabled people were the academics and the community and human rights activists at the heart of this innovative. We were not simply the subject of research but genuine equal partners in designing and delivering meaningful research outcomes to affect real change today.

Launched in 2015, DRILL is fully funded by the UK's Big Lottery Fund and delivered by Disability Action Northern Ireland, Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Scotland, and Disability Wales. DRILL is funding more than 30 research and pilot projects over a five-year period, all led by disabled people.