The first specially trained tour guides for deaf people in Northern Ireland have completed an innovative new course designed to ensure deaf visitors to Northern Ireland enjoy an inclusive experience and find out more about cities and regions across the North.

Funded and delivered jointly by Tourism NI, Belfast Metropolitan College and Visit Belfast, the training course was developed alongside members of the deaf community and is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The course was established after a volunteer who had been assisting deaf visitors to Belfast during his free time approached the tourism bodies to say he needed more training to guide tours accurately, and his belief that more people who use sign language should also be trained as tour guides as there is demand from deaf visitors.

Eight people have graduated in the first cohort of the fully funded Level 2 NVQ course and the bodies behind the training are keen to consider future opportunities.

Eimear Callaghan, Head of Experience & Industry Development at Tourism NI, said: “Tourism NI was delighted to work in collaboration with the deaf community, Belfast Met and Visit Belfast to deliver this innovative course. Tour guides play a vital role in delivering our visitor experience.

“Tour guides provide that personal touch and add to the lasting memories of visitors’ time here.

“We therefore extend our warm congratulations to this new cohort and look forward to their contribution to our tourism industry.”

Mark Rice, Curriculum Business Lead for Hospitality & Tourism at Belfast Metropolitan College, said: “Belfast Met was delighted to partner with Tourism NI to deliver this exciting initiative, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

“This introductory course, designed and delivered in partnership with the deaf community, provided the participants with all the skills needed to give visitors a fully inclusive giant welcome to the city.

“It was wonderful to watch our new tour guides graduate. They fully embraced all elements of the course and their commitment and drive to make tourism more accessible to all is commendable. Congratulations and best of luck as they embark on their new tour guiding journeys.”

Mary Jo McCanny, Director of Visitor Servicing at Visit Belfast, said: “Visit Belfast was delighted to support this impactful initiative.

“Not only does this course help support capacity building and skills for future employment opportunities, but most importantly, it makes our city much more accessible and inclusive for our visitors and those from the deaf community,” she said.