Did you know that once you learn one sign language and become fluent, it’ll only take you two months to become completely fluent in another one? The feats of our human minds truly amaze! Did you also know that September 23rd is when we annually celebrate the anniversary of ninety-seven United Nations Member States coming together to declare the preservation of sign language and deaf culture as a goal for human rights advocacy? On December 13th 2006, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed September 23rd as the International Day of Sign Languages. Without this proclamation, we may not have made the strides of progress in protection of Deaf culture and sign language where we are today, from a global standpoint.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is the written declaration that the United Nation ratified, promoting the use of sign languages and making it clear that they stand on the same level as spoken languages, and encouraging other countries to facilitate the learning of the language in their respective countries. Thanks to the efforts of these countries, we can now recognize sign languages as an essential human right for Deaf people all around the world and spread awareness of sign language’s unique linguistic structure.
Unfortunately CRPD has not touched every single country as you may expect. Countries including the United States, Britain, and several other nations have not taken their stance and supported CRPD with their signature. Meaning, in those countries, there is no legal guarantee that a Deaf child or adult will receive the human rights they should be granted. When interpreters are requested by deaf or hard of hearing people, it should be a LAW that they are provided with accommodations. When a deaf or hard of hearing child needs accommodations in the classroom, it should be the LAW to help them find a deaf school or a school that will fit their specific needs. Human rights should not be at a standstill, and while the United States has the Americans with Disabilities Act in effect, it does not reach the same level of protection as the CRPD. We can only continue to lobby and advocate for the US and other countries to sign the CRPD, in the goal of unifying global efforts for protecting deaf and hard of hearing people.
On the World Federation of the Deaf’s website there’s a quote that reads, “Nothing about us, without us.” When reading that you gain the understanding of what CRPD means to the older generation of Deaf people who grew up in a society when sign languages were something to be ashamed of or hidden. Throughout history, from having sign language banned in education at the Milan Conference in 1880 to the challenges faced by the medical industry, the Deaf community have always managed to persevere through the toughest storms and disadvantageous obstacles. The Deaf community is just as needed as the hearing world, as we bring vital, unique perspectives to society and culture.
With all that in mind, this year The World Federation of the Deaf’s overarching theme for the International Day of Sign Languages week is ‘Building Inclusive Communities for All’. Inclusivity is something that everyone strives for, whether they be Deaf or Hearing. Being a part of something like a community makes us feel like we’re all sharing our time together on Earth and not living separately in our own little worlds. People need each other to survive, regardless of our differences, and we are essential to each other when we need support or a community to lean on.
Speaking of themes, WFD has provided us with daily themes for this week, celebrating International Week of Deaf People! From Monday through Sunday, the daily themes are as follows: ‘Sign Languages in Education’, ‘Sustainable Economic Opportunities for Deaf People’, ‘Health for All’, ‘Safeguarding Deaf People in Times of Crisis’,’Sign Languages Unite Us’, ‘Intersectional Deaf Communities’, and finally ‘Deaf Leadership for Tomorrow’. Each day contains a video explaining the meaning of the theme, and what you can do to get involved.
The WFD has also dedicated a whole week to the day with various events and speakers! For those of you who have never heard of the International Day of Sign Languages, check it out! Being knowledgeable about various cultures will take you far in life, so take a gander this week at different websites about the day of unity, and learn something new about worldwide cherished languages, which continues to beat as the heart of the global deaf community.
International Week of Deaf People 2022. WFD. (2022, September 15). Retrieved September 16, 2022, from https://wfdeaf.org/iwdeaf2022/
United Nations. (n.d.). International Day of Sign Languages. United Nations. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.un.org/en/observances/sign-languages-day
UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. National Association of the Deaf. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://www.nad.org/resources/international-advocacy/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/
1880: The Milan Conference. Deaf History - Europe - 1880: Milan Conference. Deaf History (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://deafhistory.eu/index.php/component/zoo/item/1880