23 September: International Day of Sign Languages
The first International Day of Sign Languages was observed across the world on September 23, 2018 with the theme “With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!”
The UN General Assembly decided to commemorate the day as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realisation of the human rights of people who are deaf.
The UN resolution establishing the day acknowledged that early access to sign language and services in sign language, including quality education available in sign language, is vital to the growth and development of deaf individuals and critical to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.
The resolution also recognised the importance of preserving sign languages as a part of linguistic and cultural diversity.
It also emphasized the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with deaf communities.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide and more than 80 per cent live in developing countries. Collectively, they are known to use more than 300 different sign languages.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises and promotes the use of sign languages. It makes clear that sign languages are equal in status to spoken languages and obligates states parties to facilitate the learning of sign language and promote the linguistic identity of the deaf community.
The sign languages are full-fledged natural languages, just structurally distinct from the spoken languages.
There is also an international sign language, which is used by deaf people in international meetings and informally when travelling and socialising.
It is considered as a form of sign language that is not as complex as natural sign languages and has a limited lexicon.
The proposal for the International Day of Sign Languages came from the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), a federation of 135 national associations of deaf people, representing approximately 70 million deaf people’s human rights worldwide.
The day – September 23rd- was chosen as it commemorates the date when the WFD was established in 1951. One of the main goals of the WFD is to preserve sign languages and deaf culture.
The first International Day of Sign Languages was celebrated on September 23, 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf, which will take place on 24-30 September.
The International Week of the Deaf was first celebrated in September 1958 and has since evolved into a global movement of deaf unity and concerted advocacy to raise awareness of the issues deaf people face in their everyday lives.
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