The UN General Assembly has proclaimed today (23rd September 2022) as the International Day of Sign Languages to raise awareness of the importance of sign language.
Did you know that there are 300 different sign languages?
Did you know there are over 70 million D(d)eaf people worldwide?
And did you know sign languages are natural languages which are structured in a different way to spoken language?
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (A/RES/61/106) was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
It 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”.
It’s shocking that it was only in March 2003 that British Sign Language (BSL) was formally recognised in this country.
I am pleased that more people and organisations are wanting to learn BSL and to become Deaf Aware but I would like to see everyone learning to sign from an early age. As a Deaf person, it does make a big difference when people sign. It’s no coincidence that there are high incidences of mental health within the Deaf community because Deaf people often feel left out.
I must thank the British Deaf Association for persuading Parliament to recognise BSL in law in Great Britain earlier on in the year. It means, for instance, that Deaf people can now take place in juries for the first time but there is still a great deal more to do to achieve full inclusion for Deaf people.
It’s also been the International Week of Deaf people across the world – led by the World Federation of the Deaf (WF). The theme is “Building Inclusive Communities For All’’
Let’s hope that we can indeed keep building inclusivity for all.