According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are more than 70 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.
Sign languages are fully fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from the spoken languages.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes 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 UN General Assembly has proclaimed 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.
This coincides with the International Week of Deaf People which is being celebrated during the last full week of September.
This week, Deaf people such as myself come together to recognise that deaf people have their own communities, their own cultures, their own languages and sign languages.
I hope these two important events will also encourage more people to learn Sign language. It is great fun to learn and also very useful. It does make a big difference when someone can sign.
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