The International Day of Sign Languages is being celebrated for the first time on 23 September 2018 in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf. The United Nations General Assembly has declared 23 September as International Day of Sign Languages as part of the International Week of the Deaf which runs between Monday 24th September and Sunday 30th September 2018.
The theme for IDSL 2018 is “With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!”
The choice of 23 September commemorates the date that the World Federation of Deaf (WFD) was established in 1951. By promoting human rights and access to sign language, the WFD is working to improve the lives of millions of deaf people who face inequality every day.
The International Week of the Deaf (fourth week of September) was first celebrated in September 1958 and has since evolved as annual event globally.
The WFD strongly believes that the present United Nations resolution is a valuable extension of this tradition and has the potential to increase the understanding of United Nations member states, the private sector and the United Nations’ system in closing existing gaps in the achievement of human rights for deaf people.
This resolution recognizes the importance of sign language and services in sign language, including quality education available to deaf people as early in life as possible. It is vital to the growth and development of the deaf individual and significant to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. It recognizes the importance of preserving sign languages as part of linguistic and cultural diversity. It also emphasizes the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with deaf communities.
According to the WFD, there are approximately 72 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. There is also an international sign language, which is used by deaf people in international meetings and informally when travelling and socializing.
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.