This Sunday marks the first International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL), celebrated as part of International Week of Deaf (IWDeaf), which runs from 24 to 30 September this year.
The theme for this year is ‘With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!’ and focuses on collective goals for both IDSL and IWDeaf, which include promoting deaf people as unique; influencing governments to fulfil legal obligations; reflect the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in its recognition of sign languages as equal to spoken languages; emphasising sign language as critical to the human rights of deaf people; and consideration of the principle ‘nothing about us without us’.
The United Nations declared 23 September as IDSL during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in December last year. The date marks the establishment of the World Federation of the Deaf back in 1951, an organisation that focuses on “the preservation of sign languages and deaf culture”.
World Federation of the Deaf President Colin Allen says his organisation is overjoyed at the prospect of celebrating IDSL annually.
“This resolution recognises the importance of sign language and services in sign language being available to deaf people as early in life as possible.”
National Week of Deaf People (NWDP), hosted by Deaf Australia, will also be celebrated next week across the nation. While it has previously been celebrated in October, Deaf Australia aims to align the national week with IWDeaf due to the introduction of the IDSL.
Chief Executive of Deaf Australia Kyle Miers says the celebration is a significant step forward to officially recognising sign languages as equal to spoken and written languages.
“Sign language is an important part of deaf community’s identity. The identity gives deaf people the confidence, ability and strength to effectively participate in the community, workplace and family life.”
Mr Miers encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in the activities held across Australia throughout the week, including a learn to sign day, organised interpreted tours, family picnic day and a deaf community market.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are around 72 million people worldwide who are deaf, and over 300 different sign languages used across the world.
World Federation of the Deaf anticipates social media will be heavily involved across the world during the week, with the hashtags #IWDeaf2018, #IDSL2018 and #SignLanguagesDay recommended for use across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
For more information on disability support and services, please visit DisabilitySupportGuide.com.au