Importance of the celebration
The International Day of Sign Languages is a unique opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users. 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.
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. 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 the deaf individual and critical to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.
What can we do?
In the City of Asheville we are well aware of the importance of achieving a more inclusive society, when everyone has the same opportunity to participate and be taken into consideration. That’s why in the upcoming months, as part of the activities through the America Rescue Plan, we’ll be developing strategies to reach out to deaf people and other sign language users.
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 traveling and socializing. It is considered a pidgin (a grammatically simplified form of a language, used for communication between people not sharing a common language) form of sign language that is not as complex as natural sign languages and has a limited lexicon.
Here is the UDHR American Sign Language, as an example of what we can see. According to the Directory of Sign Language Studies & Interpreter Education Programs provided by the Provided by Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, there are 3 sites in the Asheville Area. Feel free to reach out to any of them for more information. If you’re and would like to learn some more about this, you can see this video with 20+ basic Sign Language Phrases that we all should know.
History of the day
The proposal for the Day 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. It was adopted by consensus on 19 December 2017 and was first celebrated next year, as part of the International Week of the Deaf.
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.
The choice September 23 commemorates the date that the WFD was established in 1951. This day marks the birth of an advocacy organization, which has as one of its main goals, the preservation of sign languages and deaf culture as pre-requisites to the realization of the human rights of deaf people.