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. The resolution A/RES/72/161 was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, co-sponsored by 97 United Nations Member States and adopted by consensus on 19 December 2017.
The choice of 23 September commemorates the date that the WFD was established in 1951. This day marks the birth of an advocacy organisation, which has as one of its main goals, the preservation of sign languages and deaf culture as pre-requisites to the realisation of the human rights of deaf people.
The International Day of Sign Languages was first celebrated in 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf.
The importance of cultural diversity is recognized worldwide. With this comes an implicit recognition for linguistic diversity as well. However, in mainstream cultural centers, there is a palpable absence of sign language. To recognize the rights of the deaf and other sign language users, this important day is marked so that our cultural, political, and personal spaces become truly representative and diverse.
Sign languages are fully-fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from spoken languages. There is also an international sign language used by deaf people in international meetings and informally when traveling and socializing. It is considered a pidgin form of sign language that is not as complex as natural sign languages and has a limited lexicon.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes and promotes the use of sign languages. It clarifies 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 United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, launched last year, aims to strengthen our efforts to ensure the meaningful participation and full inclusion of people with disabilities in all that we do, including in times of crisis. That is the only way to fulfill the central promise of the 2030 Agenda – to leave no one behind.
- General Assembly resolution (A/RES/72/161) establishing the International Day of Sign Languages
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights in sign languages (British, Spanish and Portuguese)
- World Federation of the Deaf: International Day of Sign Languages and International Week of the Deaf People
- International Day of Persons with Disabilities
- International Day for Universal Access to Information
- International Mother Language Day
More information is available here.
Lawyer, Jharkhand High Court (India)
Global Representative (India), Roya Institute of Global Justice