International Day of Sign Languages 2020: History, significance of global event that aims to preserve over 300 sign laguages

The day is commemorated to create awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realisation of the human rights of people who are deaf.

FP Trending September 23, 2020 13:49:57 IST
International Day of Sign Languages 2020: History, significance of global event that aims to preserve over 300 sign laguages

Representational image. Reuters

International Day of Sign Languages is observed annually on 23 September. The week is celebrated as the International Week of the Deaf as well. The UN General Assembly proclaimed 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages. The day is commemorated to create awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realisation of the human rights of people who are deaf.

History of International Day of Sign Language

The proposal for the Day came from the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) on 19 December 2019. The day 23 September marks the day the World Federation of the Deaf was first established in 1951. The International Day of Sign Languages was first celebrated in 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf.

The International Week of the Deaf was first started in September 1958. The week has since then evolved into a global movement

Speaking on the occasion of the International Day of Sign Languages, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the day has fallen in the midst of a pandemic that has disrupted and upended lived everywhere, including the lives of the deaf community.

He went on to add, "I call on all local, national and global leaders to protect and promote the diversity of sign languages and cultures, so that every Deaf person can participate in and contribute to society and reach their full potential."

Significance of International Day of Sign Languages

While sign languages are structurally different from spoken language, they are full-fledged natural languages as well. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledges and encourages the use of sign languages and recognises the fact that sign languages are equal in status to spoken languages.

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people around the world with more than 80 percent of them living in developing countries. As per WFD data, there are more than 300 different sign languages being used around the world. The theme of the 2020 International Week of the Deaf is “Reaffirming Deaf People’s Human Rights”.

 

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