International Day of Sign Languages today: Theme, history, significance
Every year, September 23 is celebrated as the International Day of Sign Languages. The day supports and protects the linguistic identity of people who are deaf along with other users of sign languages.
This year’s theme, declared by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) - ‘We Sign For Human Rights’ - projects “how each of us – deaf and hearing people around the world – can work together hand in hand to promote the recognition of our right to use sign languages in all areas of life.”
What are sign languages?
Sign languages are the ones that use visual-manual modality to convey the meaning.
The United Nations (UN) describes sign languages as full-fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from spoken languages.
The convention on the rights of persons with disabilities recognises and promotes the use of sign languages. The convention clarifies that they are equal in status to spoken languages. It also obligates states to facilitate the learning of sign languages and promote the linguistic identity of deaf people.
History of International Day of Sign Languages
According to the UN, the International Day of Sign Languages was first celebrated in the year 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf. “The choice of 23 September commemorates the date that the WFD was established in 1951,” the UN said in its website.
The WFD has said that there are over 70 million deaf people across the globe and 80% of these are from developing countries. Collectively, over 300 different sign languages are used.
The International Day of Sign Languages aims to raise awareness about the importance of sign languages. The resolution which established the day recognises the importance of preserving sign languages as a part of linguistic and cultural diversity.
“Human eyes are the sign language of the brain. If you watch them carefully, you can see the truth played out, raw and unguarded”: Tarryn Fisher
“I come from a place where you don’t need to talk all the time. There are sign languages you learn”: Warwick Thornton
“Sign language is the equal of speech, lending itself equally to the rigorous and the poetic, to philosophical analysis or to making love”: Oliver Sacks
“Systems of morals are only a sign-language of the emotions”: Friedrich Nietzsche