For more than 60 years, the global Deaf community has united during the last full week of September to raise awareness about Deaf culture, Deaf language, and Deaf issues. International Week of the Deaf 2019 will run from September 23 through September 29 and will be celebrated by Deaf individuals from hundreds of countries around the world!
International Week of the Deaf first began in 1958 as a commemoration of the first Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf. Recently added to this exciting week-long event is the International Day of Sign Languages, which is celebrated each year on September 23, marking the date that the World Federation of the Deaf was established in 1951.
The theme of this year’s International Week of the Deaf is: Sign Language Rights for All! According to the World Federation of the Deaf “the campaign theme ensures that no one in the Deaf Community is left behind. It calls for decision makers to give linguistic rights to deaf people and all sign language users.” It is the position of the World Federation of the Deaf, as well as the National Association of the Deaf, and most Deaf education advocates around the globe, that access to sign language is a human right for those who have hearing loss, and denial of sign language is a form of oppression. The WFD Charter on Sign Language Rights for All elaborates on this in great detail.
Time and again, studies have shown that there are only benefits for teaching signed languages to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals; particularly that early acquisition of a non-verbal language can help form neural pathways and mental processes that are critical for intellectual and emotional development in children. This year, WFD has assigned a specific sub-theme to each day. The schedule can be found below:
INTERNATIONAL WEEK OF THE DEAF 2019 SCHEDULE
Monday 9/23: Sign Language Rights for All!
Tuesday 9/24: Sign Language Rights for All Children
Wednesday 9/25: Sign Language Rights for Deaf Senior Citizens
Thursday 9/26: Sign Language Rights for Deafblind people
Friday 9/27: Sign Language Rights for Deaf Women
Saturday 9/28: Sign Language Rights for Deaf LGBTIQA+
Sunday 9/29: Sign Language Rights for Deaf Refugees
For additional information on the importance of each day, be sure to check out the Guidelines on Achieving Sign Language Rights for All!
The week kicks off on the International Day of Sign Languages and dives deeper each day into specific populations. This will allow a more intersectional exploration of deafness and language rights issues within the extremely diverse Global Deaf Community. The following social media accounts may be posting updates, information, and discussions throughout International Week of the Deaf:
Official Hashtags: #IDSL2019 #IWDeaf2019
LCIS ( Twitter | Facebook )
National Association of the Deaf ( Twitter | Facebook )
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf ( Twitter | Facebook )
Deaf Women United ( Twitter | Facebook )
National Black Deaf Advocates ( Twitter | Facebook )
Rochester Institute of Technology – National Technical Institute of the Deaf ( Twitter | Facebook )
Gallaudet University ( Twitter | Facebook )
Why I Sign ( Facebook )
Language rights for those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing is a topic that cannot receive enough coverage. The World Health Organization estimates that around 466 million people worldwide have a disabling hearing loss — about 5% of the population — and that number does not include those living with mild to moderate hearing loss. For too long, the communication needs of this community have been disregarded, and as a result decisions about their health, their education, and their lives have been made without their fully informed consent.
The truth is that Deaf / HoH people can achieve whatever they put their minds to when they are able to access the world around them. Renowned Deafblind advocate Haben Girma stands as a testament that there are NO limits for those with disabilities, except for the narrow minds of those who cannot imagine new ways to accomplish things. Girma is a graduate from Harvard Law School, a surfer, a salsa dancer, a world traveler, and a published author who has been Deafblind since childhood.
More examples of incredibly talented Deaf individuals can be found in any of the articles below!
As people continue to acknowledge and then disassemble the old structures of oppression which make assumptions about a person based on their race, culture, language, gender, age, sexual preference, or disability, hopefully we will begin to see communication accessibility woven into the very fabric of society. Communication creates connection, and what the world needs now is unity!