International Day of Sign Languages

This year has brought its fair share of changes, however, despite the unforeseen changes, this year also marks a very special day is celebrated for over 70 million deaf and hard of hearing people around the globe. Considering its multilingualism, the United Nations decided in 2017 to establish September 23rd as the International Day of Sign Languages (see resolution).

Now, this decision, although probably late, is not inconsequential. Deafness can be found on a spectrum and, according to the World Federation of the Deaf, about 80% of the community lives in developing countries, adding up to 300 different sign languages. The community itself is sometimes ignored, through political inaction regarding inclusive policies or when it comes to reciprocal societal knowledge. This is, our daily lives are not necessarily welcoming for people on the hearing spectrum, hence the complexity in being held accountable when relating to their community.

American Sign Language advocate Nyle DiMarco (Global Goals UN, 2018)

However, considering we all take part of a larger community, this day is used as a platform to reflect on how frustrating it must feel not be actively engaged when you are perfectly capable and willing to do s, and yet public policies lack the ability to make you feel that you belong.

And this is precisely the keyword we are looking for: to belong. The right to feel that you belong to that larger community you are contributing to through empathy, reciprocity and respect for diversity.

The latter should be a model of a conscious society that is held accountable for its progression and implements effective inclusiveness, so that we all feel welcomed. In this vein, let September 23rd be a celebration of the deaf and hard of hearing community worldwide and I urge you not to lose the determination that this is a fight for visibility on the continuum, and that public regulations need to be paired up with knowledgeable attitudes.

So let’s get informed, get active and naturalize the fact that languages are a complex array of multiple forms to express valuable ways of seeing life itself.

Written by Santi, our long term ESC Volunteer

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