Today, Sep. 23, marks World Sign Language Day, which is cited as a unique opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users.
The day aims to spread awareness regarding the importance of sign language in the realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.
The theme for this year is “Sign Languages Unite Us!” and it’s focused on promoting and recognizing national sign languages as part of their countries’ vibrant and diverse linguistic landscapes.
According to the UN, the World Federation of the Deaf said that there are more than 70 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.
It noted that sign languages are fully fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from spoken languages. There is also an international sign language, which is 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 makes clear 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.
In 2017, the UN General Assembly declared 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages in a bid to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.