International Day of Sign Languages

What is sign language? What is it used for? How did it develop? Many people around the world are unable to speak or hear which causes them to have difficulty with verbal communication. Many of these people are overlooked and disregarded due to their disability which is unfair and discriminatory. Sign Language is a language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body, used primarily by people who are deaf. There are many different sign languages as, for example, British and American sign languages. There are over 135 different sign languages all around the world! Sign languages aren’t just about the hands, they're also about the movement of a person’s arms, body and facial expressions. Facial expressions in sign languages can express both emotion and grammatical information. For instance, eyebrows can be raised and lowered to change the structure of a sentence from a statement to a question. It is a language that even we use in our day to day lives without even realizing.

People who know sign language are often much better listeners.

Some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) struggle developing verbal communication. Learning a sign language can be a helpful communication tool for some children with ASD. Many children with ASD have demonstrated higher quality communication when using a sign language instead of or in addition to a spoken language.

The International Day of Sign Languages is an unique opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users. In 2020, the World Federation of the Deaf is issuing a Global Leaders Challenge. This challenge aims to promote the use of sign languages by local, national, and global leaders in partnership with national associations of deaf people in each country, as well as other deaf-led organizations.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.

The resolution establishing the day acknowledges that early access to sign language and services in sign language, including quality education available in sign language, is vital to the growth and development of the deaf individual and critical to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. It recognizes the importance of preserving sign languages as part of linguistic and cultural diversity.

The deaf community struggles daily with stigma, prejudice, and communication, but that's not all: medical studies have found that deaf people suffer from mental health issues at about twice the rate of the general population, and also have real problems accessing needed mental health services. Unfortunately, there is a low number of professionals in the field and many people do not learn the language causing a communication barrier between people as many people who use sign language are not comfortable or do not know how to lip read which causes frustration and difficulty in communicating. We have to understand that there are people who are different from us in many ways and we cannot live our lives ignorant towards their problems and need to do what we can to help make it easier for them instead of ignoring them or looking down upon them.

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