The International Day of Sign Languages is celebrated on 23 September. Proclaimed starting from 2017, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has set this date to celebrate this language, which is fundamental for communication with communities of deaf people.
The proposal to establish a world day for sign languages was put forward by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), founded 70 years ago in 1951. Actually, the International Day of Sign Languages is part of a week of celebrations for deaf people (from 20 to 26 September).
The IWDP (International Week of Deaf People) was established in Italy for the first time in 1958 in Rome, in memory of the first World Congress of the WFD. Since then, one week a year has been dedicated to the movement of struggle and demand for the rights of deaf people around the world – to date, the number stands at around 72 million.
The week features a series of activities and events organized by the same communities of deaf people from all over the world. the goal of the IWDP is to raise awareness and mobilize public opinion on the issue of deafness, languages for deaf people, inclusiveness and emancipation for all categories and communities involved. Promoting and fighting for the same rights and equal opportunities for deaf people means being able to guarantee a sense of fairness and respect for the deaf category.
During the week, the World Federation of the Deaf and other national associations and international organizations from around the world gather to celebrate the entire deaf community. The families of deaf people themselves and the figures of sign language interpreters are also involved.
The theme chosen for this year’s International Deaf People Week is “Celebrating Thriving Deaf Communities“. The mission is to protect and praise the cultural identity of the deaf community, emphasizing its complexity and the challenges hidden behind deafness and sign language.
Interestingly, the week was initially known as the International Week of Deaf. Since this year, however, the name has undergone a subtle albeit significant change: the addition of the word “People” after “Deaf” is precisely to highlight the individuality and the identity of the deaf as a whole, in relation to others and in the context of a community, not excluded and distant, as much included and an integral part of the whole society.
The deaf person is an active subject of society. He is a person with his own identity and needs. This slight change to the official name of the week, therefore, tends to focus the spotlight on the meaning that every single individual, even deaf, can have within society. It highlights the need to strengthen a sense of inclusion of the deaf community, recognizing its uniqueness and wholeness.
September 23 proposes not only to celebrate the community of deaf people as such but also to celebrate multilingualism, the diversity of languages, including spoken languages and sign languages. A step forward in this sense was made in Italy on 19 May: the Italian sign language and the professional figures of sign language interpreters have finally obtained their first official recognition at a national level.
Rafiky Press Office