"The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, launched last year, aims to strengthen our efforts to ensure the meaningful participation and full inclusion of people with disabilities in all that we do, including in times of crisis. That is the only way to fulfil the central promise of the 2030 Agenda – to leave no one behind.." — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres
The United Nations 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 realisation of the human rights of people who are deaf. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises 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.
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 organisations.
Worldwide, deaf children and young people are often denied an education, including in sign language. There is a lack of teachers well-trained in sign language, and in many cases, parents do not know that their children have a right to go to school and that they can learn if given the right support. Realising the rights of deaf people starts with ensuring that deaf children have access to education in sign language.
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting societies at their very core, deepening pre-existing inequalities. Even under normal circumstances, one billion persons with disabilities worldwide are less likely to access education, healthcare and livelihoods or to participate and be included in the community. The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities, and producing new threats. Persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected by health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
We, at the World Assembly of Youth, acknowledge 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 recognises the importance of preserving sign languages as part of linguistic and cultural diversity. It also emphasises the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with deaf communities.
Let us call upon the stakeholders and young people to make the world more inclusive for deaf people!