International Day of Sign Languages

On September 23, we celebrate the International Day of Sign Languages. This day was originally sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN, and it was officially adopted by 97 member states at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. 

Ambassador Walton Webson of the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN stated in relation to this, 

“This resolution is an important milestone in our international promise “to leave no one behind”. The acclimation of 23 September as the international day of sign languages is a significant step in the universalization of all communities to recognize the objectives set out in article 21 of the UNCRPD to meet our universal goal of inclusion. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is pleased to be part of this international day that will focus the world’s attention on the principles of the UNCRPD in calling for equality, especially in terms of accessibility, that allows an individual freedom of choice, dignity and independence of self without discrimination.”

This has been supported by many thereafter. World Federation of the Deaf President Colin Allen stated,

“This resolution recognizes the importance of sign language and services in sign language being available to deaf people as early in life as possible. It also emphasizes the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with Deaf Communities. With effect from year 2018, the WFD is overjoyed at the prospect of observing and celebrating this day annually.”

What is very special this time around is that the first International Day of Sign Languages will be celebrated this year, along with the International Week of the Deaf. The International Week of the Deaf seeks to raise awareness of the issues that deaf people face in their everyday lives. In doing so, we close gaps in the achievement of human rights for those with disabilities. This day is of great importance to RASIT as well, as did you know that RASIT made history in May 2017 at the UN, when the first Arab Deaf doctor spoke at the UN?

Here are the videos of two women in science who have paved way in support of scientists with disabilities:

Ms. Ayse Damla Iseri, a Social Entrepreneur working with the deaf and for the deaf, in Turkey

Dr. Esraa El Bably, the First Arab Deaf Dentist

Deaf people, and particularly girls and women, have great difficulties in daily life. Imagine yourself as a doctor, and a deaf patient came to you. How would you communicate with him/her? Now imagine you as the patient. How can you communicate with the doctor effectively?

Now imagine you’re an aspiring doctor, but you’re deaf. What difficulties will your face on your journey to and through medical school? 

How can we support those with disabilities?

In this sense, we must consider both equality and equity

    • Equality ensures everyone gets the same treatment but equity recognizes and acknowledges the historically disadvantaged groups and ways to support them 

To celebrate this very important day, we have video messages from girls in science around the world who are working to make science more inclusive for all.

Fatima-Zahra Chriha, a Girls in Science Advocate

Lara Bevan-Shiraz, a Girls in Science Advocate

Arunima Sen, a Girls in Science Advocate

As Helen Keller, American author, activist, lecturer, and the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree said, “If I, deaf, blind, find life rich and interesting, how much more can you gain by the use of your five senses?”

She also stated, “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.” 

What are your thoughts on ways to alleviate and close the barriers between different people?