September 23 is the United Nations’ International Day of Sign Languages and this year’s theme is “Sign Languages are for Everyone!” The result of a 2017 initiative by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), the International Day of Sign Languages is observed on September 23 because it was on that day in 1951 that the WFD was established.
The United Nations (UN) states that the purpose of the International Day of Sign Languages is “to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.” The organization believes that early access to sign language and services 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.”
In a statement on the UN’s website, Secretary-General António Guterres said, “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 fulfill the central promise of the 2030 Agenda – to leave no one behind.”
In commemoration of the International Day of Sign Languages, the WFD has issued a Global Leaders Challenge, which “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.” Leaders from around the world have accepted the challenge by recording themselves signing this year’s theme in their national sign languages.
Zoom took the opportunity to announce that it has added new features to its platform in an effort to make it more accessible to those in the Deaf community. New features include advanced closed captioning settings as well as the ability to “pin” the window of a sign language interpreter directly next to the window of the person speaking.
On October 9, Netflix will debut a new docuseries entitled “Deaf U,” which follows a group of deaf friends as they navigate life at Gallaudet University. The series is produced by Nyle DiMarco, a deaf actor/model/activist who studied mathematics at Gallaudet.
For more information on the International Day of Sign Languages, visit https://www.un.org/en/observances/sign-languages-day.