International Day of Sign Languages 2020: Important Date, History, Significance & Facts

International Day of Sign Languages: International Day of Sign Languages is observed on 23 September 2020 with an aim to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf. The International Day of Sign Languages offers an opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all sign language users. Get more information about the History of International Day of Sign Languages, Significance & Quotes from this article.

Sheena | Updated Jul 24, 2020 15:43 PM

International Day of Sign Languages 2020: Important Date, History, Significance & Facts

International Day of Sign Languages 2020

International Day of Sign Languages is annually observed on 23 September every year. International Day of Sign Languages 2020 is important as there are over 70 million deaf people in the world with only 2% of them having access to sign language education. Many countries do not recognize Sign language as a language but only as a mere gesture. International Day of Sign Languages promotes human rights and sign language rights throughout the world. 

What is the History of International Day of Sign Languages?

World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) initiated the observation of the International Day of Sign Languages. The United Nations' Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda sponsored and 97 United Nations Member States co-sponsored the resolution A/RES/72/161 and it was adopted by consensus on 19 December 2017. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has proclaimed 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL) with an aim to raise awareness of the significance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf. The International Day of Sign languages was first celebrated in the year 2018 under the theme With Sign Language, Everyone is Included! The 2019 theme for IDSL is "Sign Language Rights for All".

International Day of Sign Language also acknowledges early access to sign language and various services in sign language like quality education which is vital to the development and growth of the deaf individual. The day focuses to recognize the importance of preserving sign languages as a part of cultural & linguistic diversity. This International Day recognizes the importance of sign languages for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfilling its core promise of leaving no one behind.  It also offers an opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all sign language users.

Sign Language

Sign language is one of the earliest forms of human communication. People commonly use signs when you wave hello or point to something you want. In the deaf community, Sign language is a form of visual language that uses hand gestures and body language to convey meaning. Many examples of people using visual gestures to express themselves long before a formal sign language have been established. 

The Native Americans, earlier, utilized simple hand signs to communicate with other tribes and to facilitate trade with Europeans. Also, it is said that the early settlers of Martha's Vineyard, an island off the Massachusetts coast, carried the genes for deafness. Even though the early steps in creating an official language for the deaf were taken in Spain, the first formal sign language was actually developed in France. The standardized sign language is referred to as Old French Sign Language. This sign language quickly spread across Europe and to the United States. Later, on April 15, 1817, Gallaudet and Clerc opened the first American public school for the deaf in Hartford’s Bennett’s City Hotel.

What is the Significance of observing International Day of Sign Languages?

The World Federation of the Deaf stated that there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide. Over 80% of them live in developing countries and use over 300 different sign languages. Sign languages are fully-fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from the spoken languages. IDSL is used by deaf people in international meetings. The deaf people also informally use the language when travelling and socializing. 

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Convention aims to recognize and promote the use of sign languages. It is clear that sign languages are equal in status to spoken languages. The sign language also facilitates the learning of sign language and promote the linguistic identity of the deaf community.

How to observe the International Day of Sign Languages?

The International Day of Sign Languages is a time to recognize the culture, language, and heritage of the deaf community. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one can host virtual events that range from a themed exhibit in schools and institutes. Performing artists, film festivals, historical exhibits, lectures, art exhibits, Deaf Festivals, booths in area shopping malls, cultural activities held in conjunction with sporting events.

Sign language Quotes

Sign language is the noblest gift God has given to deaf people. - George Veditz

Silence will always fall on deaf ears. - Anthony T. Hincks

Human eyes are the sign language of the brain. If you watch them carefully, you can see the truth played out, raw and unguarded. - Tarryn Fisher

My cat speaks sign language with her tail. - Robert A. M. Stern

Sign language is the equal of speech, lending itself equally to the rigorous and the poetic, to philosophical analysis or to making love. - Oliver Sacks

The symbolic view of things is a consequence of long absorption in images. Is sign language the real language of Paradise? - Hugo Ball

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International Day of Sign Languages - FAQ

1. When was the International Day of Sign Languages observed for the first time?

The International Day of Sign languages was first celebrated in the year 2018 under the theme With Sign Language, Everyone is Included! The 2019 theme for IDSL is "Sign Language Rights for All".

2. When is the World Deaf Day celebrated?

World Deaf Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of September every year. The day aims to draw the attention of people towards all that the deaf community has accomplished in their lives, and also all the obstacles that they face. It is also to remind people everywhere that their requests be heard.