Deaf Awareness, Sign Languages, ‘International Week of the Deaf’ Celebrated

Sep 18 2023 VITAC
A man and a women seated at a table with coffee cups converse using sign language.

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Deaf awareness and accessibility step into the spotlight this month as we recognize September as Deaf Awareness Month and celebrate International Week of the Deaf (Sept. 18 to 24) and International Day of Sign Languages (Sept. 23).

Deaf Awareness Month is a month-long celebration dedicated to increasing public awareness of deaf culture and deaf issues as well as recognizing the heritage and language unique to the deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHOH) community.

The month encourages everyone to, among other things:

  • Learn about inclusion and accessibility, including the importance of providing captioned content or sign language interpreters in the workplace, the classroom, and live sports and events, among other places.
  • Discover ways to promote the rights of deaf people and access to education and technologies.
  • Educate about the misconceptions of being deaf and the challenges the deaf population faces in everyday life.

International Week of the Deaf

International Week of the Deaf is an initiative of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). First launched in 1958, the week is celebrated through various activities by deaf communities worldwide and enlists the participation and involvement of various community stakeholders, including families, peers, governmental agencies, professional sign language interpreters, and advocacy groups and organizations.

The celebration runs Sept. 18 to 24. This year’s theme is “A World Where Deaf People Everywhere Can Sign Anywhere!”

The week features daily themes touching on a variety of topics, including building and strengthening inclusive communities, sign language rights, and supporting children who are deaf. Below is the full list of daily topics.

Monday, Sept. 18: Declaration on the Rights of Deaf Children. WFD members recently approved a “Declaration on the Rights of Deaf Children” and welcomes public support.

Tuesday, Sept. 19: Building Capacity Across the Globe. The WFD has inaugurated a 60-country project with the aim of building capacities in deaf communities across the globe, particularly in the 60+ UN Member States that do not have national associations of deaf people.

Wednesday, Sept. 20: Realizing “Nothing Without Us.” Deaf communities are experts on deaf lives. Representative deaf organizations must be involved from the beginning in all projects and initiatives to do with deaf people and sign languages. On this day, highlight your collaboration with deaf communities!

Thursday, Sept. 21: Putting Deaf People on the Agenda. Deaf communities worldwide work to ensure policies and programs reflect the lived realities of deaf people’s lives. This day calls upon national governments, international institutions, research centers, and policymaking bodies to include the DHOH community in their work.

Friday, Sept. 22: Achieving Sign Language Rights for All. The legal recognition of national sign languages is an important step towards achieving basic human rights for all deaf people. Legal recognition is a process that allows for greater awareness linguistic and cultural rights and paves the way for social change.

Saturday, Sept. 23: International Day of Sign Languages – A World Where Deaf People Everywhere Can Sign Anywhere. The WFD calls upon all governments to take measures to ensure at least 50% of their children and youth know their national sign languages, as a step towards building societies in which deaf people everywhere can sign anywhere. (See more below.)

Sunday, Sept. 24: Building Inclusive Deaf Communities. Highlighting the broad array of diverse experiences across the globe, this day focuses on the need for communities to be inclusive of all people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

International Day of Sign Languages

According to the WFD, there are more than 70 million people worldwide who are deaf, with more than 80% of them living in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.

The International Day of Sign Languages was adopted in 2018 by the United Nations General Assembly. Its objective is to raise awareness and support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users.

The UN, in its adoption, noted that early access to sign language and services in sign language was vital to the growth and development of individuals who are deaf. It recognized the importance of preserving sign languages as part of linguistic and cultural diversity and emphasized the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with deaf communities.

VITAC has worked with caption viewers and advocacy groups for more than 30 years, and strongly believes in “Accessibility for Life” and the need to make accessible content standard.

VITAC proudly supports Deaf Awareness Month, the International Week of the Deaf, and the International Day of Sign Languages and stands by our commitment to provide captions and accessible solutions for our customers and, perhaps most importantly, maintaining the highest quality for our consumers, the millions around the world who rely on captioning every day.