On the 23rd of September, EUD attended a webinar entitled ‘Sign languages are for everyone’. The event was hosted by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in the context of celebrating the International Day of Sign Languages. The webinar was intended to raise awareness and engage State Parties to the United Nations on Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on the importance of accessibility in and recognition of national sign languages.
Dr Joseph Murray, WFD President, stated that the right to sign is a fundamental human right. Dr Murray reminded the audience that all people must be able to communicate freely without any barriers, and that full and meaningful access to sign languages ensures this for deaf people. Furthermore, Dr Murray pointed out that two-thirds of State Parties who have ratified the UNCRPD have no legal recognition of their national sign languages.
During the event, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Nada Al-Nashif, explained how the COVID-19 pandemic had revealed the communication barriers faced by deaf persons worldwide. Ms Nashif explained that signing communities had been excluded from life-saving information and communication on prevention measures, as well as access to health services. Ms Al-Nashif also asserted that the lack of services in sign language potentially exposed members of the deaf community to higher levels of risk. Furthermore, Ms Al-Nashif argued that to aid the recovery efforts from the pandemic, sign language interpretation services, including remote interpretation, need to be of central importance. Ms Al-Nashif concluded with a call for setting up standards and regulating the quality of sign language interpretating services in both private and public spheres.
Later in the event, Ms Shirley Liu, President of the World Federation of the Deaf Youth (WFDY), stated that deaf children often do not have access to sign language environments, and that being able to use their national sign language(s) is necessary and essential for their education.
In conclusion, the event provided an opportunity to see the correlation between the realisation of the rights of deaf people and sign language recognition and the need to ensure high quality sign language interpretating for deaf persons.