The International Day of Sign Languages, annually observed on the 23th September, as part of the International Week of the Deaf, is an opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users.

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.

International Week of the Deaf

The International Week of the Deaf (IWD) is an initiative of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) – a federation of 135 national associations of deaf people – and was first launched in 1958 in Rome, Italy. It is celebrated during the last full week of September through various activities by Deaf Communities all around the world.

The theme of the 2020 International Week of the Deaf will be “Reaffirming Deaf People’s Human Rights”. These activities and events are open to all members of deaf communities, which include families of deaf people, professional and accredited sign language interpreters, peers, as well as the stakeholders, involved in the cause of ensuring and promote the human rights of deaf people.

It has been chosen the 23 of September to commemorate the date that the WFD was established in 1951. Indeed, this day marks the birth of this advocacy organisation, which has as one of its main goals, the preservation of sign languages and deaf culture as pre-requisites to the realisation of the human rights of deaf people.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realisation of the human right of people who are deaf.

To this end UN General Assembly established the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which recognizes and promotes the use of sign languages. Its aim is making clear that sign languages are equal in status to spoken languages. It recognizes the importance of preserving sign languages as part of linguistic and cultural diversity.

It also emphasizes the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with deaf communities.