WFD SIDE-EVENT OF THE 77TH SESSION OF THE CRC
In conjunction with the 77th Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the WFD hosted a side-event on January 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. The side-event was moderated by WFD President Colin Allen and panellists included Krister Schönström, deaf professor from Stockholm University, and Arancha Diez, deaf expert and representative from the National Confederation of the Deaf in Spain (CNSE), WFD Ordinary Member, as well as WFD Human Rights Officer Eeva Tupi. Diez shares her experience of attending the 77th Session of the CRC in which Spain, among other countries, was in review.
Summary video of the WFD Side-event of the 77th Session of the CRC
The panellists were able to answer a variety of questions, spanning topics such as the best practice for deaf and hearing concurrent education, communication barriers at home for deaf children, and sign languages and their diversity. The presentations covered topics like how learning sign language affects cognitive development of deaf children, what kind of information and support should be provided to families to ensure that deaf children have access to sign language in early childhood, how a sign language environment should be ensured in educational settings and an overview about deaf children in Spain.
ARANCHA DIEZ INTERVIEW
- Tell us more about yourself and how you are associated with the WFD
My name is Arancha Diez. I have a Degree in Psychology from the Complutense University in Madrid, Degree in Psychopedagogy from the National University of Distance Education in Spain (UNED), and a Masters in Mental Health from the Universitat Oberta in Calatonia. I teach in Higher Level Training Cycle in Communication Mediation in courses of continuous training for professionals who work with deaf people and their families and in teaching sign language. I am an active part in the making of the curricula and materials and educational resources of the Spanish sign language aim to families with deaf people. I am an advisor for families with deaf members and I am currently the Head of the Families and Education Area in Fundación CNSE.
- How did you become involved in the CRC side-event and why do you think it was important for you to be there?
I was invited by the WFD to participate in the CRC side-event as a representative of the National Confederation of the Deaf in Spain (CNSE) and as an expert of CNSE on deaf children. For me and for my organization it has been a wonderful opportunity to explain our claims to the Spanish government from a different forum and stress our demands from a different course of action. This is so important because it serves to reinforce our ability to influence public politics and persuade the government to give our needs and interests a response through various ways and channels.
So far, our requests have been submitted to our government through two main ways: directly as representatives of the deaf and via platforms representatives of disability. With our participation in the CRC side-event, an important third way of lobbying has been opened, and it complements and strengthens those which we usually use. As such, the opportunity to participate the CRC legitimises our claims as well as provides another avenue through which to advocate. The WFD is in a unique position to lobby the Spanish government and Spanish institutions from the international field, which provides valuable support and legitimacy for the local and national deaf organizations.
Representing the CNSE, I was able to give an overview of Spain’s standing regarding deaf human rights, particularly for deaf children. Although there is a law in Spain that recognises Spanish Sign Language and Catalonian Sign Language as legitimate languages, there is still a lot of development needed to regulate and encourage the use of sign languages in early care services and schools. The implementation of resources and services in sign languages for deaf children and their families is unequal, scarce, irregular and unstable. Reliable resources for the deaf are vital in making sure that all deaf people have quality lives, and that they are not abused, ignored, silenced or excluded.
- Why do you think it is important for the WFD to be at events like this to support country members like Spain?
The role of WFD is vital to lobby the Spanish institutions from the international field. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is a wonderful agent in which DPOs can channel our demands because it supervises and monitors the state implementation of the CRC, including Spain.
- What are the more interesting learnings you discover from this experience?
There has been a lot of learning that I have gained from this experience. I had the opportunity to influence the government in order to get a response from them, and also learned new strategies to do it. It has been a very rewarding experience. I have been able to meet some of the members of the CRC in person. In addition, I have been made aware that other ways of political action in the defence of deaf children can be developed. I believe that the WFD, along with CNSE, can become an interlocutor and referent of the Deaf to promote the equality of opportunities, end discrimination, promote social emancipation and overall, encourage the improvement of the living conditions of Spanish citizens with disabilities and their families, in this particular case, deaf children.
- What do you wish for the readers to know about rights of deaf children?
It must be made clear that, on the one hand, today in Spain there is a law that recognizes Spanish sign language and Catalonian sign language. This law regulates the knowledge, learning and use of both languages and is governed by the principle of freedom of choice. Nevertheless, the development of a regulatory framework that regulates sign language incorporation in early care services and schools as well as other measures that facilitates the use of Spanish sign language as a common language still remains to be done. In addition, it is necessary to decide in which schools Spanish sign language learning and use is possible. On the other hand, I would like to say that the implementation of the resources and services in Spanish sign language for deaf children and their families is unequal, scarce and irregular, and they are not stable or continuous.
- What work do you hope the WFD undertake next in this area (children’s rights)
This used to be an unconnected issue for the governments, and only a few NGO’s had tackled it. Nevertheless, currently, governments believe that the role of WFD and its national organization of deaf, in our case CNSE, are in a prominent place. There are just a few governments who don’t acknowledge our organizations as key actors in the fight for the equal opportunities for the deaf via politics aimed to remove the barriers that prevent the exercise of our rights. Additionally, we are aware of the spaces we have conquered and the credibility of our action. We are the perfect agents to fight for the achievement of the full citizenship of the deaf.
In conclusion, WFD has an irreplaceable role in the defence and recognition of the deaf children’s fundamental rights, because it can provide a vast quantity of accumulated knowledge for the general society.
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