Day 1 – Civil Society Forum

Joseph Murray, WFD Board member and Chair of WFD Human Rights Group reports from the UN Conference of State Parties (COSP) in New York. He comments that today is the Civil Society Forum, which comprises government representatives from the United Nations, along with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), Deaf People’s Organisations and Human Rights Organisations. Its purpose is to discuss issues relating to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The opening session of the Civil Society Forum was chaired by the WFD’s President Colin Allen. The next session included a presentation from Joseph Murray from the WFD Board. His presentation was on the status of different sign languages at a national level and views on how to strengthen their status. Murray shared insights from a 2011 WFD-EUD Conference held at Ål Experiential College in Ål, Norway, on the theme of ‘Sign Languages as Endangered Languages’. Murray emphasized the importance of promoting greater public awareness of sign languages amongst governments and the public.

To summarise the three main points:

  1. Sign languages are organic human languages that are equivalent to spoken languages and found in different societies throughout human history.
  2. Sign languages are an asset. The use of sign language has been shown to enhance cognitive development and has educational benefits for both deaf and hearing children.
  3. Effective implementation of Article 24 would mean the placement of deaf and hard of hearing children in signing environments, which is a position supported by DPOs, including those who also support spoken language use.

In his closing remarks, Murray highlights the importance of recognising the fundamental right of all deaf people to sign languages in all areas of life, including education and interactions that occur in public life. WFD intends to pursue these rights in the next few days in New York.