United Nations declared 23 September as International Day of Sign Languages

Significant achievement for the Global Deaf Community:
International Day of Sign Languages declared by the United Nations

New York, USA, 19 December 2017: The United Nations General Assembly has declared 23 September as International Day of Sign Languages. The resolution (A/C.3/72/L.36/Rev.1 – International Sign version here) was initially adopted by consensus during the 48th meeting of the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, 16 November 2017 and officially adopted today at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

The resolution was proposed, or sponsored, through the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, following an original request by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). The WFD worked with its country members to garner support from their respective Permanent Missions to the United Nations, who have the power at the United Nations General Assembly to vote for adoption of the resolution as co-sponsors. The resolution was co-sponsored by 97 United Nations Member States and adopted by consensus.

Ambassador Walton Webson of the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations: ´This resolution is an important milestone in our international promise “to leave no one behind”. The acclimation of 23 September as the international day of sign languages is a significant step in the universalization of all communities to recognize the objectives set out in article 21 of the UNCRPD to meet our universal goal of inclusion. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is pleased to be part of this international day that will focus the world’s attention on the principles of the UNCRPD in calling for equality, especially in terms of accessibility, that allows an individual freedom of choice, dignity and independence of self without discrimination.´

The choice of 23 September commemorates the date that the WFD was established in 1951. This day marks the birth of an 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 first International Day of Sign Languages will be celebrated on 23 September 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf.

World Federation of the Deaf President Colin Allen: ‘This resolution recognises the importance of sign language and services in sign language being available to deaf people as early in life as possible. It also emphasises the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with Deaf Communities. With effect from year 2018, the WFD is overjoyed at the prospect of observing and celebrating this day annually.’

The International Week of the Deaf was first celebrated in September 1958 and has since evolved into a global movement of deaf unity and concerted advocacy to raise awareness of the issues deaf people face in their everyday lives. The WFD strongly believes that the present United Nations resolution is a valuable extension of this tradition and has the potential to increase the understanding of United Nations member states, the private sector and the United Nations’ system in closing existing gaps in the achievement of human rights for deaf people.

The WFD extends its heartfelt gratitude to the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda for its forthrightness, collaborative effort and support shown towards achieving this significant milestone for the global Deaf Community. This appreciation is extended to all co-sponsors and countries that supported the resolution.

Media Contact:
Name of Media Contact:       Eeva Tupi
Title of Media Contact:         WFD Human Rights Officer
Mobile (Text/SMS Only):    +358 50 4388 370 (Helsinki, Finland)
Contact E-mail:                      eeva.tupi@wfd.fi
WFD Website:                        www.wfdeaf.org

About the World Federation of the Deaf
The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is an international non-governmental organisation representing and promoting approximately 70 million deaf people’s human rights worldwide. The WFD is a federation of deaf organisations from 135 nations; its mission is to promote the human rights of deaf people and full, quality and equal access to all spheres of life, including self-determination, sign language, education, employment and community life. WFD has a consultative status in the United Nations and is a founding member of International Disability Alliance (IDA).