The United Nations (UN) International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL) is annually observed across the globe on 23 September to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users.
- The day also aims to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realisation of the human rights of people who are deaf.
The day is celebrated as part of the International Week of the Deaf People (IWDP) 2023(from 18 to 24 September 2023).
- The theme of IDSL 2023 observed on 23rd September 2023 is, “A World Where Deaf People Everywhere Can Sign Anywhere!”
i.The IDSL was proposed by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), a federation of deaf organisations from 135 nations.
ii.On 19 December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the resolution A/RES/72/161 and proclaimed the 23rd of September every year as the International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL).
iii.The resolution was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN, and co-sponsored by 97 UN Member States.
iv.The first International Day of Sign Languages was observed on 23 September 2018 as part of the IWDP 2018.
Why September 23?
i.The date 23 September commemorates the establishment of WFD in 1951.
ii.This day marks the birth of an advocacy organization (WFD), and one of its primary objectives is the preservation of sign languages and Deaf culture as essential for upholding the human rights of deaf individuals.
About Sign Language:
i.Sign language is manual communication commonly used by people who are deaf. Sign language is not universal.
- People who are deaf from different countries speak different sign languages.
ii.According to the WFD, there are more than 70 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.
iii.The first formal sign language was actually developed in France. The French priest, Abbe Charles-Michel de L’Épée founded the first public school for the deaf in Paris (France) in 1755. He was really considered the “Father of Sign Language and Deaf Education”
- 60% of countries in the world have not legally recognised their national sign language.
i.Global Leaders Challenge: WFD organised this challenge in the successful 4th year, with the aim of promoting the use of national sign languages by national and global leaders in partnership with their national associations of deaf people.
ii.Shine a Blue Light on Sign Languages!: This concept was first launched in 2022, and WFD continued this concept in the IDSL 2023. This event aims to unite the world, its citizens, communities, and societies through the blue light by the shared experience of national sign languages.
iii.On the occasion of the IDSL, the Division of Administration (UN Geneva in Switzerland), WFD, and the Swiss Federation of the Deaf (SGB-FSS) organised several events on 22 September 2023. The open-to-public events took place in person at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
2023 IDSL Events in India:
i.The Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC), New Delhi (Delhi) celebrated the IDSL 2023 on 23 September 2023 and launched various programs and materials. The event was held at Bhim Hall, Dr.Ambedkar International Centre Janpath in New Delhi.
ii.The Centre organized the 6th Indian Sign Language (ISL) Competition 2023, a national-level competition held for students with hearing disabilities, providing a platform for students with hearing disabilities to showcase their talents.
Note: ISLRTC works under the aegis of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE).
Programmes and materials launched during the event:
- Basic Communication Skills in ISL an online self-learning course.
- 267 signs of financial terms in ISL jointly developed by ISLRTC, Society General, and V-Shesh.
- Around 10,000 ISL dictionary terms on the website
- ISL course in Special Schools for hearing impaired
- Video Relay Service (VRS) for the deaf community through WhatsApp video calls.