The UN recognizes September 23rd as The International Day of Sign Languages. It was first celebrated in 2018 as part of the international week of the Deaf which was established by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) to create awareness about the importance of sign language around the world. The day focuses on people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and people who have speech disorders, Sign language is their way of expressing themselves to the world. It is estimated that around 1.5 billion people live with hearing disabilities, so sign language is used worldwide and is relatively easy to learn.
There are many types of sign language variations used around the world such as American Sign Language, British sign language, Brazilian sign language etc. where American Sign Language (ASL) is the most widely used variation. It is done through bodily movements, especially of the hands and arms ASL is completely separate and distinct from English, It contains all the fundamental features of language having its own rules for pronunciation, word order, and word formation. While every language has a way of signaling different functions such as asking a question, rather than making a statement. Languages differ in how this is done for example English speakers may ask a question by raising the pitch of their voices and by adjusting their word order. ASL users ask questions by raising their eyebrows, widening their eyes, and tilting their bodies forward. It may sound complicated at first but it is a skill that can be learned naturally by just watching people sign, and it doesn’t matter how old you are to be able to learn it.
People who are born deaf have managed to learn sign language from a young age simply by watching their parents sign. But sometimes it may not be enough which is why celebrating world sign language day is another way to make educational institutions take notice and provide children with classes exclusively for deaf children or to provide teachers and lecturers with the necessary tools required to learn and teach using ASL.
Even though deafness is considered a disability it has not stopped everyone who has it from living a fulfilling life. Hellen Keller who was both deaf and blind from her childhood was able to pick herself up, seek an education and end up graduating from Harvard University where she would go on to become a writer and start her very own foundation to help others like herself, The Deaf community has also made waves in the music industry. In 2019 Maelyn Jarmon would go on to win “The Voice” despite being deaf in one ear and being unsure of how she sounded during her performance. Even Hollywood has taken notice of the talented performers of the deaf community, Actresses such as Lauren Ridloff and Alaqua Cox who recently had major roles in the Disney-produced film and original series “The Eternals” and “Hawkeye” where they both played a deaf super-hero. Alaqua Cox will also headline her own solo Original series for Disney called “Echo” set to release in 2023. This further shows how the talent of the deaf performers has been recognized and embraced by audiences all over the world. The above individuals are just a few examples of people who were dealt a bad hand in life but made the best of it.
The International day of sign language is also held to inspire society to learn how to sign themselves. It promotes awareness and sensitivity to the deaf and hard of hearing community helping you to develop a strong appreciation for deaf culture and understanding their pains and struggles. The basics of sign language can be learned within minutes with the help of a mobile phone or laptop So why don’t you also take a moment of your day to learn a few simple signs so someday you will also be able to converse with a deaf individual just the simple act of introducing yourself would make anyone fluent in sign language just a little happier and that happiness is what life is all about.
Written by : Rtr. Hanif Ameen
Thumbnail Designed by : Rtr. Aron Fernando