International Week of the Deaf (IWDeaf) is an annual worldwide initiative to spread awareness and support of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. Taking place in the last week of September, the week is about celebrating the rich culture, heritage and language of all Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and promoting their rights to equal access to education and services.
International Week of the Deaf is an initiative of the World Federation of the Deaf and was first launched in 1958 in Rome, Italy. A truly global event, it is the only week in a year that sees highly concerted global advocacy to raise awareness about the Deaf community.
With Sign Language, Everyone is Included
Each year, IWDeaf is centred around a particular theme. In 2018, that theme is: With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!". Access to language, including Sign Language, is a basic human right, and providing access to Sign Language to Deaf or Hard of Hearing is vital to their growth and development.
Sign Language, in its various forms across the world, are fully fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from spoken languages, but equal in importance.
Inclusion and equal participation in society require sign languages to be accessible, respected and supported, all of which are required to achieve sustainable development goals established by the United Nations under its 2030 Agenda. The Agenda, which the WFD contributed to, is a worldwide call to action to solve society’s critical issues, including inequality for people with disabilities, including deaf people.
A major goal for the WFD is to legitimize sign language as a coexisting form of common communication. Unfortunately, sign language is misunderstood by the wider public, and IWDeaf serves as a great opportunity to educate the general community.
How you can get involved
You can show some simple support by:
- Sharing the hashtags, #IWDeaf2018, #IDSL2018 or #SignLanguagesDay on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and posting official images you can download from World Federation of the Deaf;
- Learning some simple sign language phrases and brighten up someone's day - jump online and make use of the numerous free resources available on ASL, AUSLAN and BSL (British Sign Language);
- Sharing your story on our Ai-Media Facebook page about your good or bad experiences of Deaf awareness;
- Attending events and activities held by your local Deaf society or association - for example if you're in Australia, the Deaf Australia has a number of events on;
- Thinking about how your workplace, school or university can be more inclusive for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people – do you offer equal opportunities? Do you have Sign Language interpreters? Do you offer closed or real time captioning?