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Sign Language and Human Rights around the World

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One would think that having access to language would be a basic human right. However, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing people around the world, still to this day in 2020, have issues accessing language due to one thing or another. Across the globe, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing individuals do not have access to interpreters or there is a problem getting the interpreter to be there with the person.

Imagine this: Take the current pandemic, COVID-19, and imagine not being able to get information that could and would protect you and your family in a timely manner. Now, put yourself in that Deaf of Hard-of-hearing person’s shoes. How would you feel? 

There are countries around the world who have tried to get current and reliable information out, but as we know, things change daily. Many states here in the US have had their governors provide certified sign language interpreters during news conferences, but not all have done this. Certain laws and regulations have been passed around the world to help, but there is still a lot of work to do for equality.  

Laws in the United States that have helped Deaf or Hard-of-hearing individuals are: Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1975 (IDEA)Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), all sponsored by the National Association of the Deaf. President Obama in 2010 enacted the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which updated federal communications laws and to provide accessible access to the Internet. The Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) provides accommodations to those with disabilities who are flying, once the passenger contacts them to let them know what is needed. This includes captioning, allowing service animals, and for those who need it, to have a safety assistant accompany them.  

Across the globe there is still more work that is needed. The World Federation of the Deaf has made its mission to get equal rights to all Deaf and Hard-of-hearing individuals in order to break down barriers. This includes having sign language in a particular country be recognized as the official language for the Deaf in that country. For example, in 1991, Australia recognized Auslan (Australian Sign Language) as a community language, but Deaf individuals still need to fight for using Auslan in different situations. In 2011, the Australian government finally used interpreters on live TV during emergency announcements and updates.  

In England, the Equality Act of 2010 is supposed to ban discrimination in the work place, but as we know this still continues. Other issues in England that have been shared by Deaf individuals is that there is still a heavy burden placed on family members to provide unqualified interpreting in medical and educational settings. Also, Deaf or Hard-of-hearing prisoners are not given equal treatment.  

The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in an international human rights treaty that was adopted in 2006. However, as with other Acts that have been passed around the globe, more work is needed. This work involves those persons with Deafblindness, who represent about 0.2%-2% globally and are a very diverse yet hidden group. A global report was done in 2018 by the World Federation of the Deafblind and it shows that this group of individuals is at risk for being excluded from many of the Acts that protect those with disabilities.  

So, you can see more work is needed to provide equality, not only for human rights but education as well, to those who are Deaf, Hard-of-hearing, or Deafblind around the world. Strides have been made. However, more needs to happen. If you would like to help or to learn more, check out the following websites: National Assocation of the DeafWorld Federation of the Deafor the World Federation of the DeafBlind