Sign Languages


2.1.We wholeheartedly support and commit to ensuring the promotion of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/C.3/72/L.36/Rev.1 recognising 23rd September as the International Day of Sign Languages as part of the International Week of the Deaf. This recognition promotes the legal recognition of national sign languages as official languages, equal to national spoken and written languages.

2.2.We recognise national sign languages as the key to the inclusion of deaf people in society. National sign languages are full, complex natural languages with the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, including phonetic, phonemic, syllabic, morphological, syntactic, discourse, and pragmatic levels of organisation. They are the mother tongue and the natural languages of deaf children. They are the vector of the inclusion of deaf children both in deaf communities and in society, fostering the building of their own identities and communities.

2.3.We acknowledge that deaf communities are part of a unique intersectionality of rights, belonging to both linguistic and cultural groups, and the disability movement. Deaf people have their own identity, mainly tied to national sign languages and social connections built on the shared experience of the use of these languages. Sign language and deaf culture strengthens multilingualism and are means of promoting, protecting and preserving the diversity of languages and cultures globally. Deaf people are found among all cultural, linguistic, and ethnic minorities and the deaf community is a diverse and intersectional community.

2.4.We deplore and profoundly regret the 2nd International Conference on Education of the Deaf in 1880, in Milan, Italy, which passed a resolution banning the use of sign languages in the education of deaf children, which had widespread and long-lasting repercussions for the language and linguistic rights of deaf communities worldwide. Consequently, deaf people were denied their most fundamental human right, their use of sign language.

2.5.We applaud the resolution from the 21st International Conference on Education of the Deaf in 2010 in Vancouver, Canada, rejecting Milan resolutions. History must not be forgotten in order to ensure that deaf people’s right to use sign language is respected and promoted in all areas of life.

2.6.We commit to establishing sign language research centres and including deaf studies programs in universities and other institutions of learning.

WFD Charter on Sign Language Rights for All



Irish Deaf Society