Can Sign Languages be for Everyone?

Can Sign Languages be for Everyone?

This year, the World Federation of the Deaf has defined the theme of International Day of Sign Languages as “Sign Languages Are for Everyone”, which seems to have been underestimated in Iran as people suffering from hearing loss do not have the same sign language yet, and needs more serious attention.

According to the Welfare Organization, currently, 211,346 people with severe hearing loss are supported by this organization.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed September 23 as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.

The International Day of Sign Languages is a unique opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users. In 2020, the World Federation of the Deaf is issuing a Global Leaders Challenge, which aims to promote the use of sign languages by local, national, and global leaders in partnership with national associations of deaf people in each country, as well as other deaf-led organizations.

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80 percent of whom live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.

Sign languages are fully-fledged natural languages, structurally distinct from the spoken languages. There is also an international sign language, which is used by deaf people in international meetings and informally when traveling and socializing. It is considered a pidgin form of sign language that is not as complex as natural sign languages and has a limited lexicon.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes and promotes the use of sign languages. It makes clear that sign languages are equal in status to spoken languages and obligates states parties to facilitate the learning of sign language and promote the linguistic identity of the deaf community.

Sign language is a right for all children, women, the elderly, and all people with hearing loss.

It is hoped that the responsible organizations, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, will achieve all matters related to the rights of the deaf, such as “having the same sign language”, “free or low-cost sign language training” and “sign language translator availability”.

520,000 hearing impaired citizens living in Iran

Mohammad Farhadi head of the national committee for hearing health said in March 2019 that about 520 thousand hearing impaired citizens are living in Iran and 1,500 infants suffering from profound hearing loss are born in the country annually.

In premature infants, the range of hearing impairment is 20 to 40 percent while the average hearing loss in Iranian full-term infants is 2.7 per 1,000 births, he said.

He said that eleven governmental cochlear implant centers are currently active in Iran.

Over 10,000 Iranians benefit from cochlear implants during past 26 years, he announced.

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted neuroprosthetic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who suffers severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss.

Hearing loss may be caused by genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and ageing. However, 60 percent of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes.
Unaddressed hearing loss incurs an annual global cost of $750 billion. Interventions to prevent, identify, and address hearing loss are cost-effective and can bring great benefit to individuals.

People with hearing loss can benefit from early identification; use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support.

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