International Day of Sign Languages 2021: Theme, History, and Significance

3 min read
Hindi Female

It was proclaimed by the UN general assembly that 23rd September of every year shall be recognized as the International day of sign language in order to raise awareness about the importance of the sign languages.

According to the reports of the World Federation of the deaf, there are almost 72 million deaf people worldwide out of which 80 percent of them have been living in the developing countries.

Sign language is like spoken language in many ways, just that it is structurally different.

And like verbal languages and their dialects, there are more than 300 sign languages used worldwide, and these usually differ by country. For instance, in America, the most widely used sign language is the American sign language or ASL.

Its Indian counterpart is called the Indian Sign language.


There is also an international sign language that is predominantly used by people different countries to communicate with each other, especially during international meetings. It is also used informally to socialise when travelling abroad.

This sign language is considered to be a pidgin form of sign languages as in it is simpler than the other sign languages.

History of International Day of Sign Language

23 September was first declared as the international day of sign languages by the UN general assembly on 19th December, 2017 as a day to recognize the struggles that deaf and hard of hearing people face in their day to day lives.

This day also commemorates the day of establishment of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) back in the year 1951.

The proposal for the international day of sign language was brought forward by WFD itself which represents the human rights of 70 million deaf people worldwide.


Significance of the Day

This day is celebrated to raise awareness about the importance of sign languages in the lives of people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

It is an effort to normalise the mode of communication and promote it's use, especially in media and educational institutes.

On this day, people and organisation who stand for the human rights of the deaf, come together to ask the government and education authorities to introduce policies and education system that promotes the use of sign language.

The theme for the year 2020 was "sign language for all" and its agenda was to promote the learning of the sign language irrespective of the fact that you are deaf or not. It helps promote the idea of inclusion of the deaf people in the society and fights against the stigma related to the use of sign languages.

'We Sign for Human Rights'

The theme for the year 2021 on this International day of sign language is "We Sign for Human Rights".

This theme supports the linguistic identity as well as the cultural diversity of the 70 million deaf people worldwide.

It is a reminder that the deaf as well as the hearing should stand together to promote the use of sign language in every aspect of life to make the deaf unity feel as a part of the society.

It emphasises on the fact that sign languages are as important as the spoken languages and urges the government to come up with education policies for the use of sign languages in school to help the deaf have quality education as a part of their human rights.


What They Said: Quotes on Sign Language

"Sign language is the noblest gift God has given to deaf people" - George Veditz

"Sign language is the equal of speech, lending itself equally to the rigorous and the poetic, to philosophical analysis or to making love" – Oliver Sacks

"If you are to reach masses of people in this world, you must do it by a sign language. Whether your vehicle is commerce, literature, or politics, you can do nothing but raise signals, and make motions to the people.” -John Jay Chapman.

"I come from a place where you don’t need to talk all the time. There are sign languages you learn.” -Warwick Thornton.

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Topics:  Deaf   Hearing Impaired 

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