WFD POSITION PAPER ON THE LANGUAGE RIGHTS OF DEAF CHILDREN
1. KEY POINTS
• The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) recognises that sign languages are equal in status to spoken languages and should be respected and promoted.
• Deaf children have a right to fully develop their cultural and linguistic identity (Article 30 of the UN CRPD).
• Deaf children have historically faced many barriers to quality education, including a denial of quality education in sign language which has led to a denial of their rights.
• Quality education in the national sign language(s) and the national written language(s) is one of key factors for fulfilling the education and broader human rights of deaf children and adult deaf learners.
• Research shows that deaf children given quality education multi-lingually (i.e. in sign language and written/spoken language) are most likely to succeed academically and become active citizens and full members of society.
• Early exposure to sign language and multilingualism, combined with strong family support for sign languages, best prepares deaf children for their future effective participation in society.
• Research shows exposure to sign language does not hinder speech acquisition or language learning.
• Specialists have recommended that all deaf children be taught a sign language immediately to maximise brain development, cognitive processing and longer term social and academic outcomes.
• Deaf children must have full access to an education in their native sign language(s), regardless of any technological devices they may use.
• Governments must implement programs to support the teaching of sign language to family members and carers of deaf children, in co-operation with Deaf Communities and deaf sign language teachers.
• Educational settings must help deaf children exercise their right to fully develop their cultural and linguistic identity in accordance with Article 30 of the CRPD, which is essential for the development of the personality, self-esteem and resilience of deaf children.
• The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has taken a positive and proactive approach to encouraging and promoting sign languages in deaf children’s education and readings of Article 24 must promote choice in education that allows deaf children to thrive and achieve academically.
• National (and/or indigenous) sign languages must be recognised as equal to national spoken languages in all educational levels.
• The best education settings for deaf children are multilingual environments which foster and respect their cultural and linguistic identity, respect the diversity of their experience and choice, and which maximise their linguistic, academic, social and, in the long term, economic outcomes.