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International Week of Deaf People

blue illustration of World Federation of the Deaf logo for International week of deaf people and International day of sign languages

The International Week of Deaf People has been celebrated during the last full week of September, Sept 20-26, 2021. Last week, we came together to recognize that deaf people have our own communities, our own cultures, our own languages, sign languages, which unite us all.

This year’s theme for the International Week of Deaf People was “Celebrating Thriving Deaf Communities”. Deaf communities have been expanding and thriving throughout the years and giving us all strength, now is the time to celebrate their incredible endurance at the local, national and international level.

It was an important week for the recognition of deaf people, it is vital for deaf communities and deaf organizations. This falls under the key principle, “Nothing about us, without us!”.

I am on the board of Ontario Cultural Society of the Deaf (OCSD) as a Sign Language Director with our committee to educate and promote sign languages and Deaf people in Ontario. Our goal was to establish an International Day of Sign Languages on the 23rd declared by World Federation of the Deaf with United Nations. ‘We sign for Human Rights.’ We aim to introduce and pass a government bill to formalize Ontario’s sign languages. I designed infographics showcasing “Did you know…” theme posts for each day of the week on OCSD’s Facebook page and shared on my social medias.

Infographic: Intro - Sunday
World Federation of the Deaf (WFD)
Initiative The International Week of Deaf People (IWDP)
September 20-26, 2021

Sign Languages Official Bill in Ontario - Each day of the week there will be “Did you know" posts that spread the WFD work to establish an International Day of Sign Languages. We aim to introduce & pass a government bill to recognize Ontario’s sign languages as official languages in Ontario. Let’s learn the history and facts to get where we are going for Ontario!

Guess What! OCSD, Sign Languages Act committee working together to showcase “Did you know” theme posts each day of the week that spread the @WFD work to establish an International Day of Sign Languages, starting tomorrow. We aim to introduce and pass a government bill to formalize Ontario’s sign languages. Let’s learn the history and facts to get where we are going for Ontario! 

International Week of the Deaf People 2021

Ontario’s Ministry of Indigenous affairs:

Canada Association of the Deaf / Association des Sourds du Canada issue positions on language,

Infographic: Sign Languages in Canada, Timeline
before 17th century, Indigenous people had their own sign languages and they still do today
17th century, Maritime Sign Language (MSL) emerged in Atlantic Provinces
19th century, DeafDeaf immigrants brought their own sign languages, Britain (BSL) & France (LSF)
1900’s Deaf students in the United States brought American Sign Language (ASL)
1850 Québec, Deaf people prefer their own distinct language, known at the time as Langue des signes canadienne-française
1880 International Congress on the Education, Milan, Italy resolution forbade sign language and it impacted Ontario in 1920's
2010 International Congress on the Education, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, formally apologized and rejected Milan 1880 resolutions after 130 years
Early 1990’s become more adamant about receiving an education in their preferred sign language

Did you know… Sign language has been in Canada a long time, and it has evolved with the additions of many new cultures. 

Indigenous Sign Languages in Canada by Darin Flynn

Infographic:Sign Languages in Ontario, timeline
1993, The Ontario Education Act was amended to recognize American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) as languages of instruction for deaf students.
2007, The Bill 213 recognizes American Sign Language (ASL) as an official language in Ontario in the courts, in education and in the Legislative Assembly.
2016, Reclaim and preserve On^yota'a:ka': / Oneida Sign Language of the Turtle Clan of the Thames by Mary Elijah and Marsha Ireland.
2021, Make public statement to support & celebrate UN International Day of Sign Languages on September 23 and introduce & pass government bill to recognize Ontario’s sign languages as official languages in Ontario.

Did you know… Sign Language in Ontario, as law, started with the Ministry of Education. Our sign languages are NOT official in Canada. Check out our progress in the last 28 years, we have so much work to do!

Snoddon, K. & Wilkinson, E. 2019. Problematizing the legal recognition of sign languages in Canada. Canadian Modern Language Review, 75(2)128-144.

Infographic: Sign Languages for the Deaf, reasons for learning
Reduce frustration
Increase self esteem
Enhances language and listening skills
Enriches relationships
Provides window to the Deaf's world
Increase their IQ
Their natural language

Did you know… There are so many reasons to learn sign language, especially for Deaf children. Truth be told, it’s our natural language and it is a health need!

Exploring the Acquisition of American Sign Language by Deaf Kindergarten Children: Early Language Access and the Use of Appropriate Resources by Dr. Jenelle Rouse

Framing Sign Language as a Health Need in Canadian and International Policy by Dr. Kristin Snoddon and Jennifer J. Paul, JD

Did you know… 

The United Nations has declared, today and every year forward, September 23 is the ‘International Day of Sign Languages’. 

And that’s not all…. 
World Federation of the Deaf President Dr. Yerker Anderson wrote a letter to The Hon. Gary Malkowski on July 21, 1993 claimed “Ontario is the first province or state (not country) to specify American Sign language and la langue des signes québécois as languages of instruction for Deaf and hard of hearing students.” 

A Ministry of Education News Release published in 1993, “Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to recognize ASL and LSQ as official languages of instruction.”

Infographic: Diversity in the Deaf Communities
Sign Languages brought to Ontario from around the world
Disclaimer: Forgive us if we haven't identified yours, you're not forgotten. Let us know so we can update the chart for the future.

Chinese, Farsi, Tamil, Syrian, Pakistani, Irish, Romanian, Indian, Auslan, New Zealand, Russian, Lebanese, Somali, Polish, Northern Ireland, Arabic, Japanese, Vietnamese, Nepali

Did you know… There are 19+ different sign languages used in various Deaf communities in Ontario alone not including local languages. How cool is that!

Ai-Media shows different sign language alphabets from around the world

Sign language protects ‘linguistic identity and cultural diversity’ of all users, says UN chief from United Nations News

Infographic: Who benefits from Sign Language
Deaf, Children of Deaf Adults (CODA), Non-deaf parents, Interpreters, Hard of hearing, Visual learners, DeafBlind, Person with Autism, Person with Down’s Syndrome, New Canadians, Person with atypical speech, Auditorily difficulty, You

Do you know…Who benefits from sign language? YOU, the one reading this! We all benefit from sign language from birth to the day we no longer live. It’s a human right, it’s a language especially for Deaf children!  


Sign languages in Ontario, the process
Legislative Assembly of Ontario. When the Bill is given Royal Assent it becomes an Act, is given a statute number, is reprinted, and is posted on the Internet and on e-Laws.
House progress. The bill is printed, copies are distributed, and the text is posted on the Assembly’s Internet site. A compendium of background information is tabled with the Bill.
Prepare a rally. Encourage the community to see and meet their MPPs. Train and bring in speakers for the event.
Pre-Legislative Stages. Proposals are put on the government’s agenda, explaining the purpose of the bill to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Meet MPPs. Meet with MPPs in Ontario's Legislature to introduce and pass a government bill to recognize Ontario’s sign languages as official languages in Ontario.
Prepare Media kit. Develop sample letters, resources, film video for website in ASL & LSQ, social media page launch. Contact local, provincial, national news reporters.
Research. It involves data collection, organizations, and analysis of information to increase understanding of issues with sign languages.
Join our committee. Eagerness to participate at every meeting. Willing to prepare ahead of meetings and to serve on the committee.
For more details, you may contact

Did you know… we are rolling up our sleeves to educate our provincial government to recognize our sign languages in Ontario and pass the bill! We need YOU to work with us to make this happen! We need at least 7 provinces & territories to recognize our sign languages to become official in Canada! We are at ground level, recruiting to get the ball rolling. Join us!
Contact Sign Language director for more information at

How an Ontario bill becomes law