18th September 2023:
The theme for day 1 of International Week of Deaf People concerns the Declaration on the Rights of Deaf Children.
The Declaration on the Rights of Deaf Children was approved by members at the July 2023 World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) XXI General Assembly which was held in South Korea. The declaration contains 10 articles proclaiming the rights of all deaf children around the globe. The articles aim to ensure that language must be accessible to every deaf child with immediate effect. Alongside this key principle, the articles also outline that deaf children have a right to a high-quality, inclusive education supported by a strong first language. Indeed, the approval of this declaration is a major step towards promoting the rights of deaf children.
There are more than 50,000 deaf children across the UK, with 3 babies being born deaf every day. Every deaf child is different and may have different levels of deafness. There are five levels of deafness, which are: Unilateral deafness (deafness in one ear) (22%), mild deafness (26%), moderate deafness (31%), severe deafness (9%) and profound deafness (12%).
Research collected from Deaf Child Worldwide outlines that there are often common misunderstandings regarding deaf children. For example, many people consider deafness to be a learning disability. Indeed, this misunderstanding can be disputed by the fact that many people who are deaf remain at the top of their fields in varying sectors. In some countries, where the national income is less than average, deafness is sometimes misdiagnosed as a learning disability. Ultimately, this is a result of a lack of language and incidental learning that is used to understand differing concepts. Although this can significantly hinder a deaf child, with the correct intensive language support, a deaf child will be able to catch up. Indeed, the approval of the declaration will ensure that such misunderstandings and misdiagnoses are significantly limited. A reduction in misunderstandings does not only benefit the child, but the parent and carer as well.
Alongside information concerning common misconceptions, Deaf Child Worldwide, has researched how the pandemic has impacted deaf children. The entire population was impacted by the recent pandemic, but the pandemic saw deaf children being affected in differing and unique ways. Specifically, deaf children were subject to inaccessible education due to television lessons being either difficult or impossible to understand because of a lack sign language interpretation. In low-income countries many deaf children also fell behind due to smartphone inaccessibility. With the approval of the declaration, such inaccessibility and subsequent inequality will be overcome as the articles strives to promote the rights of deaf children.
The Declaration on the Rights of Deaf Children proposes the following ten articles:
- Article 1: All deaf children, like all humans, are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
- Article 2: All deaf children have a right to sign language.
- Article 3: The right of deaf children to their national sign language(s) shall not be infringed.
- Article 4: All parents, carers and family members of deaf children must be provided with free instruction in their national sign language(s).
- Article 5: All deaf children have a right to quality, inclusive, multilingual education in their national sign language(s) and the national written language(s).
- Article 6: All deaf children have a right to learn the linguistic identity and culture of the deaf community.
- Article 7: All deaf children have the right to protection from language deprivation. Not providing access to the national sign language(s) to all deaf children constitutes discrimination.
- Article 8: All deaf children have a right to fluent national sign language models, including teachers in education.
- Article 9: All deaf children have a right to express their views on all matters affecting them.
- Article 10: All the above declarations must be implemented for all deaf children immediately and without delay.
In order to maximise the benefits of the declaration, the World Federation of the Deaf promotes individuals to use articles in advocacy work at local, regional, national and international levels.