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Promoting the legal recognition of sign languages

Wellington, New Zealand

28th – 29th January 2020

A group of international delegates will convene in Wellington this week for a two-day workshop progressing a collaborative project aimed at promoting the legal recognition of sign languages in Asia Pacific countries.

New Zealand is a recognised world leader on the legal recognition of sign languages with its New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Act 2006 and subsequent initiatives including the government’s NZSL Board and funding for the promotion and maintenance of NZSL.

The Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Carmel Sepuloni, will meet the 25 delegates from Asia and the Pacific at Parliament on Tuesday morning.

Deaf Aotearoa is leading the project, funded by The Nippon Foundation, in collaboration with the World Federation of the Deaf Regional Secretariats in both Asia and the Pacific, the Korean Deaf Association, the Philippine Federation of the Deaf and the Korean Disabled People’s Development Institute.

The legal recognition of signed languages is paramount to the realisation of language rights and human rights for deaf people. Recognition of a country’s national sign language is a critical step in enabling deaf people to fully develop their linguistic and cultural identity and to enable their full participation in society.

Equitable access for deaf people is achieved through their right to sign language. Without sign language, deaf people cannot realise their human rights including their right to education, right to access services and information, and right to participate and be included in society.

The legal recognition of national sign languages is a key step towards the full inclusion of deaf people in society.

This project is bringing together those three Asia Pacific countries that have legally recognised their national sign languages (New Zealand 2006, South Korea 2016 and the Philippines 2018) to share their experiences; and to collaborate on a plan of action to promote the legal recognition of sign languages in all Asia Pacific countries so that deaf people can realise their human rights and be full and contributing members of their country.

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