The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) was established in 1951 in Rome, Italy. This international organization declared Sunday in the last week of September as the International Day of the Deaf. Now, the day has been extended to a week and is now called the International Week of the Deaf. The week is celebrated during the last week of September. WFD works very closely with the United Nations to help preserve the rights of the deaf community.
Importance and significance of the week
The International Week of the Deaf tries to increase awareness about the deaf community, their challenges, and their culture. It helps to motivate the community to learn the sign language, come forward with their grievances, promote their human rights, and also bring about positive changes in policy. These changes can help make the lives of countless individuals much easier.
History of Week Deaf
The first International Day of the Deaf was first celebrated by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in 1958. The day of awareness was later extended to a full week, becoming the International Week of the Deaf (IWD).
The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is an international, non-governmental organization of national associations of Deaf people and is recognized by the United Nations (UN) as their spokes-organization to promote the human rights of Deaf people. The WFD is composed of 130 national associations of the deaf3 and represents approximately 70 million Deaf people worldwide.
International Week of the Deaf is recognized by Deaf communities internationally. The World Federation of the Deaf celebrates International Week of the Deaf the last week of September to commemorate the first World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf, which took place in September 1951. Many countries, like the United States, also celebrate the International Week of the Deaf the last week of September, but there are some countries that choose to observe the week at a different time.
National affiliates and regional partners of the World Federation of the Deaf help to lead the International Day of the Deaf across the world. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) represents the United States at the General Assembly and World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf and they promote Deaf Awareness Week in the United States.
The purpose of Deaf Awareness Week is to increase public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture. Activities and events throughout Deaf Awareness Week encourage individuals to come together as a community for both educational events and celebrations.
Messages during Deaf Awareness Week include:
- Celebrate the culture, heritage, and language unique to deaf people of the world.
- Promote the rights of Deaf people throughout the world, including education for Deaf people, access to information and services, the use of sign languages, and human rights for Deaf people in developing countries.
- Recognize the achievements of deaf people, including famous deaf individuals.
- Educate about the misconceptions of being deaf and the challenges the deaf population face during everyday life.
- Learn about types, degrees, and causes of hearing loss.
- Be exposed to sign language and other ways deaf and hard of hearing people communicate.
- Learn about the types of educational programs, support services, and resources that are available to the deaf and hard of hearing community, including children.
- Gain a better understanding of deaf culture.
- Understand that deaf and hard of hearing individuals are just as capable, able, and intelligent as hearing individuals. There is a difference in the way those that are deaf and hard of hearing communicate, but it is not a handicap or disability.
Events and Activities
The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) encourage organizations and local communities to recognize Deaf Awareness Week through events that educate and bring the community together.
Types of events vary, but may include:
- Awareness events, public information campaigns, and distribution of material
- Displays, exhibit booths, and information tables – possibly found anywhere from a shopping mall to your local health center, community center, pool, clubhouse, or park.
- Interpreted story hours (libraries are a good place to check)
- Open houses in schools that have deaf and hard of hearing programs or at facilities that offer educational and community resources.
- Events put on by Deaf Ministry Programs in Churches
- Sign Language lessons or courses for the public
- Hearing screening
- Events with guest speakers, workshops, or panel discussions
- Film screenings
- Sign Language concerts or performances
- Games and other entertainment events for the community.
You may see events in your local community from any of the following:
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing organizations or clubs
- Schools, colleges, and universities
- Sign Language classes (for example, sometimes high school sign language students will do community outreach events during Deaf Awareness Week)
- Community groups and public venues.
The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) suggests the International Week of the Deaf is celebrated by focusing on “Human Rights through Sign Languages.” Since 2009, the WDF has created themes for the International Week of the Deaf.
Past themes include:
- 2009 – Deaf People’s Cultural Achievements
- 2010 – Deaf Education
- 2011 – Accessibility to Information and Communications
- 2012 – Sign Bilingualism is a Human Right!
- 2013 – Equality for Deaf People
- 2014 – Strengthening Human Diversity
- 2015 – With Sign Language Rights, Our Children Can!
- 2016 – With Sign Language, I Am Equal
- 2017 – Full Inclusion With Sign Language
- 2018 – With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!