asserting the linguistic, cultural,
educational, and human rights
of Deaf children
Below are documentations from the United Nations (UN), World Health Organization/World Bank (WHO), World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) which declare that Deaf children have the right to a natural signed language in early educational programs.
UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Article 21 - Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention, including by:
e. Recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages
Article 24 - Education
3. States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:
b. Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;
Article 30 - Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport
4. Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.
World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank - WORLD REPORT ON DISABILITY
Deaf students and those with intellectual impairments argue that mainstreaming is not always a positive experience (41, 42). Supporters of special schools – such as schools for the blind, deaf, or deafblind – particularly in low-income countries, often point to the fact that these institutions provide high-quality and specialized learning environments. The World Federation of the Deaf argues that often the best environment for academic and social development for a Deaf child is a school where both students and teachers use sign language for all communication. The thinking is that simple placement in a regular school, without meaningful interaction with classmates and professionals, would exclude the Deaf learner from education and society. [p. 211]
"Promote Deaf children’s right to education by recognizing linguistic rights. Deaf children should have early exposure to sign language and be educated as multilinguals in reading and writing. Train teachers in sign language and provide accessible educational material." [p. 227].
Enabling Environments section:
Feliza: “Until I was 19 years old, I had no opportunities to learn sign language, nor had Deaf friends. After I entered a university, I learned sign language(s) and played an active role as a board member of Deaf clubs. Since I completed graduate school, I worked as a bio-scientist in a national institute. I mainly communicate with my colleagues by hand-writing, while I use public sign language-interpreting service for some lectures and meetings. My Deaf partner and I have two Deaf children...my personal history gives me the distinct opinion that the sign language and Deaf culture are absolutely imperative for Deaf children to rise to the challenge.” [p. 168]
WORLD FEDERATION OF THE DEAF POLICY – EDUCATION RIGHTS FOR DEAF CHILDREN
[see also http://www.wfdeaf.org/human-rights]
WFD embraces these following human rights and educational principles:
· Like all people, Deaf people have the right to full access to quality
· Deaf people are primarily visual beings, whose eyes are their portal to the
world of information and knowledge. Thus, sign language and
visual strategies must be made available to Deaf people as a birthright. (Deafblind people may predominantly depend on their tactile sense and have the right to learn sign language, Braille and mobility skills.)
Under “Current Situation” section
Moreover, even in industrialised countries, the majority of current Deaf education programmes do not respect the linguistic human rights of Deaf children. Indeed, most Deaf education programmes fall into the language deprivation category described in theoretical models of education of linguistic minorities. “Language deprivation” for Deaf people means ignoring the use of sign language as a basic communication means, as a language of instruction and as a school subject. Following this, the linguistic human rights of Deaf children are grossly violated in educational programmes all over the world.
Under “Current Research” section
Deaf students learn best through visual modalities and depend on sign language.
- Sign language is a valid linguistic means of conveying thoughts, ideas and emotions. Hearing babies whose parents use sign language have a head start in communicating with their parents. Increasing numbers of hearing people study and utilise sign language annually.
- Deaf children who are in school are often in programmes that do not meet their needs, educationally, socially or emotionally. These include oral programmes that exclude the Deaf learner’s right to visual access to education, professionals fluent in the sign language used by the Deaf community, and supportive, enriching and appropriate environments. Such programmes fail to meet the Deaf child’s needs and goals, and are detrimental to the Deaf child’s educational development, self-esteem and overall well-being.
Under “Linguistic Human Rights” section
- The UN supports the rights of students from minority cultures, specifically the right to education in their mother tongue. This includes the right of Deaf children to the sign language of their country. Previously mentioned new Convention emphasizes that without respecting linguistic rights of the deaf students, their human right can not be fulfilled [see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/minorities.htm]
- WFD supports the right of Deaf children to acquire full mastery of their sign language as their ‘mother tongue’, as well as to learn the language(s) used by their family and community [see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm]
- Deaf children must also have access to adult role models fluent in sign language.
Under “Inclusive Education” section
WFD holds that the least restrictive environment for a Deaf learner is whatever is the most enabling environment for that learner. Full inclusion for a Deaf learner means a totally supportive, signing and student-centred environment. This permits the learner to develop to his/her full educational, social and emotional potential. This is stated also in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Under “Statement of Rights and Recommendations” section
To ensure that the educational rights of Deaf learners are fulfilled, WFD therefore:
• Reaffirms its position that all Deaf people, including Deaf children, have the right to full access to quality education through visual modes, including indigenous sign languages. This position is supported by several international conventions of the UN.
• Supports early identification of Deaf infants and youth, followed promptly with sign language environments and educational intervention strategies and programmes, in partnerships between families, Deaf adults and professionals.
• Calls upon governments to ensure full and equal access to and educational success for Deaf learners based on regular education goals, standards and curricula.
• States, furthermore, that such curricula should provide the opportunity for students to learn in and study both their local/national sign language and the local (written) language as academic subjects.
WFD calls upon national and regional/provincial governments to:
• To sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and modify their education legislation to follow this Convention.
• Put into practice policies or guidelines regarding early identification of and intervention for Deaf children that maximise their visual capabilities and sign language.
• Legalise sign language and quality education for Deaf people of all ages.
• Provide the resources necessary for the development of effective programmes for teaching sign language and Deaf Studies (history, culture, etc.) to involved people, such as:
o Families of Deaf children
o Teachers of Deaf children, administrators and other professionals
o Professionals, including doctors and therapists, for preschool Deaf children
o Interested parties such as but not limited to community service providers, interpreters, and other students
• Provide support for programmes for Deaf people to receive training and become employed as teachers, educational professionals and members of educational teams.
• Establish high standards for quality education programmes and outcomes, from early childhood to professional education, for all Deaf people equal to that for all people; implement assessment and monitoring programmes to ensure that each learner makes appropriate progress.
• Ensure that Deaf learners who may be placed in mainstream educational settings have access to the services of educated, trained and qualified sign language interpreters, other needed support services, Deaf peers and role models, and full participation in both the educative and co-curricular processes.
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON THE EDUCATION OF THE DEAF (ICED) 2010 NEW ERA AGREEMENT
From Statement of Principles:
Reject all resolutions passed at the ICED Milan Congress in 1880 that denied the inclusion of sign language from educational programs for Deaf students
From Accord for the Future:
Call upon all the Nations to involve their Deaf citizens to assist parents of Deaf infants, children and youth in their support services for both Deaf and hearing family members
Call upon all Nations to refer all identified Deaf infants to regional and national organizations of the Deaf, schools and programs for the Deaf for support with early intervention