International Struggle with Recognition of Sign Language Continues

Advocacy for language equality is such an important battle that every country comes to face at one point in time or another.  When a child is deprived language access, they are being deprived access to everything else. American Sign Language in America has two allies that are well recognized for their advocacy efforts in pushing for ASL (American Sign Language) to be recognized. While ASL has been recognized as a language, it has not been recognized as an official language of America.

LEAD-K believes that children benefit from access to ASL however they also emphasize the importance of language acquisition for children regardless of language used (ASL or English).The mission of the National Association of the Deaf is to preserve, protect and promote the civil, human and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States of America

Lisa Anderson-Kellett and Frank Folino, on social media, made a shout out about the interview that World Federation of the Deaf conducted with Monika Stobiecka for her efforts to help with #ASLandLSQCanada movement by the Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC).


World Federation of the Deaf  began its blog post with, "Ms Monika Stobiecka, a Canadian deaf advocate, shares with us the important advocacy moves and tools to fight for the recognition of sign language(s)." Canada does not recognize their languages legally which has been affecting a lot of accessibility and services for those residing in Canada.

Monika took some time to prepare for the town hall meeting mentioned in the interview. She had been given the opportunity by Justin Trudeau to ask a question in American Sign Language. The event took place at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC at 11:00 AM on Friday, February 2, 2018. Prior to the town hall meeting, she collaborated with two people, Lisa Anderson-Kellett, Director at Large, and Frank Folino, President of the WFD country member association, Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC), to develop a statement and ask a question about the recognition of ASL and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) in Canada.

The National Post in Canada published an article in 2016 highlighting that the Canadian Government is working on adding Sign Languages as a third language and this aligns perfectly with what Justin Trudeau believes is necessary for Canada to do, focus on accessibility, not the word disability. "Earlier this year, officials in Employment and Social Development Canada looked over sign language legislation in New Zealand, Scotland, Finland and Sweden as part of research about how the government could enact a similar federal law here." (National Post)

One thing that may be confusing is that sign language is not a language but rather the country wants to be inclusive and this would mean both ASL and LSQ.

CAD-ASC was contacted and DSTidbit News asked them, So even after 2 years you are still fighting for accessibility through sign language? When do you expect this problem to be addressed by the government? Frank Folino said, "The federal government will be introducing the federal accessibility legislation in this spring session." Frank and Lisa continued to share a more in-detail answer:

Frank Folino wanted to emphasize that there are two processes that have been going on these past two years.

"The federal government has held public sessions in 18 different cities across Canada as a part of a consultation process to inform planned federal accessibility legislation. Also, the federal government has held roundtable discussions with stakeholders across the country where Frank Folino attended as CAD-ASC President. The process began from July 2016 until February 2017. The goal is to gather information about what Canadians want included in the Federal Accessibility Legislation." (Frank Folino)

CAD-ASC has been telling the federal government in Canada that they want ASL and LSQ to be recognized languages in Canada. They mentioned that "There are over 42 countries around the world that have recognized their national Sign languages through federal legislation." (Frank Folino)

At many of these public consultations numerous people gave the repeated message that they wanted ASL and LSQ recognized. Not long after these consultations, the federal government started to draft the legislation, which is expected to introduce this Spring session 2018. This is the end of one process.

Frank pointed out that there is another process going on at the same time. "At the same time, there is another process on the international stage with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities."

Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in March 2010 and Canada is in the process of ratifying the Optional Protocol, which is an additional agreement to the Convention.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities refers 5 different articles to our human rights on Sign languages: Article 2, 9, 21, 24 and 30. In particular to Article 21 states that State party (the country) must ensure the acceptance of Sign languages in official interactions, and to recognize and promote the use of Sign languages.

Canada made an appearance to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a body of independent experts which monitors implementation of the Convention by the States Parties, took place in Geneva on April 3-4, 2017. Frank Folino attended as a member of the Canadian Civil Society Delegation. This work has lead to the Concluding observations on the Initial Report of Canada published on May 8, 2017, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities asks the State party (Canada) to recognize ASL and LSQ as official languages.

So these are the two processes that have been going on leading up to today, April 27th, 2018. CAD-ASC is calling on the federal government to enact the federal accessibility legislation implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into Canadian domestic law including the legal recognition of Canada’s two official Sign languages- American Sign Language (ASL) and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ).

It is critical for the community to get involved with their legislation to bring recognition to ASL/LSQ or any sign language that people in their country uses. Paying attention to human rights of everybody will only better the community as a whole.

CAD-ASC would love to see more people get involved in reaching out to local legislation within Canada so if anybody is interested, please reach out to Frank Folino to see what needs to be done to advocate for the community.