The International Week of the Deaf is an annual event during the last full week of September where Deaf people around the world celebrate the formation of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD).
The WFD was established for improving human rights of Deaf people, conserving national sign languages, and improving Deaf peoples’ rights to education, services, technology and information. The WFD is comprised of over 130 national associations of the Deaf as well as the United Nations.
The 2019 theme for the week of September 23rd to September 29th is “Sign Language Rights for All”.
All About Sign Languages
Sign language is a visual language that comprise of signs, facial expressions, and body language.
People tend to think sign language has a sign for every spoken word and in spoken word order. Sign language actually has its own grammar, syntax, and linguistic rules that are nothing like its spoken counterpart.
Another misconception is that sign language is universal and can be understood around the world. There are actually around 300 different sign languages. The names give it away — American Sign Language, British Sign Language, Lengua de Señas Mexicana, and so on.
There is an International Sign Language, which isn’t a true language but a pidgin sign language made up of several countries' sign languages to ease communication between two different signers.
What does “Sign Language Rights for All” Mean?
The WFD is calling for more linguistic rights to be given to Deaf people and all sign language users.
They, as well as the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in the United States, and many Deaf education advocates around the world, believe that access to sign language is a human right for those who have hearing loss. Any denial of sign language is seen as a form of oppression.
As mentioned, there are 300 different sign languages, and American Sign Language alone has over 1 million users. But it doesn’t mean that all deaf and hard of hearing people know sign language.
So, how do the Deaf and Hard of Hearing access information across the internet?
Web Accessibility for the Deaf
The various ways the Deaf and Hard of Hearing access web information, besides reading, are with closed captioning, transcripts, live interpreting, and sign language videos.
Closed Captioning is the text version of the spoken and audio parts of a television, movie, or video.
You may also think of subtitles being the same as captioning, but there’s a slight difference – subtitles only show the spoken parts while captioning adds any audio clues, such as “phone ringing in background”, “rain pattering on roof”, or “eerie music playing”.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) state that all pre-recorded and live audio content in synchronized media, except when the audio is an alternative for text, must be captioned.
If you want to meet the WCAG standards, any audio content on your website must contain captions, from videos to movies to podcasts. This includes HTML5 videos, videos in multimedia players such as YouTube and Vimeo, and videos in formats such as Flash and Java applets.
An added bonus to having captions included in your website are for users who cannot have the sound on, like at work for example; foreign language speakers who can turn the captions on in their native language; and a hidden bonus of more SEO keywords available for internet searches.
Transcripts are the text version of all the audio and video content on a website.
Transcripts are a great addition to captioning for several reasons — available for those who are Deafblind and can access information through their Braille readers; foreign language speakers or anyone who prefers to read or have the combination of viewing and reading the material; and for viewers who would rather skim through the information than sit through a whole video.
Here to help
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility supports and encourages web accessibility for all Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to gain full access and understanding of all internet information. To learn how we can help you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance, contact us.