Global Rallies Support of International Day of Educational Rights for Deaf Children

News & Events

Global Rallies Support of International Day of Educational Rights for Deaf Children

September 10, 2007

Ottawa, ON – The Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) will play a leading role in global rallies on Friday September 28, 2007, in support of Sign language and Deaf children’s right to education.

Authorized by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), and working in collaboration with the National Association of the Deaf in the USA, the CAD will lead rallies in most major cities across Canada as well as at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC. The WFD is also promoting demonstrations among its member countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia throughout International Deaf Awareness Week (September 23-29).

“All levels of government in Canada, the United States, and other countries have violated Deaf children’s rights to Sign language and accessible education,” declared Sheila Carlin, President of the CAD. “At a time when non-Deaf babies and children are being enrolled by the thousands in Sign language classes because Sign has been proven to develop their language skills, the same access to Sign is being explicitly refused for Deaf children with the argument that Sign retards their language skills.

“This makes no sense at all,” said Carlin, pointing out that the anti-Sign arguments run counter to everything known about language acquisition.

“Depriving Deaf children of Sign language is to deprive them of meaningful access to education,” added Chris Kenopic, a Deaf parent of a Deaf child and the Chairperson of the CAD’s National Rallies Committee. “It puts their linguistic and mental health at risk, and leaves them unable to find employment. We are seeing an enormous waste of human potential, and in the long run the costs to society will be staggering.”

Gary Malkowski, former MPP, pointed out that the number of Deaf students enrolled in post-secondary institutions has plummeted by roughly 70% since provincial governments started steering Deaf children into audio-verbal therapy programs that prohibit the learning of Sign. “Are you going to tell the Deaf community that is purely coincidental? It’s not. There’s a direct tie between access to Sign language and access to educational opportunities.”

Sheila Carlin explained that the WFD position calls for four actions by all levels of government:

  1. Ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  2. Remove all prohibitions against Sign language for Deaf children.
  3. Reaffirm that all Deaf people have the right of full access to quality education through visual modes, including Sign language.
  4. Require mandatory training of educators in Sign language and Deaf accommodation.

“For most Deaf children and youth, Sign is the natural and most accessible language,” said Carlin. “Their right to that language in education must be respected and protected to enable them to become positive and productive citizens in society.”

The Canadian Association of the Deaf ( Founded in 1940 by the three regional associations of the Deaf, the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) is the national consumer organization of Canada’s 310,000 Deaf citizens. The CAD provides consultation and information on Deaf needs and interests to the public, business, media, educators, governments and others. The Association conducts research and collects data regarding Deaf issues; provides expertise; and develops and implements pilot programs.