[lg policy] WFD-EUD conference in =?iso-8859-1?Q?=C5l=2C_?=Norway: Sign bilingualism is a human right, not a privilege!

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 13 17:51:40 UTC 2011

Sign bilingualism is a human right, not a privilege!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The third day of the WFD-EUD conference in Ål, Norway concentrated on
exploring positive examples from around the world on education, the
deaf community and sign language policy development.

Tuesday started off with the keynote presentation from Dr. Peter C.
Hauser from the Rochester Institute of Technology (USA) who shared
recent cognitive neuroscience and psycholinguistic research findings
on deaf and hearing individuals. According to Dr. Hauser there is no
research supporting claims that learning sign language would interfere
with speech development. On the contrary it enhances language
acquisition. According to Dr. Hauser, it is important for hearing
families to accept that their child is deaf instead of seeing the
child as “broken” or disabled. He also emphasised the importance of
deaf mentors and positive role models for both deaf and hard of
hearing children as well as their parents.

The president of the Ugandan National Association for the Deaf (UNAD)
Mr. Ambrose Murangira brought into the discussion perspectives from
Uganda showing the struggles of the Ugandan deaf community and deaf
education from the 1960s to present day. The key lesson learnt from
Uganda is that there is a need for a strong deaf community which can
influence the education policies and societal attitudes towards
bilingual education.

Director of the Development Department of the Finnish Association of
the Deaf (FAD) Ms. Kaisa Alanne presented the Finnish example of sign
language policy planning providing a comprehensive analysis of its
development leading to the Language Policy Programme for sign
languages adopted in 2010. The Finnish example shows that although
sign language is recognized in the constitution the legal obligation
does not necessarily guarantee the realization of linguistic rights in
practice. Whilst continuing its work on the national level, FAD has
also aimed to contribute to the language planning development in other
countries through its development programmes in, for instance Kosovo
and Albania.

Dr. Dirksen Bauman, Co-ordinator of the Office of Bilingual Teaching
and Learning from Gallaudet University introduced the Bilingualism
mission adopted in 2007. Currently students’ language and
communication skills are evaluated in both American Sign Language and
English whereas in the past it was predominately written English.
Through these changes in its curriculum Gallaudet, is in the process
of becoming a genuinely bilingual university.

Ms. Berglind Stefánsdóttir, EUD President and Mr. Colin Allen, WFD
President wrapped up with a statement:

    The sessions today have proved that the recognition of sign
languages in national law is not enough. National and regional
stakeholders and policymakers must ensure that legislations are put
into practice and implemented so that Deaf children can enjoy full
human rights and become equal citizens.


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