International Day of Sign Language: September 23, 2019

September 20, 2019 | Danya Elsayed

Comments (0)

International Day of Sign Language (IDSL) is celebrated each year on September 23. This year's theme is "‘Sign Language Rights for All!’.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 5% of the world's population are deaf or hard of hearing. That number equals to just over 460 million people. 

Logo for International Day of Sign Language
Photo courtesy of the United Nations.

Hundreds of sign languages exist around the world. One of the most commonly used sign languages in North America is American Sign Language or ASL.

Although there are many sign languages, it remains difficult to get sign language recognized as an official form of communication. Often times, members of the deaf community feel marginalized or even discriminated against because of this.

The purpose of this UN-designated holiday is two-fold: to raise awareness for those that are deaf or hard of hearing and to emphasize sign language as a legitimate language.

With the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), the UN identified the need for governments to "support specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture."

If you'd like to learn how to sign, Malvern Branch is holding a series of American Sign Language meet-ups. Their next series will take place every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m. from Oct. 16-Nov. 13. This is the perfect place to learn the basics of ASL, brush up on your existing skills and learn more about deaf culture. Beginners are welcome! 

Consider watching online story videos presented in sign language with your children available via OverDrive. All you need is to sign-in with your library card to access them. We also offer Discover Sign Language, a free, 6-week online course accessible with your library card through Gale Courses.

Here are some materials to get you started on signing and learning about deaf culture:

American Sign Language Made Easy

Everything Sign Language Book by Irene Duke

The complete idiot's guide to conversational sign language illustrated, by Carole Lazorisak

Inside Deaf Culture by Carol Padden

More resources


Edited July 10, 2020: Added More resources section with links to our Accessible Collections page and a blog post about learning ASL at home.

Do you know any more resources for learning sign language? Comment down below!