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Celebrating International Week of Deaf People Sept. 19-25

“Deaf people are the same as hearing people.” This is 34-year-old Sara Quick’s message during International Week of Deaf People (IWDP), September 19-25.

Worldwide, there are more than 70 million Deaf people, like Sara. In Canada, 5% of Canadians and 4.19% of Ontarians aged 15+ have a hearing disability. Yet, access to and use of national sign languages remains a challenge.

Communication is essential to inclusion and equity in every aspect of day-to-day life. This year’s IWDP theme, ‘Building Inclusive Communities for All’, addresses the need to eliminate barriers to inclusion for Deaf people. Sara strives to accomplish this through teaching and advocating for the use of American Sign Language (ASL).

Born profoundly Deaf, Sara communicates with the hearing population through written English. However, her first language is ASL, one of more than 200 different sign languages used around the globe. ASL is a visual language with the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, but different grammar than English.

Sara teaches her Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and friends ASL through an ever-growing book of signs she created. “She is amazing at teaching sign, I’ve learned so much from her… We started with the ABCs and built on them with a new sign each day,” said April Ferguson, a DSP at DeafBlind Ontario Services.

Direct Support Professionals assist individuals who face challenges with communication, whether they are Deaf, hard of hearing, or non-verbal in addition to living with a developmental disability.

“Learning sign is really fun…You use facial expressions, body posture, and gestures,” said Sara. “A great place to start is with your ASL alphabet. Taking steps to learn ASL is an important way to connect hearing and Deaf people.”

In 2019, the Accessible Canada Act, which removes barriers for people with disabilities, received royal ascent, meaning it officially became an act in Canada. The act acknowledges ASL, Langue des signes québéquoise (LSQ) and Indigenous sign languages as the primary languages for communication by people who are Deaf in Canada.

This IWDP, an initiative of the World Federation of the Deaf since 1958, you can support inclusion in your community by learning your ABCs in ASL with many helpful resources online, including on DeafBlind Ontario Services’ blog


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