Deaf Awareness Week

Deaf Awareness Week, also called International Week of the Deaf (IWD), is celebrated annually and ends with International Day of the Deaf on the last Sunday of the week. Deaf Awareness Week is celebrated by national and regional associations of the deaf, local communities, and individuals worldwide.

History

The first International Day of the Deaf was first celebrated by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in 1958. The day of awareness was later extended to a full week, becoming the International Week of the Deaf.1

The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is an international, non-governmental organization of national associations of Deaf people and is recognized by the United Nations (UN) as their spokes-organization to promote the human rights of Deaf people.2 The WFD is composed of 130 national associations of the deaf3 and represents approximately 70 million Deaf people worldwide.2

International Week of the Deaf is recognized by Deaf communities internationally. The World Federation of the Deaf celebrates International Week of the Deaf the last week of September to commemorate the first World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf, which took place in September 1951. Many countries, like the United States, also celebrate the International Week of the Deaf the last week of September, but there are some countries that choose to observe the week at a different time.1

National affiliates and regional partners of the World Federation of the Deaf help to lead International Day of the Deaf across the world. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) represents the United States at the General Assembly and World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf and they promote Deaf Awareness Week in the United States.3

Purpose

The purpose of Deaf Awareness Week is to increase public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture. Activities and events throughout Deaf Awareness Week encourage individuals to come together as a community for both educational events and celebrations.

Messages during Deaf Awareness Week include:

  • Celebrate the culture, heritage, and language unique to deaf people of the world.
  • Promote the rights of Deaf people throughout the world, including education for Deaf people, access to information and services, the use of sign languages, and human rights for Deaf people in developing countries.2
  • Recognize achievements of deaf people, including famous deaf individuals.
  • Educate about the misconceptions of being deaf and the challenges the deaf population face during everyday life.
  • Learn about types, degrees, and causes of hearing loss.
  • Be exposed to sign language and other ways deaf and hard of hearing people communicate.
  • Learn about the types of educational programs, support services, and resources that are available to the deaf and hard of hearing community, including children.
  • Gain a better understanding of deaf culture.
  • Understand that deaf and hard of hearing individuals are just as capable, able, and intelligent as hearing individuals. There is a difference in the way those that are deaf and hard of hearing communicate, but it is not a handicap or disability.

Events and Activities

The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) encourage organizations and local communities to recognize Deaf Awareness Week through events that educate and bring the community together.

Types of events vary, but may include:

  • Awareness events, public information campaigns, and distribution of material
  • Displays, exhibit booths, and information tables – possibly found anywhere from a shopping mall to your local health center, community center, pool, club house, or park.
  • Interpreted story hours (libraries are a good place to check)
  • Open houses in schools that have deaf and hard of hearing programs or at facilities that offer educational and community resources.
  • Events put on by Deaf Ministry Programs in Churches
  • Sign Language lessons or courses for the public
  • Hearing screening
  • Events with guest speakers, workshops, or panel discussions
  • Film screenings
  • Sign Language concerts or performances
  • Games and other entertainment events for the community

You may see events in your local community from any of the following:

  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing organizations or clubs
  • Schools, colleges, and universities
  • Libraries
  • Churches
  • Businesses
  • Sign Language classes (for example, sometimes high school sign language students will do community outreach events during Deaf Awareness Week)
  • Community groups and public venues

Sources

  1. International Week of the Deaf. World Federation of the Deaf. Retrieved 9/25/2012 from: http://www.wfdeaf.org/about/international-week-of-the-deaf
  2. About Us. World Federation of the Deaf. Retrieved 9/25/2012 from: http://www.wfdeaf.org/about
  3. International Advocacy. National Association of the Deaf. Retrieved 9/25/2012 from: http://www.nad.org/issues/international-advocacy
  4. About Us. National Association of the Deaf. Retrieved 9/25/2012 from: http://www.nad.org/about-us

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