Sign language is a distinct language. This recognition is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. There are over 200 sign languages spoken around the world by 70 million Deaf persons. Yet, most hearing people have not been exposed to sign languages and either misunderstand or have limited knowledge about Deaf persons and sign languages. Deaf persons remain largely unheard and unseen in Asian and Pacific societies. The Asia-Pacific region is rich with social, cultural and linguistic diversity. Sign language and Deaf culture are important elements of this rich tapestry.
Sign Language, What is It? An ESCAP Guide towards Legal Recognition of Sign Languages in Asia and the Pacific seeks to refute myths about sign language. It explains the history, distinct elements, and culture of sign language and Deaf persons. It clarifies the importance of early Deaf childhood
learning, Deaf education and sign language interpreting. The Guide provides key elements of laws that recognize sign language as a language and that promote its use in diverse situations in the daily life of Deaf persons. This Guide is the first publication on sign language that has been produced to support ESCAP member States in understanding the importance of sign language as a basis for the implementation of the Convention provisions with regard to Deaf persons, Deaf linguistic rights and Deaf culture. This Guide emanates from a collaborative endeavour between ESCAP and The Nippon Foundation.