The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realisation of the human rights of people who are deaf.
It has been recognised annually since 2018, as part of the International Week of the Deaf, which was first celebrated in September 1958. It has since evolved into a global movement of deaf unity and concerted advocacy to raise awareness of the issues deaf people face in their everyday lives.
This year’s theme is ‘Sign Languages are for Everyone’.
With CFA’s renewed commitment to putting the community at the centre of everything we do, it is likely that we will know, or interact with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and may use sign language to communicate.
How would you overcome a communication barrier like this?
Perhaps you could check out some of the explanatory videos aimed at emergency services personnel to support people who are deaf or deafblind:
Or learn some key signs for use in emergencies.
Or get involved in the ‘Hello, my name is’ campaign
Set yourself, your brigade, or your workplace, a challenge to learn a sign or two. You never know when it could be useful.
Naomi Galvin, Regional Support Officer in West Region, learned the basics of Auslan when she was in a previous customer facing role.
“We were finding that there were a number of residents coming in to the office who were deaf or hard of hearing," Naomi said. "In some cases, there were also low levels of literacy so writing messages to communicate didn’t always work either.
“We had some staff in the office who could assist with people who spoke languages other than English, but we didn’t have anyone who could help people who were deaf.
“A colleague of mine and I took a short course on Auslan, partly as professional development, but also as a way we could support the residents who needed our help.
“We may have had to revert back to ‘finger spelling’ a lot of the time, which could be a bit more time consuming, but the appreciation shown by the residents that we were trying our best to be able to communicate in a meaningful way, was great.
“It’s a valuable skill that is transferrable in CFA – you never know when you may encounter someone who relies on sign language to be able to communicate if they need our help.”
What else could you do to build your capability when engaging with people who are deaf, or have a disability?
In 2020, the World Federation of the Deaf is issuing a Global Leaders Challenge to promote the use of sign languages by local, national, and global leaders in partnership with national associations of deaf people in each country, as well as other deaf-led organisations.
Set some time to increase your understanding of disability by completing the Disability Inclusion online learning module available on the CFA Learning Hub. Learn at your own pace in bite-sized increments or take on the whole module at once.
Be aware that in the current pandemic climate, with all Victorians asked to wear masks in public, there are extra challenges for people in the deaf community to be able to communicate.
Check out these videos