European Parliament “signs” yes to disability rights

29 September 2016
EDF to the European Parliament photo

For the first time, all the 31 EU official sign languages were simultaneously signed in the European Parliament during yesterday’s event ‘Multilingualism and equal rights in the EU: the role of sign languages’. Organised by MEP Helga Stevens, this historic event brought together more than 1.000 people including a huge representation of deaf people and other sign language users from across and beyond Europe. The aim was to raise awareness on sign languages as part of Europe’s multicultural and multilingual heritage.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, congratulated MEP Helga Stevens and the European Parliament for the level of accessibility of this event which, apart from interpretation in 31 EU official sign languages, also included interpretation in 24 official EU spoken languages, programmes in Braille, speech-to-text and other facilities.

The lack of recognition of sign language and professional and qualified sign language interpreters was emphasised throughout the discussions; sign language interpretation is still lagging behind in many EU Member States compared to spoken language interpretation. The concentration of all EU official sign languages in this event is an exception that needs to become the rule so that deaf people fully enjoy their right to communicate on equal terms with other people.

EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, stated: “This conference is an excellent example of how a public institution applies the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and in particular its articles on accessibility (article 9), the right to access information (article 21) and the right to participate in political and public life (article 29). The European Parliament can and must play a crucial political role in ensuring that the implementation of the CRPD is high in the EU agenda. We, as EDF, look forward to continue working together with the European Parliament on this".
The conference resulted in a draft resolution on sign languages and professional sign language interpreters which will be presented to the European Parliament’s plenary later this year.

Find out more about the discussions on twitter using the hashtag: #EUsigns

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