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Language Policy

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 253–272 | Cite as

Language justice for Sign Language Peoples: the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  • Sarah C. E. Batterbury
Original Paper

Abstract

Sign Language Peoples (SLPs) across the world have developed their own languages and visuo-gestural-tactile cultures embodying their collective sense of Deafhood (Ladd 2003). Despite this, most nation-states treat their respective SLPs as disabled individuals, favoring disability benefits, cochlear implants, and mainstream education over language policies fostering native sign languages. This paper argues that sign language policy is necessary for language justice. Based on interviews with SLPs and policy makers in the UK, this paper argues that ideally sign language policy requires a shift in policy discourse away from a disability construction to one recognizing the minority language status of SLPs. However minority language policy support for the formulation of sign language policies hitherto has been very limited. Conversely, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (UN 2007) offers the best hope for sign language policy notwithstanding its disability framing. The CRPD requires states to recognize sign languages and to support sign bilingual education, where appropriate. It employs a human rights approach, and is a potential stepping stone towards the emergence of minority language policies for SLPs. This paper argues that the CRPD offers a regulatory context that could enable a shift in policy discourse towards the eventual promulgation of the minority sign language policy that many Deaf-SLPs have called for. This strategy, as suggested here, offers the best chance of moving from a situation of social injustice for SLPs to one of language justice where full sign language access is promoted.

Keywords

Sign Language Peoples (SLPs) Language justice Legal recognition Disability discourse Sign language policy UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Deaf StudiesUniversity of BristolClifton, BristolUK

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