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  Deaf History, Europe

                    Work in Progress!

Sign Language (work in progress)

470 - 399 BC: Socrates:

470 - 399 BC: Socrates: "The deaf express themselves in gestures..."

Socrates mentions that the deaf express themselves in gestures movement.

 

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1834 – 1910: Fritz Hirn, Deaf Teacher of the Deaf (FI)

1834 – 1910: Fritz Hirn, Deaf Teacher of the Deaf (FI)

David Fredrik (Fritz) Hirn (1834–1910) is a pioneer of Finland’s Deaf club activities. He was a well-liked teacher in the Turku Deaf School and founded the first kindergarten for Deaf children. Even after retiring, he started collecting the first Finnish sign language dictionary.

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1834: The first Silent Banquet in Paris (Banquet Silencieux)

1834: The first Silent Banquet in Paris (Banquet Silencieux)

On November 30, 1834, the first Silent banquet was organized by Ferdinand BERTHIER and Alfred BOCQUIN who are themselves deaf, on the occasion of the 122nd anniversary of the birth of Abbot de l'Epée. This tradition continues to be honored in nearly every country in Europe and in the United States.

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1847 - 1922: Alexander Graham Bell (USA)

1847 - 1922: Alexander Graham Bell (USA)

Alexander Graham Bell (March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922) was a Scottish-born American inventor, scientist, and engineer who is credited with inventing and patenting the first practical telephone. 

Bell's father, grandfather, and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech. Both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell's life's work. 

His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone, on March 7, 1876.

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1861 - 1937: George W. Veditz, First Person to Film Sign Language (ASL)

1861 - 1937: George W. Veditz, First Person to Film Sign Language (ASL)

In 1904, Veditz became president of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). He had strong opinions about preserving sign language, so during his years as president he worked closely with Oscar Regensburg, the first chairman of NAD's Motion Picture Fund Committee to produce some of the earliest films that recorded sign language.

Consequently, these videos are some of the most significant documents in deaf history. 

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1958: International Week of the Deaf launched by the World Federation of the Deaf

1958: International Week of the Deaf launched by the World Federation of the Deaf

International Week of the Deaf is an initiative of the WFD and was first launched in 1958 in Rome, Italy.
It is celebrated annually by the global Deaf Community on the last week of September each year to commemorate the same month the first World Congress of the WFD was held.

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1960: William Stokoe,

1960: William Stokoe, "Sign Language Structure"

Stokoe is often considered to be the "father of linguistics" in the field of American Sign Language. His research on American Sign Language (ASL) revolutionized the understanding of ASL in the United States and sign languages throughout the world. 

Stokoe's work led to a widespread recognition that sign languages are true languages, exhibiting syntax and morphology, and are not mere systems of gesture. This work redefined the concept of "language" itself, and influenced thinking in theoretical linguistics, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, neural studies, and even jurisprudence.

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1981: Sweden, Legal Recognition of Swedish Sign Language

1981: Sweden, Legal Recognition of Swedish Sign Language

In May 1981, the Swedish Parliament decided that: “deaf have to be bilingual to function amongst themselves and in society. Bilingualism on their part means that they have to be fluent in their visual/gestural language and in the language that surrounds them, Swedish.” This decision is recognised as acceptance that Swedish Sign Language is the first language of Swedish deaf people.

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1988: European Parliament Resolution on Sign Languages

1988: European Parliament Resolution on Sign Languages

On 17 June 1988, the European Parliament unanimously approved a resolution about sign languages. The resolution suggests that all member states recognise their sign languages as official languages of the Deaf community.

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1995: Lithuania, Legal Recognition of Lithuanian Sign Language

1995: Lithuania, Legal Recognition of Lithuanian Sign Language

On May 4, 1995, The Government of the Republic of Lithuania has officially recognized Lithuanian Sign Language as the native language of the deaf.

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1995: Finland, Legal Recognition of Finnish Sign Language

1995: Finland, Legal Recognition of Finnish Sign Language

Finnish Sign Language was recognised in the constitution in August 1995:

Section 17 - Right to one's language and culture [...] The rights of persons using sign language and of persons in need of interpretation or translation aid owing to disability shall be guaranteed by an Act.

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1995: Slovakia, Legal Recognition of Slovak Sign Language

1995: Slovakia, Legal Recognition of Slovak Sign Language

The National Council of the Slovak Republic passed a law recognizing "Sign Language as a language of communication of the Deaf"

Slovakia has a separate Law on the Sign Language of the Deaf. The Slovak Union of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing was mainly involved in drafting this law. It took over three years of fighting until the law was passed in 1995. 
It recognises sign language as the language of the Deaf.

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2000: Greece, Legal Recognition of Greek Sign Language

2000: Greece, Legal Recognition of Greek Sign Language

Greek Sign Language was legally recognised as the official language of the Deaf Community in Greece by Law 2817 in 2000.

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2000: Latvia, Legal Recognition of Latvian Sign Language

2000: Latvia, Legal Recognition of Latvian Sign Language

The Official Language Law of 9 December 1999, which came into force on 1 September 2000, gave Latvian Sign Language a legal status in Section 3.3, which stipulates: 'The State shall ensure the development and use of the Latvian sign language for communication with people with impaired hearing."

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2002, 2019: Slovenia, Legal Recognition of Slovenian Sign Language

2002, 2019: Slovenia, Legal Recognition of Slovenian Sign Language

The government endorsed the proposal to set down the Slovenian sign language as an official language in the constitution on Thursday, starting the procedure of enabling the Slovenian deaf and hearing-impaired community to fully exercise their basic human rights.

The law on the use of the Slovenian sign language from 2002 gives the children the right to have an interpreter to a limited extent, but it does not grant the language the necessary status.

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2002: Germany, Legal Recognition of German Sign Language

2002: Germany, Legal Recognition of German Sign Language

German Sign Language was first legally recognised in The Federal Disability Equality Act (2002) in May 2002. Since then, deaf people have a legal entitlement to Sign Language interpreters when communicating with federal authorities, free of charge.

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2002: Romania, Legal Recognition of Romanian Sign Language

2002: Romania, Legal Recognition of Romanian Sign Language

Romanian Sign Language (Romanian: Limba semnelor române or LSR) is the sign language used by deaf people in Romania.

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1997: Portugal, Legal Recognition of Portuguese Sign Language

1997: Portugal, Legal Recognition of Portuguese Sign Language

"The revised Constitution was published 20 September 1997, with PSL included in Article 74, Education:

In the implementation of its policy for education, it is the duty of the State:

  • To protect and value the Portuguese Sign Language as cultural expression and instrument of access to education and equality of opportunities."

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1998: Czech Republic, Legal Recognition of Czech Sign Language

1998: Czech Republic, Legal Recognition of Czech Sign Language

In 1998, the Czech parliament passed a bill that Czech Sign Language was officially recognized as the first language of the Deaf people in Czech Republic.

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2003: UK, Legal Recognition of British Sign Language

2003: UK, Legal Recognition of British Sign Language

British Sign Language (BSL) is an official minority language of the UK, recognised on 18th March 2003.

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2003: Paddy Lad,

2003: Paddy Lad, "Deafhood"

Dr. Paddy Ladd is a Deaf scholar, author, activist and researcher of Deaf culture. His book "Understanding Deaf CultureIn Search of Deafhood" was published in 2003. 

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2003: Walloon - Belgium, Legal Recognition of French Belgian Sign Language

2003: Walloon - Belgium, Legal Recognition of French Belgian Sign Language

Belgium's Parliament of the French Community recognised French Belgian Sign Language (LSFB) by decree in October 2003. The recognition entails:

  • cultural (symbolic) recognition
  • the formation of a commission to advise the Government of the French Communityin all LSFB-related matters

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2004: Iceland, Legal Recognition of Icelandic Sign Language

2004: Iceland, Legal Recognition of Icelandic Sign Language

Icelandic Sign Language was recognised by law in education in 2004.

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2005: Austria, Legal Recognition of Austrian Sign Language

2005: Austria, Legal Recognition of Austrian Sign Language

Austrian Sign Language (Österreichische Gebärdensprache, or ÖGS) was recognised by the Austrian Parliament in 2005.

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2006: Cyprus, Legal Recognition of Cypriot Sign Language

2006: Cyprus, Legal Recognition of Cypriot Sign Language

Cyprus or Cypriot Sign Language (Greek: Κυπριακή Νοηματική Γλώσσα) is an incipient sign language of Cyprus.

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2006: Flanders - Belgium: Legal Recognition of Flemish Sign Language

2006: Flanders - Belgium: Legal Recognition of Flemish Sign Language

Flemish Sign Language (Dutch: Vlaamse Gebarentaal or VGT) was recognised on 24 April 2006 by the Flemish Parliament.

Cultural recognition entails that the Flemish Government recognises the Flemish Sign Language as the language of the Deaf Community in Flanders.

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2007: Spain, Legal Recognition of Spanish and Catalan Sign Languages

2007: Spain, Legal Recognition of Spanish and Catalan Sign Languages

On June 28, 2007, Spanish and Catalan Sign Languages were recognised by the Spanish Parliament to be official languages in Spain.

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2007: Estonia, Legal Recognition of Estonian Sign Language

2007: Estonia, Legal Recognition of Estonian Sign Language

Estonian Sign Language was officially recognised on 1 March 2007.

The Language Act recognises Estonian Sign Language (eesti viipekeel, EVK) as an independent language: not using 'sign language' as a generic term.

Par. 2 "Scope of Application" mentions Estonian Sign Language again, explicitly stating that the Act regulates the Estonian language and the use of Estonian Sign Language, along with 'foreign languages', i.e. minority languages.

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2009: Macedonia, Legal Recognition of Macedonian Sign Language

2009: Macedonia, Legal Recognition of Macedonian Sign Language

"The Macedonian sign language (Macedonian: македонски знаковен јазикromanized: makedonski znakoven jazik or македонски гестовен јазикmakedonski gestoven jazik) is the sign language of the deaf community in North Macedonia.

The Macedonian Sign language is regulated by a national law on 21 August 2009.  

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2009: Hungary, Legal Recognition of Hungarian Sign Language

2009: Hungary, Legal Recognition of Hungarian Sign Language

In November 2009 the Hungarian Parliament unanimously passed an act on Hungarian Sign Language and the protection of Hungarian Sign Language.

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2009: Bosnia and Herzegovina: Legal Recognition of Sign Language

2009: Bosnia and Herzegovina: Legal Recognition of Sign Language

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the deaf have the same language rights with sign language as the hearing do with oral language. Interpreters must be provided between sign and Serbo-Croatian for deaf people dealing with government bodies, and government television broadcasts must be translated into sign language.

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2011: Iceland, Legal Recognition of Icelandic Sign Language

2011: Iceland, Legal Recognition of Icelandic Sign Language

In June 2011, Icelandic Sign Language was officially recognized as a first language. The law now states that Icelandic Sign Language is the first language of those who must rely on it for expression and communication, and of their children. The government authorities shall nurture and support it.

Article 5 of the Act also ensures that the government must promote all aspects of education and awareness in regards to Icelandic Sign Language.

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2011: Poland, Legal Recognition of Polish Sign Language

2011: Poland, Legal Recognition of Polish Sign Language

In 2012, under the "Sign Language Act", Polish Sign Language ("Polski Język Migowy", PJM) received official status in Poland and can be chosen as the language of instruction by those who require it.

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2014: Denmark, Legal Recognition of Danish Sign Language

2014: Denmark, Legal Recognition of Danish Sign Language

On May 13, 2014, Danish sign language was recognized as equivalent to the Danish language by an overwhelming majority in The Danish Parliament.

The Danish Parliament established the Danish Sign Language Council "to devise principles and guidelines for the monitoring of the Danish sign language and offer advice and information on the Danish sign language."

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2014: Albania, Legal Recognition of Albanian Sign Language

2014: Albania, Legal Recognition of Albanian Sign Language

In 2014, Albanian Sign language was legally recognized.

Albanian Sign Language (AlbSL, Albanian: Gjuha e Shenjave Shqipe) is one of the deaf sign languages of Europe. It is unrelated to other sign languages of the Balkans.

It is relatively young, having developed primarily since the collapse of Communism in 1990.

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2015: Croatia, Legal Recognition of Croatian Sign Language

2015: Croatia, Legal Recognition of Croatian Sign Language

Croatian sign language (Hrvatski znakovni jezik, HZJ) is a sign language of the deaf community in Croatia.

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2015: British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill passed unanimously

2015: British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill passed unanimously

On Thursday 17 September 2015 the British Sign Language (BSL) (Scotland) Bill was passed unanimously by all Parties in the Chamber in the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.

This new Act will work towards improving the daily life of the Scottish Deaf population and could shake up where the Deaf community choose to call home.

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2015: Serbia, Legal Recognition of Serbian Sign Language

2015: Serbia, Legal Recognition of Serbian Sign Language

Serbian Sign Language has been approved by the Serbian Parliament on 28 April 2015.

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2016: Malta, Legal Recognition of Maltese Sign Language

2016: Malta, Legal Recognition of Maltese Sign Language

Maltese Sign Language (Maltese: Lingwa tas-Sinjali Maltija, or LSM) was officially recognised by the Parliament of Malta in March 2016.

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2017: Ireland, Legal Recognition of Irish Sign Language

2017: Ireland, Legal Recognition of Irish Sign Language

The Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016 passed the Irish Parliament on 14 December 2017, and was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins on 24 December of that year.

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2017: 23 September marked as International Day of Sign Languages

2017: 23 September marked as International Day of Sign Languages

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages in order to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf.

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2018: Luxembourg, Legal Recognition of Luxembourg Sign Language

2018: Luxembourg, Legal Recognition of Luxembourg Sign Language

On Monday 22 May 2017, minister Cahen submitted a bill to parliament to make German sign language an official language of the grand duchy of Luxembourg. The bill will give deaf or hard of hearing the right to an interpreter when they deal with state administrative bodies, if approved.

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2020: The Netherlands, Legal Recognition of the Sign Language of the Netherlands

2020: The Netherlands, Legal Recognition of the Sign Language of the Netherlands

"Tuesday 22 September, the Senate of the Dutch Parliament voted about the Law recognition Sign Language of the Netherlands. It was approved unanimously. With this law, Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT, Nederlandse Gebarentaal) becomes an official language in the Netherlands, next to Dutch and Frisian."

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2021: Bulgaria: Legal Recognition of Bulgarian Sign Language

2021: Bulgaria: Legal Recognition of Bulgarian Sign Language

21st of January 2021 was a big day for the Bulgarian Deaf Community and especially to those who have worked hard in pushing the Bulgarian Sign Language Act through over the last couple of years: the Bulgarian Sign Language (BGSL) was finally recognized as an official language in Bulgaria.

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2021: Italy, Legal Recognition Italian Sign Language

2021: Italy, Legal Recognition Italian Sign Language

On May 19, 2021, Italy officially recognized LIS (Italian Sign Language).

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