User Tools

Site Tools



General information

Wiki manual

Wiki on minority language learning


International legislation concerning Sign Languages

European level

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (1992) defines ““regional or minority languages” as:

  • traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State's population; and
  • different from the official language(s) of that State;
  • it does not include either dialects of the official language(s) of the State or the languages of migrants;

There is no specific mentioning of Sign Languages in the Charter, nor are there any Sign Languages covered by State Parties. See the full list of covered languages here

Recognition by the Council of Europe

In 2003, the PACE recognised Sign Languages in their Recommendation 1598 (2003): Protection of sign languages in the member states of the Council of Europe. There, the PACE recognises Sign Languages “as the expression of Europe’s cultural wealth. They are a feature of Europe’s linguistic and cultural heritage” and the PACE recognises them as “a complete and natural means of communication for deaf people.”

For education, they recommend and encourage member states:

  • to give education in Sign Languages to deaf people;
  • to train teachers, in preparation for working with deaf and hearing-impaired children, in Sign Languages;
  • to include Sign Languages as a valid academic qualification in mainstream secondary schools with equal status to other taught languages;
  • to grant deaf people the right to choose freely between oral and bilingual school systems;
  • to subsidise the publication of instructive literature in Sign Languages.

EU resolutions

On June 17, 1988, the European Parliament signed the Resolution on Sign Languages 1988 and the Resolution on Sign Languages 1998 ten years later which both called for the recognition, improvement and support of Sign Languages.

The Resolution on Sign Languages 1988 states that a “sign language, which can be properly be regarded as a language in its own right, is the preferred or only language of most deaf people” and calls “upon the Member States to abolish any remaining obstacles to the use of sign language.”

The Resolution on Sign Languages of 1998 reinforces the resolution of 1988, and for education calls “to ensure EU funding programmes in the field of education and employment training include training of sign language tutors and interpreters”

International legislation

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) is the first international human rights convention that explicitly considers Sign Languages to be languages (Article 21)1).

The Convention covers Education in Article 24, in which State Parties – amongst others – ensure that:

  • Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability;
  • Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live;
  • Reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements is provided
  • Persons with disabilities receive the support required

And take appropriate measures to:

  • Facilitating the learning of Sign Language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;
  • Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.

The list of State Parties that have signed and/or ratified the Convention can be found here

Sign Languages currently covered on the Wiki

De Meulder, M. (2016). Artikel 24 van het VN Verdrag inzake de Rechten van Personen met een Handicap en dove gebarentaligen: naar een nieuwe interpretatie van het begrip 'inclusief onderwijs'. In G. Van Hoven, A. Schippers, M. Cardol & E. De Schauwer (Eds.), Disability Studies in de Lage Landen. Antwerpen: Garant Uitgeverij.
general_information/sign_language_legislation.txt · Last modified: 2023/03/27 12:05 by ydwine

Creative Commons License
Mercator's wiki on minority language education by Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at