Erica: This week we celebrate international week of Deaf People. The focus of this Deaf Lens episode is the Declaration on the rights of Deaf Children. I am excited to welcome our guest Victoria Manning who is a current board member on the World Federation for the Deaf Board.
Thank you for your time here
Victoria: It’s my pleasure.
Erica: This document is very important, how did it come about? How was it created? How did we get to this point?
Victoria: Well the concept originated from France, the French Deaf Association designed and created the concept and suggested to the WFD board that a proposal be put before the WFD general assembly for consideration. France hoped agreement would be formed at the general assembly and the declaration would be adopted as an official WFD agreement.
WFD general assembly occurs once every 4 years, The French had contributed significant work to forming the document in order to submit it to the WFD Board for our consideration and approval and to then be shared with all the international Deaf Associations 6 months prior to the general assembly. I imagine they may have been working on forming the declaration for a year or more to get it to that stage, I praise their good effort.
Erica: The title of the document uses the word “Declaration”, What does that mean and what is the significance of that word?
Victoria: different wording selections can be made depending on what style of document is preferable, but the French Deaf Association submission follows the style that has been adopted in their country where there are other declarations for example for the rights of Children and the rights of Women. These existing declarations have been in place some time, so the French used them as a template.
They came to understand that meeting the Rights for Deaf Children has complexities. A common difficulty is Deaf children being born to culturally different parents and families who can hear and are responsible for navigating the rights of a Deaf child without understanding how to achieve them. This declaration brings the spotlight on the rights of Deaf Children and adopts the existing template from the Declaration for the Rights of Women because of the similar complexities there.
Erica: That’s really interesting, good stuff!
Victoria: To address your question about the word “Declaration” … The word can have several meanings but for WFD it demonstrates our belief, our stance, it is our statement, our position, our view, and it encompasses strength and high regard.
Erica: It gives the reader confidence to engage in the document. Once the declaration had been submitted to the World Federation of the Deaf what was the process leading up to its approval at the General Assembly.
Victoria: France Deaf Association submitted the draft declaration to WFD Board about 8-9 months before General Assembly. The draft document was discussed by the WFD board at our board meeting and a decision needed to be made whether or not we would support the document and approve it being proposed to the General Assembly. The WGD agreed unanimously that we were in favour of this declaration of course, but there were a few modifications required because the French had made a great attempt to translate the document into English but they were working in their third language, so it wasn’t perfect. Also some of the articles/paragraphs of the document were less relevant. So we as a board discussed and unanimously agreed to support the document in principle but wanted to edit some of the English script to better adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The UNCRPD does already address the rights of children, but we needed to determine where it would best fit within this declaration.
We as a board delegated this project to 2 people, myself, and Joseph Murray (the president of WFD). We were selected because of our grasp of high-level English and familiarity with UN convention policies. So we were tasked with the final edit, keeping in mind what France had originally proposed to us.
Erica: And then it was put to the general assembly for consideration?
Victoria: The final document was sent back to France for further work, of course WFD will continue to collaborate with France respecting that this lovely work was initiated there. France requested some support from WFD with editing the document and WFD respectfully suggested some amendments to ensure adherence to the UN Convention. Again these amendments needed collaboration between WFD and the French acknowledging although WFD was suggesting changes their idea and work was still supported and ensuring there was agreement and approval. Also in these discussions the French requested the addition of illustrations because this document is specifically for Children, to help them identify that this document relates to them. The French Deaf Association arranged a Professional French artist to do the illustrations throughout the document, working together on that initiative was lovely. The documents needed to be completed in order to send out to the General assembly 6 Months in advance. There was a busy period getting the final document completed and illustrated to be distributed as part of the package that was sent out to the Deaf associations and WFD members to give them time to receive and consider the documents to decide how they would vote prior to the General Assembly in South Korea. When the members are in the General Assembly, their discussions and decisions have already been made, and there are no surprises.
Erica: Wow, that’s awesome. The document does have beautiful illustrations. This document is specifically about children, for children. How special that Deaf children will see themselves represented in the illustrations and feel a connection. And lovely that they commissioned a professional French artist for this project. Did you have a comment before I ask my last question?
Victoria: No, that’s all!
Erica: This document is crucial in regard to the Rights of Deaf children. Who can use this document, and how can it be used going forward?
Victoria: Yes, my hope is for people to use this document to advocate for Deaf children’s rights in NZ, and abroad. Every country can reference this document to demonstrate what WFD says about the Rights of Deaf Children, and to hold Government’s and laws accountable in ensuring the policies laid out here are adhered to.
It is my hope that this declaration will empower Deaf people all around the world to advocate for their rights. And one more thing to add. There were around 80 countries present at the general assembly. 80 countries is significant with 2 delegates representing each country. To see 160 people in the general assembly put their hands up in favor of approving the declaration was such a strong show of support, it gave me goose bumps!
Some people even mentioned additions they would like to make to strengthen the document. We acknowledged these good ideas as something we could work on in the future.
Erica: Right, amendments could be made, that’s good to know!
Victoria: After the General assembly, the 5 day congress began. During the congress, WFD gave a presentation which included the official public launch of the Declaration on the Rights of Deaf Children. The president of WFD was able to explain the significance of the document and why it is so vital for Deaf children due to a number of reasons. Deaf children often struggle to understand, are misunderstood, and oppressed. Their human rights and language rights are commonly disregarded. He explained that we must shift to empowering the child. As I was sitting there watching Jo, the president of WFD explain the importance of this document, I felt my eyes welling up and I got goosebumps! I was truly touched.
Erica: Amazing, wow. That’s great.
Victoria: I really hope that people read this document and use it to advocate for their rights.
Erica: Yes, I’ve read the declaration and it was powerful I really connected with it. Its important to keep going with this work to improve the future for Deaf children internationally. It had a big impact for us all. It is such an important document and I was so inspired to sign it, it was a huge yes from me!
Victoria: Double yes from me as well!
Erica: Well thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Victoria: It was my pleasure 😊
Erica: To everyone watching, Happy international week of Deaf people! If you go on the WFD website, you can access more in-depth information, and show your support by signing the declaration.
Thank you so much! Handwaves! Goodbye.