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Legal recognition of sign languages

The legal recognition of sign languages differs widely. In some countries, the national sign language is an official state language, whereas in others it has a protected status in certain areas such as education.

Extending legal recognition is one of the major concerns of the international Deaf community, however, symbolic recognition is no guarantee for an effective improvement of the life of sign language users, and it has been argued that sign languages should be recognized and supported not merely as an accommodation for the disabled, but as the communication medium of language communities.

Auslan was recognised by the Australian Government as a "community language other than English" and the preferred language of the Deaf community in policy statements in 1987 and 1991. This recognition does not ensure any provision of services in Auslan, but use of Auslan in Deaf education and provision of Auslan/English interpreters is becoming more common.

Austrian Sign Language (Österreichische Gebärdensprache, ÖGS) was recognised by the Austrian Parliament in 2005. On 1 September 2005 the Austrian Constitution was amended to include a new article: „§8 (3) Die Österreichische Gebärdensprache ist als eigenständige Sprache anerkannt. Das Nähere bestimmen die Gesetze.“ ("Austrian Sign Language is recognised as independent language. The laws will determine the details.") For further information please contact the Austrian Deaf Association:

Krausneker, Verena (2005) Österreichs erste Minderheitensprache, in: STIMME von und für Minderheiten # 56 [1]

Krausneker, Verena (2006) taubstumm bis gebärdensprachig. Die österreichische Gebärdensprachgemeinschaft aus soziolinguistischer Perspektive. Verlag Drava

The Parliament of French-speaking Belgium recognised LSFB (French-Belgian Sign Language) in a decree of October 2003. This recognition entails:

In Décret relatif à la reconnaissance de la langue des signes (Decree on the recognition of the sign language), from three possible legal interpretations of the term 'recognition',[2] the following one was retained: "It concerns a symbolic recognition that goes hand in hand with a general measure, permitting every minister to take action in fields relative to his authority."



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