Icelandic Sign Language recognized by law as the first language of the Deaf

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On May 27th a law was passed in the Icelandic Parliament stating that Icelandic Sign Language (ÍTM) is the first language of those depending on it for expression and communication. Icelandic authorities are obliged to support ÍTM in every way. According to the legislation, everyone that is deaf or hard of hearing has the right to learn ÍTM while within the critical period of language acquisition or as soon as deafness is identified. The same applies for the closest family members of the deaf or hard of hearing person.

The law is part of a legislation that defines the status of both Icelandic and ÍTM and discusses language policy in both languages, stating that both languages are equal. A committee shall be established whose role is to give advice regarding ÍTM and support the growth and use of ÍTM in Iceland.  The law also affirms that the state is obliged to provide interpreting services.

By: Rannveig Sverrisdóttir (Lecturer in Sign Language, Univeristy of Iceland)

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