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Parliamentary questions
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22 February 2016
Answer given by Ms Thyssen on behalf of the Commission
Question reference: E-015641/2015

Article 21 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(1) which both the EU and the majority of Member States have ratified‐ indicates that State Parties shall take all appropriate measures including recognising and promoting the use of sign languages. Only three Member States have so far no legal recognition of their national sign languages: Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Malta. Italy does not have formal recognition either, but has a law pending at the Senate(2).

Although the language policy of Member States is their exclusive competence, the European Commission encourages recognition of sign languages and supports their dissemination through its programmes for education and training. Through the Lifelong Learning Programme (2007-13) and the Erasmus+ programme (2014-2020), the Commission has been financing a number of projects aimed at making communication easier for the deaf and hard of hearing(3). The Erasmus+ funding rules foresee to cover in full additional costs directly related to participants with disabilities and accompanying persons. It can for instance concretely support specific costs linked to the participation of deaf people (i.e. costs of interpreters).

The Commission financially supports and raises awareness on the recognition of sign languages including via the European Union of the Deaf(4), a non-profit non-governmental organisation comprising National Associations.

The Commission also financed a pilot project on potential technological solutions to improve independent communication and interaction between deaf and hard of hearing persons with the EU institutions(5).

(2)Sign language legislation in the European Union, Edition II, Mark Wheatley & Annika Pabsch (2012).
(3)See for instance ‘SIGNS — Beyond signs in the city’ ( http://signsinthecity.net ); ‘Signs2GO — British sign language for foreign signers’ (http://www.signs2go.eu); ‘Deaf Port — Developing European language portfolio for the deaf’ (http://www.deafport.eu); and ‘ESI — Eurosign interpreters’ (http://www.eurosign-interpreter.eu). See also the projects ‘From hands to head’, or ‘Diversity, Equality, Accessibility and Friendship’.
(5)More information is available at http://www.eud.eu/Insign_Project-i-716.html

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