3rd International Conference on Sign Linguistics and Deaf Education in Asia

Hong Kong

Provost Professor Benjamin Wah, Professor Gladys Tang, Professor Woodword, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Thank you for participating in this Conference on Sign Linguistics and Deaf Education.

The basic principle behind The Nippon Foundation’s activities is to aim for a society where everyone has equal opportunities for social participation. Among our activities, programs to support the Deaf have been our highest priority, and we are proud to be able to work with all of you. When we started this project in 2002, Deaf people had very few chances for social participation. This was due to the fact that in many countries, sign language, which is the foundation of Deaf culture, was not recognized as a language, making life in the hearing oriented society extremely difficult.

Despite the existence of many bright individuals, Deaf people were unable to fully develop and exhibit their talents. Seeing the dire need for sign language to be recognized as a proper language, we put emphasis on the research of sign linguistics and the promotion of sign language in the classrooms.

The Nippon Foundation has been very privileged to work with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a leading university in sign language research. Together we established a sign linguistics research and training program which is open to both Deaf and hearing individuals in the Asia Pacific. Under the direction of Professor Gladys Tang and Professor James Woodward, students have compiled sign language dictionaries and learning materials that can be used to teach sign language to school teachers and interpreters. After completing our program, graduates are expected to become successful teachers and researchers who promote sign language in their home countries.

I would like to thank all those who have contributed to these amazing accomplishments thus far. Despite these achievements, we will not see the fruits of our efforts in the true sense, if we do not confront the root of the problem, which is the social structure. Our society today is not accommodating to Deaf people. This is seen in society’s lack of understanding toward sign language. Many individuals are unaware that sign language is not only a vital means of communication for Deaf people but the backbone of their Deaf culture.

During this conference, in addition to deepening your knowledge in your specializations, I would like for you to look for ways to raise public awareness and understanding toward sign language. Greater social participation of Deaf people will be possible when sign language is better accepted by society and Deaf children everywhere are able to learn freely in their native language.

Let us work together to make this a reality. Thank you for your attention.