International Week for the Deaf People – A Triumph of Inclusivity

In a vibrant celebration of the International Week of Deaf People, Wangsel Institute for the Deaf, in collaboration with several organizations and institutions, came together to emphasize the significance of deaf culture, promote sign language, and champion inclusivity. The week-long event, spanning from September 18 – 23 September 2023, was marked by a series of insightful and engaging programs, culminating in the International Day of Sign Languages on the final day Paro.

The festivities kicked off with an inspiring opening ceremony at Wangsel Institute for the Deaf. Students, teachers, and parents gathered to witness cultural performances that showcased the rich tapestry of deaf culture. The event was attended by dignitaries, including the Executive Director of DPOB (Disabled People’s Organization of Bhutan), OYHTB (Opening Your Heart to Bhutan) in-country representative, and local leaders. The ceremony aimed to raise awareness about deafness and the importance of sign language in fostering communication and inclusion.

The celebration extended its reach beyond Wangsel Institute’s campus to engage the wider community. On the 19th of September, Royal Thimphu College played host to an event that saw faculty and students coming together at the Multi-purpose Hall. The Annual Variety & Awareness on Deaf Culture show was a testament to the power of art and performance in breaking down communication barriers and fostering understanding.

On the 20th of September, Paro College of Education hosted a similar event, where ECCD (Early Childhood Care and Development) Certificate Course Students participated in activities and performances at Manjushri Hall 1 and 2. These events underlined the importance of raising awareness and understanding of deaf culture among Bhutan’s educators and youth. 

The pinnacle of the celebration will be the closing event, which will be held on the International Day of Sign Languages on the 23rd of September. The theme, “A World Where Deaf People Everywhere Can Sign Anywhere,” will be observed throughout the day. Attendees will include the UNICEF Country Representative, Andrea James, students from Draktsho, Tashigang, OYHTB in-country representative, deaf adults from Thimphu, ex-students of Wangsel, parents, local community leaders, and school principals and IE coordinators from Drukgyel Primary School and Drukgyel Central School. Participants of Wangsel Institute’s first BhSL Online Course will also join in.

While technically outside the official week, Karma Academy will host Wangsel Institute’s variety show program for its teachers and students on September 30th, further underscoring the importance of extending the celebration beyond the designated dates. The Annual Variety & Awareness on Deaf Culture show reaffirms the commitment to promoting inclusivity and sign language proficiency.

The observation of the International Week of Deaf People holds immense importance in promoting awareness, understanding, and inclusivity for the deaf community. It serves as a reminder that communication is a fundamental human right and that sign language is a vital tool in achieving this right. The week-long celebration emphasizes the rich cultural heritage of the deaf community while highlighting the challenges they face daily.

In Bhutan, Wangsel Institute for the Deaf has set an inspiring example of how inclusivity can be celebrated and promoted through art, culture, and education. By involving local colleges, institutions, and the wider community, the message of the International Week of Deaf People has been amplified, echoing its theme of creating “A World Where Deaf People Everywhere Can Sign Anywhere.”

As the International Week of Deaf People comes to a close, the echoes of this celebration will hopefully continue to reverberate in Bhutan and beyond, fostering a more inclusive and accessible world for the deaf community.

Compiled by Tenzin Yonten and Sonam Choden, Wangsel Institute for the Deaf, Drukgyel, Paro.