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Parliament seeks recognition of sign languages

Sign language translator
Sign language translator in action during a session of the Swiss parliament. © Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

Parliament has moved to legally recognise the three sign languages used in Switzerland.

The Senate followed the Houser of Representatives to approve a demand to for the government to propose a new law to promote sign languages, equal opportunities in the fields of information, communication, political participation, services, education, work, culture and health.

The government, which will have to present a bill for discussion in parliament at a later stage, had indicated its willingness to take legal action, but it wanted to amend existing laws instead of creating a separate new law.

During Monday’s debate, Interior Minister Alain Berset, whose portfolio includes culture, social security and health issues, promised to submit both options for consultation.  

The Swiss Federation of the Deaf has been advocating for a separate law for some time.

There are around 10,000 deaf people in Switzerland who use one of the three Swiss sign languages as their first language: the Swiss-German sign language, the Langue de signes française for French speakers and the Lingua dei segni italiana for Italian speakers.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR