The issue

The human rights of Deaf people are still routinely violated in virtually all countries, including Canada.

Our position

Deaf people have the same rights as hearing people; violations cannot be tolerated.

The history of the Deaf is a history of human rights abuses. Even before the time of Ancient Greece, Deaf people were considered beasts incapable of reason and unworthy of rights or respect. It was not until the 13th century that Deaf people were allowed to marry in the Western world. Today, many developing countries still forbid Deaf people to be educated, to own or inherit property, to vote, and to marry. The Sign language of the Deaf is still banned from the schools of many countries, including Western countries.

All studies of Deaf people in the late twentieth century – linguistic, mental, psychological, physiological, and so on – have proven that Deaf people are “normal” in every respect except that they cannot hear. Inability to hear does not justify violations of a person’s basic human rights.

Any human right that applies to the general populace must also apply to Deaf people. As set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, these include:

  • the right to food, clothing and shelter;
  • the right to dignity and respect;
  • the right to quality education to the highest level desired;
  • the right to communication and information;
  • the right to the language of their choice, including Sign language;
  • the right to freedom and justice; and
  • the right to equality and access.

Society has developed in a way that sets up barriers against the full participation and equality of Deaf people on the basis of their different communication mode. The onus is on society to remove those barriers. These include, but are not limited to: captioning and/or interpretation of information and entertainment; technical and human assistance in order to access telecommunication services and systems; education provided in the most enabling environment and in the language best suited to the Deaf person’s needs, skills, and preferences; the provision of devices required for the safety and comfort of Deaf people (including visual signal devices); acceptance, respect, and understanding of the different needs, language, behaviour and values of Deaf people; and equal opportunity for employment.

These and similar rights are protected in Canada by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and by human rights legislation both federally and provincially.

The Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada is aware that in Canada most violations of the human rights of Deaf people are not deliberate and intentional but result from systemic discrimination, inappropriate priorities, and simple ignorance. The consequences; however, are the same: discrimination against Deaf people on the basis of their deafness. The “unintentional” nature of the discriminatory act does not justify it.

Deaf people are human beings and have the same “right to rights” as anyone else.


The Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada
606 – 251 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1X3
(613) 565-2882