September 23, 2023


By 2023 Diana Award recipient, Ahaan Shah from Mumbai, India

23rd September marks the International Day of Sign Languages, where people from around the world come together recognising the importance of sign languages around the world. To mark the significance of the day, we asked 2023 Diana Award recipient Ahaan Shah to share the work he is completing with his project SignKraft and explain how we can all get involved in supporting the worldwide deaf community.

The essence of language lies not just in its words, but in its ability to bridge hearts and minds. Yet, for many of us, the privilege of spoken language often remains unacknowledged. For the global deaf community, communication evolves into a beautiful dance of hands, giving birth to an entire spectrum of sign languages. As we mark the International Day of Sign Languages, let's delve into its significance and recognise the avenues through which we can foster and celebrate this silent but profound form of expression.

Ahaan conducting workshop with hearing-impaired students


Endorsed by the UN General Assembly, September 23rd isn't just a date on the calendar. It is the International Day of Sign Languages, symbolising a call to inclusivity, a push for the global validation of sign languages, and an assertion of the rights of deaf individuals. This 2023, the resonating theme "A World Where Deaf People Everywhere Can Sign Anywhere!" is not a distant dream but a tangible target that demands collective action.  

Over 70 million global citizens are deaf, with a staggering 80% living in developing nations. They communicate using more than 300 unique sign languages, each reflecting the rich tapestry of their cultural and historical lineage. The acknowledgement of these languages goes beyond celebrating linguistic diversity; it's about cementing the place of deaf individuals in the societal narrative and ensuring they lead lives where they're heard, even in silence.

Ahaan reaching out to students from financially challenged backgrounds with SignKraft


Nestled in the bustling heart of Mumbai, India, we brothers Ahaan and Keyaan, embarked on a mission: to bridge the chasm between the deaf community and the auditory world. Thus, SignKraft was born. By leveraging the latest AI technology, from media processing to neural networks, it has the potential to create a bridge for the deaf community, breaking barriers of communication and fostering seamless interaction. SignKraft seeks to translate in real-time sign languages and spoken words into simple text messages - a medium that's accessible and intuitive. But beyond its technical prowess lies its true essence. SignKraft stands as a testament to the endless possibilities when technology aligns with purpose. It's a commitment to ensuring that every gesture tells a story, every sign sings a song, and every user feels seen and understood. We believe that hearing and speech impairment should not be seen as a disability, but as a communication barrier - one that can be overcome by technology and human compassion, so that every voice is heard, and every heart understood.

Ahaan and Keyaan presenting SignKraft to judges and visitors at the World STEM and Robotics Olympiad


As we champion the cause of sign languages, it's vital to understand its role in achieving global development goals. One of the key targets of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is SDG 10.2. This goal emphasizes promoting the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic, or other status, so that no one is left behind.

Keyaan using SignKraft in a real-life scenario to communicate with a deaf waiter at a restaurant


How does promoting sign language relate to this goal?

  • Ensuring Equal Opportunity: The use of sign languages is a direct means of ensuring that the deaf community has equal opportunities in education, employment, and access to information. By learning and employing sign languages, we are directly reducing inequalities faced by the deaf community in our society.
  • Fostering Socio-Economic Inclusion: The knowledge and use of sign language can open doors for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in the job market, enhancing their economic status and ensuring they are active contributors to the economy.
  • Breaking Down Communication Barriers: Promoting and proliferating sign languages means breaking down one of the most fundamental barriers that the deaf community faces: communication. This directly aligns with SDG 10.2's objective of eliminating discriminatory laws, policies, and practices that lead to exclusion.

In essence, the widespread training and use of sign languages isn't just about communication; It's a commitment to a more inclusive, understanding, and equal world, resonating deeply with the core objectives of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.


Celebration isn't just about acknowledgement; it beckons involvement. Here's how you can contribute:

  • Become a Sign Enthusiast: Familiarise yourself with sign language basics. Learn rudimentary signs—'Hello', 'Thank You', 'Please'. Advocate for the inclusion of sign language modules in educational institutions.
  • Amplify the Cause: Share enlightening facts, stirring stories, and objectives related to the International Day of Sign Languages on your social platforms. Let the narrative of the United Nations and World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) reach farther corners. Rally behind the hashtag #SignAnywhere.
  • Empower through Engagement: Support initiatives like the WFD's transformative 60 Country Project. Organise or be part of community events that shine a spotlight on deaf lives. Lobby for governmental recognition of national sign languages.
  • Support Local Endeavours: Recognise and patronise local businesses or initiatives, like SignKraft, which aim at enhancing the lives of the deaf community. Your support can translate into tangible benefits for many.
  • Foster Inclusivity in Workspaces: Advocate for deaf-friendly policies in your workplace. This can include interpreter services during meetings, sign language training sessions, or even promoting deaf-led ventures.

In summary, while technological innovations like SignKraft play pivotal roles in dismantling communication silos, the real catalyst is collective empathy and action. As we commemorate the International Day of Sign Languages, let’s not just be passive observers but active champions, promoting a world where every sign crafts a story, and every hand movement weaves inclusivity.

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