Italy, can you hear me? The status of the Italian Sign Language

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The recognition of minority languages is one of the big issues of many communities around the world. In particular there is one which silently is getting ahead for its recognition: the sign language for Deaf communities. Luckily, in many countries the fight has brought to successful conclusion and now sign languages are recognised, promoted and supported at different levels of social and civil life. While in some countries the national sign language is an official state language, like in Finland and Austria, in others it remains a minority language, not even acknowledged: the Italian Sign Language (LIS) is not granted any recognition at national level. Although two bills for its recognition have been introduced in 2008 and 2013, the Italian Parliament does not have any intention to approve them, drawing a line between hearing and non-hearing people. This paper aims at analysing the actual status of LIS in the European panorama and above all the reasons for such a legal position by the Parliament, which clearly represents a violation of a fundamental human right for the Italian Deaf community. This work is divided into two sections: the first one will deal with a general presentation of sign languages from a medical, sociological, linguistic and legislative point of view. In the framework of the absence of legal recognition, Italy is one of the two European countries, with Luxembourg, without any laws and the core of the second section is focused on Italy and its current situation. By means of official reports by institutional organisations, researches of Deaf studies experts, the ENS (Italian national Deaf Association), and above all thanks to the interviews with Ms Vanessa Migliosi, from the movement LIS SUBITO! and with Mr Cristiano Iacoangeli, LIS interpreter of ANIOS in Rome, it will be possible eventually to understand why Italy “turns a deaf ear” to the appeals of its Deaf community.


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