There are hundreds of different sign languages in the world. Their main user groups are deaf people, but they are also used by many people who are hard of hearing, have become deaf later in life or have normal hearing.
The sign languages of different countries differ in terms of their signs and grammar. There are however certain consistencies between the different sign languages that make it easier for people signing in different languages to communicate.
The international sign language is a small collection of generally known signs and simple grammar. Its purpose is to enable communication between users of different sign languages.
Users of sign language define themselves as a linguistic and cultural minority. In Finland they number around 14 000. Some 5 000 people in Finland who are deaf or hard of hearing use sign language as their mother tongue and written Finnish is a second language for them. Besides Finnish sign language, also Finnish-Swedish sign language is used in Finland, by around 300 people. Finnish sign language is one of Finland´s minority languages. There are also deaf people who use other sign languages as their mother tongue who have moved to Finland from other parts of the world.
A cultural service can take clients who use sign language into consideration in various ways. A museum can, for example, organize guided tours in sign language or with sign language interpretation. A museum can also offer sign-language services through, for example, handheld computers. A theatre can produce sign-language plays or arrange for sign-language interpretation for a performance.
Information on what kind of special arrangements are required for organizing a theatre performance with sign language interpretation can be found on the English-language pages of our website under the heading Accessibility -> What is accessibility? -> Most Frequently Asked Questions, and on the Swedish-language pages under the heading Tillgänglighet -> Vad är tillgänglighet -> Vanliga frågor (see question 11.).
On the Finnish language pages of our website, under the heading Saavutettavuus -> Tarkistuslistat arvioinnin tueksi -> Tapahtumat, there is a checklist in Finnish where producers of cultural services can read more about what aspects make a service accessible from the perspective of clients who are sign language users.
More information on sign language and the production of sign language material in Finland is available at the Finnish Association of the Deaf. There are also cooperation opportunities with businesses that operate in sign language and schools offering teaching in sign language or communications. Information on sign language interpreting can be found at www.kela.fi -> Vammaistuet -> Vammaisten tulkkauspalvelut.
The Center for Interpreting Services for the Disabled (Vammaisten tulkkauspalvelukeskus) can be contacted via e-mail at: vatu(a)kela.fi. More information on sign language interpreting is also available at www.tulkit.net or by sending e-mail to info(a)tulkit.net.
The World Federation of the Deaf is an organization formed by various national associations for the deaf, working on behalf of the realization of the human rights of deaf people in the spirit of UN conventions. For more details on the World Federation of the Deaf, see www.wfdeaf.org.