Since 2015, every March 15th has been celebrated as World Speech Day. When it was first established, the day was dedicated to public speaking as the oldest form of mass communication. However, as the tradition developed year over year, new themes were added in order to celebrate and emphasize everything from the power of words to freedom of speech itself as tools of individual and societal change.
The 2022 theme for World Speech Day is “A New Harmony” with technological harmony listed among the various categories as an emphasis–to benefit by greater alliance and interdependence.
In the past, SymbolSpeak has put forward the Communication Bills of Rights from the NJC and ASHA as solutions which Symbol-It can offer. When we truly recognize that communication is a human right, then we understand that empowering people to speak for themselves will disempower those who would seek to abuse, dominate, or manipulate them.
There is a required change of thinking in order to see AAC no longer as a means to an end but as an end itself. Myths that learning to speak in symbols will stifle verbal speech need to be dispelled; ASL does not inhibit the development of verbal speech, so why would symbol systems? Furthermore, there are many instances when written communication is more meaningful and binding than verbal statements, such as in the legal world where a contract holds more power than a gentleman’s agreement. In this day and age, it’s not unusual to hear people say, “I speak emoji,” but when there is no concrete definition for any given emoji, the intended meaning is often left ambiguous. Symbol systems do not have that problem of ambiguity.
With all of these things in mind, we uphold the human right of free communication on this World Speech Day to include the right for symbol speakers to be heard, to speak for themselves, to be afforded equal opportunity and respect regardless of their preferred language. In order to provide the same environmental contexts and inclusion, there is every advantage, benefit, and reason to use Symbol-It every day and in every way.