Our mission statement

HANDS UP is committed to an inclusive and equitable society. Equal participation and leading a self-determined life are key to accessible and inclusive education and work. “Nothing about us without us!” HANDS UP underlines this essential principle of self-determination and is committed to ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities. An essential aspect of this is self-determination for Deaf people. Deaf people should be empowered politically and locally to claim their own rights, and local decision-makers must be assisted to realise the importance of including people with disabilities. HANDS UP is convinced that inclusion has nothing to do with hearing, but everything to do with action! In line with this principle of self-determination, all of our exhibition guides are Deaf.

Recognition of Sign Language

Language determines our lives as social beings. It is linked to our behaviour, our actions and our learning. Language is of fundamental importance for social contacts and relationships, for learning success at school, at work, for expressing our own interests – regardless whether you use Sign Language and/or spoken / written language. HANDS UP stands for the active recognition of Sign Languages.

Inclusion in education

The working situation and possibilities open to Deaf people are largely dependent on their educational situation. Sign Language is the first language of Deaf people; therefore, it must be used as the language of instruction in early childhood education and in schools. In order for Deaf children to acquire a second language (such as written German), bilingual teaching models are the most suitable method. In many European countries, Sign Language has been legally recognised in various ways; Austrian Sign Language is a constitutionally recognised language; it was first recognised in 2005. Despite this legal recognition however, the majority of educational programmes are not consistently bilingual. Instruction in Sign Language is still the exception throughout Europe. HANDS UP is a way for hearing students to experience a change in perspective and truly feel what is like to communicate without using any spoken language.

Inclusion at work

Deaf people are still subject to particularly high rates of unemployment and often find themselves in precarious working conditions. The unemployment rate of the approximately one million Deaf people living in Europe is around seventy percent higher than the average unemployment rate of the European Union (EU). As a result, one in five deaf people (21.1%) in the EU is at risk of living in poverty. The main reason for this is language: most Deaf people still do not have access to bilingual education, but rather learn in spoken and written language environments. From an employer’s point of view, fear of contact and concern about insurmountable communication problems with Deaf employees dominate. There are numerous videos available at HANDS UP, showing Deaf people in the workplace; a molecular biologist, a car mechanic, a chemist, a baker’s apprentice, a nurse, a bartender and many more!