The Tottori prefectural assembly on Tuesday adopted an ordinance recognizing sign language and requiring the prefectural and municipal governments to develop environments to promote its use.
It is the first ordinance in Japan to officially recognize sign language, according to the local government.
Stipulating that sign language "is a cultural product that has an independent linguistic system," the ordinance also urged business operators to provide comfortable working conditions for people with hearing impairments.
The prefectural government has allocated around 22 million yen in its fiscal 2013 extraordinary budget to host sign language lessons for its residents and compile a guidebook to teach it at public elementary and junior high schools.
Municipal government of Ishikari, Hokkaido, is also working to establish a similar ordinance by the end of the year.