How the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf Fosters Inclusivity for Its Attendees

Author: Casey Gale       

Around 80 sign language interpreters were in attendance at the XVIII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf.

What It’s All About

Founded in 1951, the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is an international, non-governmental organization representing approximately 70 million deaf people on a global scale. The organization’s mission is to “promote the human rights of deaf people and full, quality, and equal access to all spheres of life, including self-determination, sign language, education, employment, and community life,” said Colin Allen, WFD president. WFD has a consultative status in the United Nations and actively works to advocate for people in the deaf community, including efforts to develop the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2006.

The organization’s World Congress, also started in 1951, originally was created to give the deaf community an opportunity to come together “and share information about developments of significance,” Allen said. Since then, the congress’ mission and reach have grown exponentially; the event now brings together delegates from national associations, youth organizations, and any participant looking to further WFD’s mission. Allen noted that the first congress welcomed delegates from 25 national associations of the deaf. Today, the congress — which is held every four years — attracts members from 121 countries across five continents. This year, the event hosted an estimated 1,800 attendees and 35 exhibitors, and featured such technology sessions as “Leveraging Machine Learning to Expand the Reach of Captions.”

Why We Like It

The WFD Congress is organized by one of the oldest international organizations for people with disabilities, so making it inclusive and accessible to all attendees is a priority. At this year’s event at the Palais des Congrés de Paris, organizers ensured that the venue was physically accessible, and gave significant considerations to language access. The event provided International Sign Interpreters and LSF (French Sign Language) Interpreters, and for hard-of-hearing participants, English and French captioning was available during the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as keynote and plenary sessions. Approximately 80 sign language interpreters were in attendance “to interpret their native sign languages for their country delegations,” Allen said.

“The WFD Congress provides a platform to recognize the diversity of the deaf community globally, inclusive of children, youth, senior citizens, women, deaf people with disabilities, deaf-blind people, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community … parents of deaf children, and professionals working with deaf people,” Allen said. “It is important that we all work together collaboratively to achieve tangible outcomes, so that the human rights of deaf people are realized.”

Learn more about the XVIII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf at

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