The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is an international non-governmental organization that represents 70 million deaf people worldwide. Established in 1951, WFD aims to protect and promote the rights, equality, and opportunities of deaf people worldwide. In this article, we take a deep dive into the history, mission, and impact of the WFD.
A Brief History of the WFD
Founding and Early Years
The WFD was founded in Rome, Italy, in 1951, by representatives from national deaf associations from around the world. The aim of the organization was to foster international cooperation and promote the recognition of sign languages and deaf culture. During its early years, the WFD struggled to establish itself as the primary global organization representing deaf people. However, it persevered and continued to grow in size and influence.
Expansion and Growth
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the WFD expanded rapidly, welcoming new members from across the globe. During this time, the organization also grew in size and influence, expanding its range of activities to include advocacy, research, and information dissemination. The WFD also developed a set of principles and policies that emphasized the human rights of deaf people and the importance of sign language.
Milestones and Achievements
Over the years, the WFD has achieved many significant milestones in promoting the rights and opportunities of deaf people. In 1981, the WFD established the International Day of the Deaf, which is celebrated annually on September 23. This day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the human rights of deaf people and the importance of sign languages. In 1983, the WFD established the World Congress of the Deaf, which is held every four years and brings together deaf people and their allies from around the world to share ideas and information.
The WFD’s Mission and Objectives
Advocacy for Deaf Rights
The WFD’s primary mission is to advocate for the rights of deaf people worldwide. The organization works to ensure that deaf people have equal access to education, employment, health care, and other services. This includes advocating for the use of sign language in education, the workplace, and other settings. The WFD also promotes the recognition of deaf culture and the diversity of deaf communities worldwide.
Promoting Sign Language and Deaf Culture
The WFD is committed to promoting the use and recognition of sign languages as a legitimate language. The organization advocates for the use of sign language in education, the media, and other public settings, as well as the development of sign language interpreting programs and services. Additionally, the WFD supports the recognition and celebration of deaf culture, including cultural events and activities that highlight the diversity of deaf communities worldwide.
Supporting Deaf Education and Employment
The WFD recognizes the critical importance of education and employment for deaf people. The organization works to ensure that deaf people have access to quality education that meets their needs, including the development of sign language education resources and teacher training programs. Additionally, the WFD promotes equal employment opportunities for deaf people, including the establishment of programs that support the hiring and retention of deaf employees.
WFD’s Global Impact
International Collaboration and Partnerships
The WFD works closely with other international organizations to promote the rights and opportunities of deaf people worldwide. The organization has established partnerships with the United Nations and its agencies, as well as other non-governmental organizations that work in areas related to deafness and disability rights. The WFD also collaborates with national and regional deaf associations to promote the rights of deaf communities at the local level.
Influencing Policy and Legislation
The WFD has been successful in influencing policy and legislation at both the national and international levels. The organization has played a key role in the development and adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes sign language as a legitimate language and emphasizes the importance of inclusive education and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Additionally, the WFD has successfully advocated for the adoption of national laws and policies that promote the rights of deaf people.
Raising Awareness and Changing Perceptions
The WFD has been instrumental in raising awareness and changing perceptions about deaf people worldwide. Through its advocacy efforts, the organization has helped to challenge stereotypes and promote a better understanding of deafness and deaf culture. Additionally, the WFD’s public awareness campaigns and events, such as the International Day of the Deaf and the World Congress of the Deaf, have helped to highlight the contributions and diversity of deaf communities worldwide.
WFD’s Organizational Structure
General Assembly and Board
The WFD is governed by a General Assembly, which meets every four years, and a Board, which is responsible for implementing the policies and programs of the organization. The Board is composed of representatives from the different regions of the world, as well as committees and working groups that focus on specific areas of the organization’s work, such as advocacy, education, and employment.
The WFD has regional secretariats that support the work of the organization at the local level. These secretariats work closely with national deaf associations and other organizations that represent deaf people in their respective regions. The regional secretariats also help to coordinate the work of the WFD’s committees and working groups, as well as provide support and resources to deaf people and their allies in their regions.
Committees and Working Groups
The WFD has established committees and working groups that focus on specific areas of the organization’s work, such as education, employment, and human rights. These committees and working groups are composed of experts and advocates who are well-versed in the particular areas of focus. They help to guide the organization’s policy and program development, as well as provide support and resources to deaf people and their allies worldwide.
The World Federation of the Deaf has come a long way since its founding in 1951. Through its advocacy efforts, research, and information dissemination, the organization has played a critical role in promoting the rights, equality, and opportunities of deaf people worldwide. While there is still much work to be done, the WFD’s commitment to its mission and objectives ensures that it will continue to be a powerful voice for deaf people around the world.