WFD theme page about COVID-19.

March 18, 2020

WFD & WASLI is behind you! We support member countries affected COVID-19 to advocate for accessibility in Sign Language


The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) recognises that many communities around the world are affected by the coronavirus. Necessary measures are being taken- schools and workplaces are closed and public gatherings are being limited.

We can see the advocacy work of our national associations of deaf people are paying off, in the increase in access to public information via national sign language interpreters. The WFD is here to support our Ordinary Members, national associations of deaf people, in their advocacy work. In the coming weeks, please watch for information and tools from the WFD to ensure full access in sign languages during this pandemic.

Deaf communities around the world have been affected. We have cancelled gatherings and remain in our homes. But we will persevere as a community! Let’s reach out to each other and check in on each other via video. Let’s especially reach out to the more vulnerable members of our community – the eldery, the ill- to ensure they are safe and to lend them support. Let’s see deaf children keep in touch with each other via video chats! Together, we will remain connected. Together, we will remain united and strong!

March 19, 2020

3 important key points: How do your country make sure, all Deaf people are updated on the latest news


More than 70 million deaf people throughout the world have the right to access information in their national sign languages on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The World Federation of the Deaf and World Association of Sign Language Interpreters release these joint Guidelines on Providing Access to Public Health Information in National Sign Languages during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Key points: 

1) In all situations it is critical that professional sign language interpreters or translators with national-level qualifications are hired. 

2) Information should be available through all media channels and on all platforms. If the sign language version is only available through some channels (i.e. narrowcast), or only through web-based platforms, there is a risk that deaf people will miss out on crucial updates at critical times. 

3) An interpreter should be physically present and visible on camera alongside whomever is speaking in making new announcements. This will ensure deaf people can access information through a variety of media outlets as other members of the public do.

Read more

In this document we outline best practices for providing sign language access in different contexts.

Click here to download the Guideline (pdf file)

Special thanks to Maya de Wit and Jemina Napier for working on this statement and Alda Batory for the images. 

March 3, 2020

Opinion: Sign language interpreters who work in emergency and health settings should be given the same health and safety protections as other health care workers dealing with Covid 19


The recent coronavirus (Covid 19) outbreak is of concern for healthcare authorities and citizens alike. Governments responses to this outbreak must be inclusive of all members of the public, including deaf people who use sign languages. The WFD and WASLI remind governments on all levels of their commitments under the Convention on the Rights of Peoples with Disabilities (CRPD) to ensure full access to information and accessibility to all services under CRPD Articles 9 and 21.

It is imperative that all public health announcements made by government officials are also done in the national sign language(s) of that country. Televised (whether live or prerecorded) announcements related to the coronavirus outbreak should be interpreted in real time into the national sign language(s) with sign language interpreters being on screen and clearly visible the entire time of the broadcast.

The WFD and WASLI join national associations of deaf people around the world in demanding direct access in their national sign language(s) to informational materials on the coronavirus. Information by national health organizations and government entities to the public should be distributed in their national sign languages. As per best practices under CRPD Article 21, governments have an obligation to provide information directly in sign languages and not solely via translation. Global health entities should also make their global information and public education materials directly accessible in International Sign, and if working in specific national settings, in relevant national sign languages.

WASLI and the WFD take the health and safety of sign language interpreters around the world very seriously and are committed to promoting professional standards in all work settings. The coronavirus situation reminds us of the need to ensure best practices in sign language interpreting access and in the health and safety of sign language interpreters as professionals working as integral parts of health care systems around the world.

WASLI and the WFD urge sign language interpreters and deaf people to work together to find solutions that ensures accurate access to information and healthcare without putting the interpreter and (often limited) interpreting resources at risk. Sign language interpreters who work in emergency and health settings should be given the same health and safety protections as other health care workers dealing with Covid 19. There maybe appropriate alternatives for optimum access, such as an interpreting wearing a transparent surgical mask or from behind a transparent screen, so that facial expressions and lip movement is still visible, as these are important grammatical elements in sign languages. If amenable to the deaf patient and in accordance with the practices outlined in the WFD Position Paper on Accessibility: Sign Language Interpreting and translation and technological developments, remote/distance interpreting may also be feasible.

For further information on best practices in interpreting access, please refer to the WFD Position Paper on Accessibility: Sign Language Interpreting and translation and technological developments.

Find this statement in PDF:

Find this guidelines in PDF:

The WFD and WASLI will monitor this situation and issue further guidance as becomes necessary.

Click here to download the Joint Statement (pdf).