WFD President welcomes year 2018 with a fighting spirit

All our advocacy work invested in marking this historical event would not have been possible without our members, partners, volunteers, supporters, viewers, followers, and YOU.

Dear Friends, 

Happy New Year to you! I hope you had a meaningful 2017. At the WFD, we ended the year in triumphant when the United Nations (UN) declared 23 September as International Day of Sign Languages. All our advocacy work invested in marking this historical event would not have been possible without our members, partners, volunteers, supporters, viewers, followers, and YOU. So, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you! YOU did it; WE all made it happen. 


Moreover, I am proud to share that even within our limited resources, we achieved many great things in 2017 including the following:

  • We wrote over 10 statements and submissions to the United Nations and other human rights bodies
  • We provided 15 support letters to our country members in their local advocacy
  • We delivered two 10-day workshops to five of our member associations in the Maghreb
  • We cooperated with Discovering Deaf Worlds to secure a three-year Social Inclusion of the Deaf project in the Dominican Republic
  • We accredited International Sign Interpreters to ensure quality interpretation at the international level
  • We represented in 38 conferences/training workshops/celebrations in 22 countries to put forth deaf perspectives and issues
  • We worked on a visually appealing International Sign toolkit on CRPD and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will be available shortly
  • We organised a successful International Week of the Deaf 2017 campaign
  • We co-organised fruitful Board Meetings in Japan and Hungary
  • We co-organised a successful 3rd International Conference of the WFD with Hungarian Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SINOSZ)
  • We provided over 60 translations in International Sign.


We also created and renewed partnerships including with World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) in November 2017. We are grateful for the continuous and effortless collaboration: Together with WASLI we have been lobbying the UN to recognise their responsibility to organise professional sign language interpretation for their events. Some progress has been made: for instance, many of the CRPD sessions are increasingly webcasted live with International Sign interpretation. This is especially important for the Deaf Community whose country is in review, so that they are able to observe the process.


We were also able to organise two side-events respectively, one in Geneva and the other in New York. Side-events are good opportunities to display the WFD perspective and promote understanding of states parties, civil society and the UN system on chosen topics.

The most recent side-event was held in November 2017 and organised in conjunction with a rather new international forum in the WFD advocacy work, namely the UN Forum on Minority Issues. One of the aims of the side-event was to raise awareness of the target audience that minority languages are not only comprised of spoken languages but also sign languages. We wanted to showcase different ways of linguistic oppression faced by our young panelists. The WFD aspires that especially in the field of education the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues and the WFD will be able to exchange information and advance the right of deaf children to be educated in sign language environment.

Our second side-event in June 2017 focused on education: In conjunction with the Conference of States Parties of the CRPD the WFD invited panelists to discuss the theme “Full inclusion in education – possible by 2030?” This event garnered a lot of interest both on-site and on social media with more than 10 000 observers via WFD Facebook live streaming.


Together, we have made history and now it is time to continue fighting to maintain our language, identity, culture, and human rights. We are very excited to achieve more in 2018.

Your support enables the WFD to continue to reach and influence as many legal systems across the world as possible so that they will change their legislations to include sign language and deaf people.

In this spirit, I urge you to join in the fight with the WFD so that we can continue to defend human rights of deaf people through the following:

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Once again, thank you to everyone who made year 2017 a rewarding one.

Kind regards,
Colin Allen
World Federation of the Deaf