Our Work / Empowering Our Members

Advancing human rights and sign language worldwide.

Empowering Our Members

We work hand-in-hand with our members and partners to shape our world into a more equitable place through the following:


The WFD conducts Human Rights and Capacity Building Trainings and Projects in partnership with our country members. The main aim is to build capacity of our Ordinary Members so that they know their human rights and advocate for them through participation and contribution to the CRPD parallel reports. Learn more about our projects here.

These projects have been made possible through grants from respective donors. For more information about funding the WFD Projects, contact WFD Development Officer at nafisah.rantasalmi@wfd.fi.


The WFD Board Members, Staff or Expert Members are frequently asked to represent the WFD in various occasions around the globe. These events include national and regional meetings, workshops, commemorations, seminars and conferences, and international representations at the United Nations. Often, in national events the WFD representatives are asked to present a paper, meet with national authorities and hold community workshops. Through these visits the WFD reaches out to thousands of deaf people every year, raising their awareness and contributing to a change.

Topics of presentations vary from human rights work to lobbying in your country. Some of the topics have been:

  • What is World Federation of the Deaf?
  • Equality for Deaf People
  • Sign Language work
  • Deaf Community and Sign Language Interpreter Community

For more information about inviting the WFD Representatives to your country, contact WFD Administrative Secretary at phillipa.sandholm@wfd.fi.


  • The WFD provides assistance to its country members upon request. This assistance supplements the Ordinary Members’ own advocacy work in the form of support letters and direct contacts with national authorities to encourage and advise them on how to improve the lives of deaf people in their communities.
  • The WFD advises its members regarding funding opportunities and shares information on human rights issues via email, WFD Newsletter and Social Media.
  • The WFD produces policy papers, statements and guidelines so that national members have up-to-date tools to inform national stakeholders of deaf people’s rights and how to achieve them.

The General Assembly is a primary decision making body of the WFD where delegates are entitled to vote over proposed issues. Each Ordinary Member whose membership fees are fully paid and current, is allowed up to two deaf delegates, preferably one male and one female, at meetings of the General Assembly.

The General Assembly is held every four years. It is called in writing, accompanied by proposed agenda, at least twelve months in advance. Proposals for inclusion in the Agenda must be received at least six months in advance. The final agenda with attached reports and other materials will be sent to all Ordinary Members at least two months in advance.

International Sign is used for communication and all delegates are responsible for acquiring a working knowledge of International Sign.

Prior to the General Assembly, a one-day workshop is usually held, so the participants can be prepared in advance for discussions on agenda items and other important issues related to human rights work.

The next General Assembly will be organised in Paris, France 21-22 July 2019.


The World Congress is an official event of World Federation of the Deaf organised by an Ordinary Member. World Congresses are designed to bring together delegates from member national associations, youth organisations and other participants who seek to partake in global exchange of information and furtherance of the WFD vision, mission and goals. It follows a day after General Assembly and is organised every four years.

Ordinary Members can make a bid to host the World Congress. All bids are reviewed and voted upon by the General Assembly. The Ordinary member hosting The World Congress has full responsibility of the management of the World Congress. The organisers cooperate closely with the WFD Board and Secretariat in all aspects of the organising of the World Congress and follow the Organising Guidelines.

The call for bids for the 2023 World Congress will be opened in July 2018 with the deadline to apply set for 31 December 2018

Year Location Theme
1951 Rome, Italy (no theme)
1955 Zagreb, Yugoslavia (no theme)
1959 Wiesbaden, Fed. Rep. of Germany (no theme)
1963 Stockholm, Sweden (no theme)
1967 Warsaw, Poland The Deaf Among Hearing People
1971 Paris, France The Deaf Person in the World in Evolution
1975 Washington DC, USA Full Citizenship for All Deaf People
1979 Varna, Bulgaria The Deaf People in Modern Society
1983 Palermo, Italy Deafness Today & Tomorrow: Reality & Utopia
1987 Espoo, Finland One World – One Responsibility
1991 Tokyo, Japan Equality and Self-Reliance
1995 Vienna, Austria Toward Human Rights
1999 Brisbane, Australia Diversity and Unity
2003 Monreal, Canada Opportunities & Challenges in the 21st Century
2007 Madrid, Spain Human Rights Through Sign Language
2011 Durban, South Africa Global Deaf Renaissance
2015 Istanbul, Turkey Strengthening Human Diversity

The next World Congress of the WFD will be held from 23-27 July 2019 in Paris, France. More information can be found at the official website.


The International Conferences of the WFD are organised by Ordinary, Associate or International Members. The Conferences are held in the odd years between the Congresses and General Assembly. The host member has full financial responsibility in hosting the WFD Conference.

The next conference will be held in 2021.

The call for bids for the 2021 Conference will be opened in summer 2018, deadline for submitting the application is 31 December 2018. The announcement of the next host will be made in spring 2019.

Past Conferences

Year Location Theme
2005 Helsinki, Finland Our Rights – Our Future
2013 Sydney, Australia Equality for Deaf People


International Week of the Deaf is an initiative of the WFD and was first launched in 1958 in Rome, Italy. It is celebrated annually by the global Deaf Community on the last week of September each year to commemorate the same month the first World Congress of the WFD was held. International Week of the Deaf is celebrated through various activities by the respective Deaf Communities worldwide.

The activities call for participation and involvements of various stakeholders including families, peers, Governmental bodies, professional sign language interpreters and Organisations of persons with disabilities.

Past Themes

  • 2009: Deaf People’s Cultural Achievements
  • 2010: Deaf Education
  • 2011: Accessibility to Information and Communication
  • 2012: Sign Bilingualism is a Human Right!
  • 2013: Equality for Deaf People
  • 2014: Strengthening Human Diversity
  • 2015: With Sign Language Rights, Our Children Can!
  • 2016: With Sign Language, I am Equal.
As the Ordinary Member of the WFD since 1979, Mongolian National Association of the Deaf had the opportunity to work very closely with WFD team on Human Right Project in 2015.

Cooperation with HRO 2 CRPD Parallel Reporting Project was more than satisfactory. WFD Human Right Officers showed very high level of technical knowledge and best role modeling to youth leaders in my country. Additionally, all the work was done with high quality and their attitude had always been very efficient and professional. In result of the project, together we showed “Nothing About Us Without Us” in national and international level.

We are continuing to cooperate with WFD, and are looking forward many years of doing successful development together.
Dulamsuren Jigjid
Vice President, Mongolian National Assocation of the Deaf