Who We Are / Our Story

Our mission, our values, our people

Our Story

The World Federation of the Deaf is one of the oldest international organisations of persons with disabilities in the world. Recognising that deaf people throughout the globe face barriers to full accessibility, equal human rights, and participation in policymaking decisions that affect them, the WFD was established in Rome, Italy on 23 September 1951.

At the first World Congress, there were only delegates from 25 national associations of the deaf in attendance. Today, our Ordinary Members represent 133 countries across five continents. The WFD has collaborated with the United Nations and its agencies since the late 1950’s. Most recently, the WFD was critical in advocating for and developing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 and came into force in 2008. The WFD remains actively involved in the CRPD implementation, monitoring, and promoting its ratification by Member States.

  • 1951

    First World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf is held in Rome, Italy.

  • 1958

    International Day of the Deaf is first celebrated. Later the Day extends to an International Week of the Deaf. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) grants WFD consultative status.

  • 1959

    The United Nations and the World Health Organisation both grant WFD consultative status

  • 1993

    The United Nations General Assembly adopts “The Standard Rules for the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities”, deaf people’s right to education in sign language and access to interpreting services is recognized.

  • 1994

    UNESCO’s “Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education” recognises Deaf children’s right to sign language in education.

  • 2002

    WFD joins the Ad Hoc Committee in negotiating the text of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

  • 2005

    First International WFD Conference – smaller scale than the World Congress – is held in Helsinki, Finland.

  • 2006

    United Nations adopts the CRPD

  • 2007

    Two year Global Education Pre-Planning Project on the Human Rights of Deaf People. Council of Europe grants WFD consultative status.

  • 2008

    WFD is formally registered as a non-governmental organisation in Finland

  • 2009

    Three year Deaf Human Rights and Capacity Building Training Project in Western and Central Africa starts.

  • 2012

    WFD becomes administratively and legally an independent entity from the FInnish Association of the Deaf.

  • 2013

    A new Human Right Project CRPD Parallel Reporting Project (HRO1)  is launched and first ever WFD Human Rights Officer position established to conduct the project activities. The project has since been extended (HRO2 and HRO3) and is currently funded until February 2017.

  • 2015

    WFD conducted a Community Needs Assessment Analysis Project – On Legal Capacity of Deaf Communities in Latin America. Joint publication of the WFD and Finnish Association of the Deaf (FAD), The Manual for Sign Language Work within Development Cooperation launched.

  • 2016

    Two year WFD Human Rights Project in the Maghreb Region launched.