Historic Announcement Rejecting the Exclusion of Sign Language in Deaf Education

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On July 19, 2010, the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) made important history by rejecting their resolutions from 1880 that banned the use of Sign Language in education for Deaf children and promoted the exclusive use of speech and residual hearing called Oralism. ICED also apologized for the detrimental effects that Oralism has had on the Deaf population for 130 years.

The audience, both Deaf and hearing, spontaneously responded with an outpouring of emotion and a standing ovation.

On July 19, 2010, the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) made important history by rejecting their resolutions from 1880 that banned the use of Sign Language in education for Deaf children and promoted the exclusive use of speech and residual hearing called Oralism. ICED also apologized for the detrimental effects that Oralism has had on the Deaf population for 130 years.

The infamous resolutions from ICED Milan 1880 have been described by many scholars and historians as an attempt at linguistic and cultural genocide as as well as a systematic effort to institutionalize audism, the belief that to hear and speak is superior to being Deaf.

The Congress organizers in conjunction with the British Columbia Deaf Community released at the opening ceremony, their “A New Era: Deaf Participation and Collaboration” which:

  •     Rejected all ICED Milan 1880 Congress resolutions passed that denied the inclusion of Sign Language in educational programs for Deaf students
  •     acknowledged and sincerely regretted the detrimental effects of the ICED Milan Congress,
  •     and called upon all Nations to ensure that educational programs for the Deaf accept and respect all languages.

According to the ICED 2010 press release, “The audience, both Deaf and hearing, spontaneously responded with an outpouring of emotion and a standing ovation.”

Audism Free America (AFA) joins with the Deaf community world-wide in the celebration of this historic event and will remain vigilant of the rights of Deaf citizens. AFA is grassroots Deaf activist organization which advocates for Deaf American rights, cultural resurgence, and seeks primarily to challenge the ideological foundations of audism in America.

Additionally, in a letter to Audism Free America (AFA), Claire Anderson, ICED 2010 Chair wrote, “The impact and decision of the Milan (1880) Congress to ban Sign Language from schools for the Deaf has clearly had a marked affect on the education and indeed the lives of Deaf students. We can all agree that this decision was, quite simply, wrong. it polarized the field of Deaf Education, introduced a contra-productive dogma and limited free choices of individuals and organizations. More importantly from a human and social/emotional aspect, it has been devastating for many Deaf people, their families and the Deaf Community.”

The timing of the New Era document is particularly auspicious, as scholars and activists have noted the beginnings of another wave of Oralism severely impacting Deaf babies and children. Excessive marketing and mandating of assistive listening devices are often integral components of educational programs serving Deaf students today. The claims of reliability and effectiveness of devices such as cochlear implants are highly questionable. Cochlear implants and digital hearing technologies are often coupled with Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT), which effectively prohibits Sign Language. Governments at various levels have begun to utilize developments in genetic engineering and genetic study to implement the diagnosing, documenting, and tracking of Deaf infants genes and family genealogy in a push to deny Deaf people true equality of condition.

The New Era manifesto from ICED 2010 includes an Accord for the Future, which is signed by representatives of ICED, BC Deaf Community, Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) and World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), calls upon the Nations of the world to right past wrongs, guarantee all Deaf infants and children a right to natural and fully accessible language, and recognize the full human, cultural and linguistic rights of Deaf people. By actively partnering with Deaf people on this document, ICED reaffirmed its new commitment to ensuring equal involvement of Deaf people in their education and issues affecting future generations of Deaf people.

If you would like more information about Audism Free America please contact AudismFreeAmerica (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Karen Christie
Audism Free America
585-4272024
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