The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) represents the United States at the General Assembly and World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), which convenes every four years. The WFD is an international organization composed of 130 national associations of the deaf that, in collaboration with the United Nations, advances the human rights of deaf people worldwide. The next WFD World Congress will be held in Istanbul, Turkey from July 28th to August 2nd, 2015.
Each national association of the deaf that are part of the WFD is characterized as an “Ordinary Member” of the WFD. As one of those Ordinary Members of the WFD, the NAD works to support WFD’s 2011-2015 Action Plan and mission to promote and advance the human rights of deaf people through cooperation with the United Nations and its agencies, national organizations of deaf people, and other partners.
In an increasingly globalized world, where more U.S. Citizens are traveling abroad for work, volunteer opportunities, and leisure, the NAD recognizes the need for cross-cultural knowledge, sensitivity, and competence. The NAD encourages all stakeholders within the deaf and hard of hearing community who travel abroad to embody the principles outlined by the WFD and embraced by the NAD:
- Human Rights: As stated by the WFD, human rights are universal and they belong to everyone regardless of sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status such as disability or deafness. On this basis, deaf and hard of hearing people are entitled to exercise civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights on an equal basis with everyone else.
Unfortunately, throughout the world, the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people are often overlooked, especially in developing countries. Societal prejudices and barriers prevent deaf people from enjoying full human rights. The major barrier for deaf and hard of hearing people is lack of recognition, acceptance and use of sign language in all areas of life, as well as lack of respect for deaf people’s cultural and linguistic identity.
The NAD recognizes that deaf women, deaf-blind people, deaf people with other disabilities, deaf people who are GLBTQ, and deaf members of minority religious, cultural, ethnic, and other sociological groups may face additional discrimination in the area of Human Rights.
In accordance with the WFD, the NAD works to promote and ensure the four basic factors which are tantamount to the protection of the human rights of deaf and hard of hearing people: the acquisition and use of sign language, bilingual education, accessibility, and access to sign language interpreting.
The NAD strongly supports U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the first international treaty to recognize the sign languages, linguistic human rights, linguistic identity, and the culture of deaf people.
- Preservation of Indigenous Sign Languages: Much as the NAD recognizes that American Sign Language (ASL) is the backbone of the United States deaf culture, the NAD also recognizes that other deaf communities and cultural groups have a wide variety of local, provincial, and national sign languages unique to the area in which they live.
The NAD values the protection of endangered and minority sign languages, and as such, encourages all American Sign Language users to exercise cultural and linguistic sensitivity when traveling abroad, especially respecting, learning, and using the sign language(s) of the local community rather than utilizing ASL as a means of communication. As stated by the World Federation of the Deaf, any forcible purification or unification of sign languages conducted by any agent, whether government, non-government, professionals working with deaf and hard of hearing people, or organizations for or of the deaf, is a violation of the mandates for respect of languages promoted by the United Nations and UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization through their treaties, declarations, and other policies, including the recent UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Education: The NAD supports the efforts of WFD to promote and safeguard the right of all deaf children and deaf adults to receive equal and accessible education opportunities. This is in parallel with the NAD’s stance on education for the deaf and hard of hearing in the United States.
- Accessibility and Technology: Technological infrastructure and equipment vary widely throughout the world. Much as the NAD advocates for new technologies that will ensure equal access for deaf and hard of hearing Americans, the NAD supports the guiding principles of the WFD, which ensure the incorporation of communication and information technology in every deaf person’s life. These technologies not only provide a benefit in the community they are implemented, but enable greater accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing travelers.
- Developing Countries: The NAD strongly encourages United States-based businesses, organizations, and individuals who travel, work, and/or volunteer in developing countries to adhere to the WFD’s policy on providing development assistance projects in developing countries.
Additionally, the NAD promotes the annual International Week of the Deaf, as initiated by the WFD, to celebrate the cultures, heritages, and languages unique to deaf people of the world.