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  • Partners in EducationThe 21st International Congress on Education of the Deaf: Vancouver, British Columbia July 2010
  • Donald F. Moores, Editor

The 21st International Congress on Education of the Deaf (ICED), to be held in Vancouver in July, is, in many ways, a reflection of the evolution of our field over more than 130 years. Beginning with the International Congress for the Improvement of the Condition of Deaf-Mutes, held in Paris in 1878, one can trace the development of the field from a patriarchal, hearing dominated, parochial entity toward an attitude of acceptance and mutual respect, as exemplified by the title, "Partners in Education." Certainly, we have a long way to go, but this should not obviate the impressive gains that have occurred and the present willingness to accommodate differences that was not in evidence historically.

The Periere Society contributed heavily to the organization and financial support for the first two congresses, Paris, 1878 and Milan, 1880. Descendents of Jacob Periere, who introduced oral education in France in the 18th century, established the Society, with the primary purpose of effecting the general adoption of the oral method. The Congress itself, with 27 delegates, 22 of whom were from France, stated that signs should be retained in instruction but preference should be given to articulation and lipreading. The Conference of Milan, of course, passed the well-known resolutions that the oral method ought to be preferred over signs alone or the simultaneous use of signs and speech. Almost 90% of the delegates were from Italy or France.

It is generally assumed that Congresses after 1880 until the latter third of the 20th century were completely dominated by oral-only advocates. This was not necessarily the case. The fourth Congress was held in Chicago, Illinois in 1889. Where attendance for the first three Congresses was predominantly European, 202 of the 211 delegates were from the United States and 5 from Canada, 4 from Great Britain, and none from continental Europe. Opening addresses were interpreted into sign language. Topics included higher education, the importance of deaf teachers, reading, oral instruction, the use of sign language, and the role of deaf teachers.

The next four Congresses were held in Europe and the ninth congress was held in West Trenton, New Jersey. They seemed to have relatively little impact on the field. This may be due in part because they were held on a sporadic basis, with little consistency from one to another. In the 43-year period from 1907 (Edinburgh, Scotland) to 1950 (Groningen, the Netherlands), there were only two conferences; one in London (1925) and one in Trenton, New Jersey (1933). In fact the Groningen Congress originally had been scheduled for 1939. The convulsions of World War I (1914 to 1918) and World War II (1939 to 1945) and the worldwide depression of the 1930s curtailed major developments and sharing of information.

The 12th Congress, held in Washington, DC, in 1963, had delegates from 49 nations and provided a model for congresses to come, covering an extensive range of topics, including assessment, manual communication, differential diagnosis, reading, audition, and speech. For the first time, several speeches were made by deaf professionals. The next congress, in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1960 expanded on the Washington congress to include even more diversity of participants and perspectives, including needs in developing countries. It was at this congress that the concept of a Total Approach or Total Communication appeared.

It was in Tokyo, Japan in 1975, 97 years after the Paris Congress that for the first time an international congress was held outside of Europe and the United States, opening up opportunities for delegates from countries that previously had little or no representation. One resolution called for greater participation by deaf individuals in future congresses. The 1980 Congress, in Hamburg, Germany, continued the trend for more symposia, panels, and lectures. There was spoken translation into German, English, and French and interpretation into German Sign Language, Scandinavian Sign Language, and American Sign Language. [End Page 3] Deaf professionals continued to play an increasing role. Several speakers, aware that the congress was 100 years after the Milan congress, spoke critically of the Milan resolutions and the Hamburg congress took...


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