27.07.2015

The Offical Opening of WFD 2015 World Congress, Istanbul, Turkey

Strengthening Human Diversity: WFD World Congress Theme, 2015

As the title of the Congress implies, we were treated to feast for the eyes as well as food for thought during today’s opening ceremony.

Our CBM day began with the setting up of the booth. All CBM staff were busy setting up the booth we are sharing with Kentalis International. The booth was visited by hundreds of people throughout the morning. Those who did not know CBM took a great interest in our work, what we do etc., so having staff and partners present was essential. The ones who know CBM and Kentalis, popped in for a chat. Several comments were made about the posters presented by CBM participants in our pre-congress meeting yesterday, leading to some very interesting discussions and questions amongst people at the booth.

Despite the fact that we now have at least 146 registered participants for the Side Event tomorrow focussing on the Current realities in deaf education in developing countries, more are interested in coming along! As a result of our interaction at the booth?

Later in the day, delegates waiting eagerly for the Opening Ceremony and we were not disappointed. Turkish culture, music and dance were shown at their best as many deaf performers took to the stage.

Mr Ercüment Tanrıverdi (President of the Turkish National Federation of the Deaf (TNFD) and Chair of the Congress Organising Committee) welcomed everyone.

The presentations were varied and reflected the international collaborations of WFD. One of the most impactful collaborations being with the International Disability Alliance (IDA). Through lobbying tirelessly IDA and their allies have ensured that persons with disabilities are included in the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An announcement was made that Colin Allen (current president of WFD) is now the Vice Chair of IDA. Further presentations were given by Turkish representatives of the Ministries and those representing persons with disabilities in Turkey. Some of the representatives of the Government Ministries were unable to attend due to calls to deal with the current conflict in the country. This brought home to me that whilst we are enjoying the camaraderie of the congress, Turkey is facing real challenges and people’s lives are affected by current events.

Something that impressed me as a step forward in recognising human diversity was seeing Ruth Warwick (President of the International Federation of the Hard of Hearing – IFHOH) being one of the presneters at WFD. She stated that for Deaf people, sign language interpretation is the main access to communication; whilst for persons who are hard of hearing, amplification and closed captioning in addition to sign language interpretation are vital in promoting inclusion. Both organisations now collaborate to meet these essential tools for inclusion.

However the pinnacle of the day for me was the Keynote Address given by WFD Honorary President Dr. Liisa Kauppinen entitled Deaf People: An Important Part of Humanity and Diversity. Her address recognises Deaf people as having a unique culture and heritage; on the other hand recognising that within Deaf Culture there is no homogeneous group. Issues related to equality, gender and sexual identity are part of the rich tapestry of Deaf diversity too. Taking a human rights approach means to respect differences and ensuring that everyone has an equal right.

To end the day, we quickly rushed to a meeting with the our side event organising group, presenters and sign language interpreters to go through the final logistics and check the room for tomorrow.

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