Congress of Teachers of the Deaf rescinds the Milan 1880 resolutions

Photo:Click image to enlarge and download

Click image to enlarge and download

John Walker

Photo:ICED conference

ICED conference


A new era for Deaf education

By John Walker

The International Congress on Education of the Deaf (ICED) met in Vancouver, Canada during 19 - 22 July 2010. The Vancouver Deaf Association campaigned for the Congress to denounce the resolutions from the Milan 1880 Congress, an earlier version of ICED.

"[The] organisers addressed the Deaf Community's concerns regarding the Milan resolutions of 1880, which banned sign language in educational programs for deaf children."

The congress recognised the disastrous impact of banning sign language from education, which left generations of Deaf people without equal access to their family, education, employment and social health. They heralded a new statement of their position, "a new era: Deaf participation and collaboration" as a means to begin a dialogue to promote healing and set a path for future collaboration.

The statement emphasised the congress:

  • Rejected all resolutions passed at the Milan Congress that denied the inclusion of sign language in educational programs for Deaf students,

  • Acknowledge with regret the detrimental effects of the Milan Congress, and

  • Called upon all Nations to ensure that educational programs for the Deaf accept and respect all languages and all forms of communication.

The audience, both deaf and hearing, spontaneously responded with an outpouring of emotion and a standing ovation. "History has been made today and the words of the Vancouver Statement can replace the hurt caused by the Milan decision," said Joe McLaughlin, sub-committee chair, in his closing remarks.

In the UK, the Milan 1880 resolutions paved the way for the 1889 Commission on the Blind and Deaf & Dumb, whereby sign language was banned in favour of the "German Pure Oral method". The late Rev. William Blomefield Sleight, the son of the first Head Master at the Brighton Institution and a fluent signer, sat on the commission and expressed his objections to this piece of legislation. At least now, he can rest in peace knowing that the legislation he helped to create, and contested, is now not worth the paper it was written on.

"To those people whose lives have been hurt: yes you got hurt and this is formally recognised. It is time to hold your head up high and one hopes that there is enough space for forgiveness. The saddest thing in all this? Those people who suffered but did not live to see this regret in their lifetimes. We owe them the future, away from the suffering of the past 130 years." (Grumpy Old Deafies)

Right now, lets leave the 'healing' for tomorrow and stand on the roof tops, signing for all to see, and claim the day: "oralism is over." 

This page was added on 23/07/2010.
Comments about this page

JW: I love this "Oralism is Over" poster!!! - was it you who did it? :D

By Shane Gilchrist
On 13/08/2012

Yes, it was me!

By John Walker
On 13/08/2012

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