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Milan 1880: ICED 2010 Regrets Milan 1880

Currently the International Congress on Education of the Deaf (ICED) is taking place in Vancouver. The conference website can be found here.

A statement was put forward to the congress, on Milan 1880. This is the draft text via Senan Dunne (which I got last night - about 14 hours ago, as I type):

"…The resolutions of the 1880 congress in Milan:

In 1880, an international congress was held in Milan to discuss the education of the deaf. At that time, the members passed several resolutions that effected the education, and the lives, of Deaf people around the world.

The resolutions:
1. removed the use of sign language from educational programmes for the deaf around the world
2. Contributed detrimentally to the lives of deaf citizens around the world
3. Led to the exclusion of deaf citizens in educational policy and planning in most jurisdictions of the world
4. Prevented deaf citizens from participation in government planning, decision making and funding in areas of employment training, re-training and other aspects of career planning
5. Hindered the abilities of deaf citizens to succeed in various careers and has prevented many of them from following their own aspirations
6. And prevented the opportunity for many deaf citizens to fully demonstrate their cultural and artistic contributions to the diversity of each nation

Therefore, we reject all resolutions passed at the ICED Milan conference in 1880 [about 35 seconds of applause!]

I think there will be more cheering at the end. I’ll start again - all resolutions passed at the ICED Milan conference in 1880 that denied the inclusion of sign language in educational programmes for deaf students. Therefore, we acknowledge and sincerely regret the detrimental effects of the Milan conference. And therefore, we call upon all nations of the world to remember history, and ensure that education programmes accept and respect all languages and forms of communication. Thank you."

This was accepted, and thus a formal apology made to the Deaf community worldwide. It only took 130 years for it to happen.

As late as 1990 (and possibly later), an apology was rejected. A friend said on Facebook earlier:

I attended the ICED in Rochester NY USA in 1990. I remember the uproar when delegates tried to put forward a motion for this apology. The organisers weren't having it. Just took another 20 years for it to happen...

Do not underestimate the significance of this. Will it take away the damage that Deaf people have experienced in the past 130 years? Of course not.

The tone of the resolution, should be given gracefully and received the same. A recognition of such is a statement that history should not be repeated. The absolutely crucial thing is: you cannot regret then go out and continue to make the same blunders you just acknowledged. The impact on this, educators internationally need to reflect on and no child anywhere should be denied sign language.

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.

Milan 1880 (a history)
ICED 2010

Update: I got the following e mail, "
I am at ICED now - it is not "apologize" but regret+reject. CED did not agree with "apologize" because they are not a government nor an organisation with a formal structure, but a changing team that just organises a conference. But as you can see it is a strong text that explicitly rejects the pure oralism + gives recommendations - it caused many emotions yesterday, especially amongst older deaf people!"

Apparently the BC Deaf community will issue a press release today. Hope so, something as big as this needs faster press management (due to the scale of the news).

Update 2: here's the PDF link to the resolution (via NAD in USA). About 200 of the 500 participants at ICED have already signed it. Resolution will be taken to WFD 2011 for more signatories.

Comments (10)

Thank you so much for this blog and reporting what had happened at ICED. May I have your permission to link your site to my blog?

Amy Cohen Efron

That's fine. :)

That's great!

"The saddest thing in all this? Those people who suffered but did not live to see this apology in their lifetimes. We owe them the future, away from the suffering of the past 130 years."

It's true that many people who suffered by the resolution don't get to see this apology, but there are hundreds of Deaf people who have suffered by the resolution and are still alive. My grandpa is one of them. He often shares with me how deeply disappointed he is with his school because they spent so much on teaching him speech skills that my grandpa didn't get to learn things his hearing peers get to. Also, they didn't let him to graduate from High School, because, as the record states, he can't speak. (The school took action and gave him the high school diploma when he was 65 years old.) I look forward to sharing this good news with him.

Thanks for posting the printed word "from the horse's mouth."

When ARE these people going to join the 21stc ? A totally pointless gesture. No wonder deaf are stuck in a rut.... are there not enough issues today to work on ? How many 130yr old Italians do you know we can make pay for it ?

Even if they did apologize, I think they don't mind doing so today instead of years ago because they have cochlear Implant. Meaning access to spoken language is easier on deaf. They no longer feel they have to worry about ASL interfering speech. Are do they?

MM, it is symbolic thing. I do not expect you to understand that, fool.


And still pointless...

Hmmm, I think it's in a way an apology. ICED says that they couldn't issue a formal apology they're not a government or an organisation. Excuse me for saying it, but was the Periere Society that organised the Milan 1880Congress a government or a proper organisation with an established status in the deaf education? No, they weren't. It was more or less organised by those with a strong personal agenda to win the war over sign.

Nevertheless, at least, there's a form of statement though this doesn't repair the damage that millions of deaf children suffered.

Can I have a copy of the ICED statement as I'd like to put this on the milan1880.com website as it needs updating anyway.


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