President Roberta Cordano, Dean Khadijat Rashid, and American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Studies faculty member Tawny Holmes present at the WFD's 2019 XVIII World Congress.
President Roberta Cordano, Dean Khadijat Rashid, and ASL and Deaf Studies faculty member Tawny Holmes present at the World Federation of the Deaf’s 2019 XVIII World Congress.

Gallaudet Has Strong Presence at 2019 XVIII World Congress of World Federation of the Deaf

The 2019 XVIII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), held in Paris, France, from July 23 to 27, was of great significance, not only to the 2,536 participants from 137 countries who attended but also in strengthening Gallaudet University’s relationship with the federation.

The most conclusive result was the signing of a cooperative agreement between the University and the federation that expresses a shared commitment to the advancement of deaf people globally. The agreement was signed by Gallaudet President Roberta Cordano and outgoing and incoming WFD presidents Colin Allen and Dr. Joseph Murray, respectively, the latter a professor in Gallaudet’s ASL and Deaf Studies Program.

Gallaudet will connect the international government visitors it receives to WFD member associations, and the federation will offer learning opportunities to Gallaudet students. The University and the WFD will also partner to promote matters of mutual importance for deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind people, such as a bilingual lifelong education, support for national sign languages, and the right to economic opportunity.

Cordano made history by being the first Gallaudet president to give the keynote presentation at the World Congress’ Opening Ceremony in International Sign.

The Congress also proved to be an opportune venue for Gallaudet to host workshops with African delegates about the Gallaudet in Nigeria-Africa (GAIN) project, to meet with organizations who seek partnership opportunities, and to share general information about the University. In addition, a number of timely topics of global interest were addressed by experts from Gallaudet in presentations and poster sessions:


  • Melissa Malzkuhn, manager, digital innovation and media strategy, Visual Language and Visual Research Center — Strengthening Deaf Communities Through Sign Language Literacy
  • Dr. Patrick Boudreault, manager, Knowledge Translation Center — Sign Language Endangerment: A Case Study of Quebeckers Sign Language
  • Roberta J. Cordano, president; Tawny Holmes, assistant professor, ASL and Deaf Studies; and Khadijat Rashid, dean, School of Education, Business, and Human Services — Beyond Sign Language Recognition: Building a Signing-based Learning Global Economy
  • Ardavan Guity, research assistant, World Languages and Cultures — Ethical Concerns of Sign Language Work with the Deaf Communities: One Deaf Iranian Man’s Journey from Researched to Researcher

Poster Sessions

  • Stacy Abrams, coordinator, Training Products and Dissemination — Community Accountability in our Deaf Community: How We Can Support Hearing Families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children by Sharing Personal #whyisign Stories in Our Native Sign Languages
  • Dr. Genie Gertz, dean, College of Arts and Sciences — Towards a New Paradigm within the Deaf Studies Field: Introducing Deaf Crits
  • Erin Moriarty Harrelson, assistant professor, ASL and Deaf Studies — Deaf Tourist Practices in Bali and Yogyakarta, Indonesia
  • Dr. Poorna Kushalnagar, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Deaf Health Communication and Quality of Life Center, and Ai Takayama, a graduate student at the center — Moving from Research to Practice: Making Patient Reported Outcomes Measure Accessible in Signed Languages for Deaf People

Additional support was provided by Heather Harker, chief of staff, and Senda Benaissa, special assistant, Office of the President; Amanda Mueller, GAIN project officer; and Gregoire Youbara, lecturer and co-advisor, International Studies Program.


Heather Harker, chief of staff in Gallaudet's Office of the President, shares information about the University with a WFD Congress attendee.
Heather Harker, chief of staff in Gallaudet’s Office of the President, shares information about the University with a WFD Congress attendee.

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