The World Association of Sign Language Interpreters was established 23 July 2003 during the 14th World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf in Montreal Canada.

1975 Washington DC, USA

The concept of an international association was first put forward during the WFD Congress

1995 Vienna, Austria

An international meeting of interpreters selected Raija Moustegaard and Raili Ojala-Signell, both from Finland, to develop statutes for an international association

1999 Brisbane, Australia

During the WFD Congress, 150 interpreters from 30 nations met. It was agreed to set up a Working Group to undertake the following: (1) expand the draft statutes into a Governing Document (2) share it with participants at the WFD Congress and with other countries as contacts became known (3) ask for formal letters of support from national associations and (4) prepare to be updated at a further meeting to take place at the next WFD Congress in Montreal Canada in 2003

2002 Washington DC, USA

The World Symposium for Sign Language Interpreters, sponsored by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, provided an update on the work of the Working Group. The number of people on the Working Group was increased.

2003 Montreal, Canada

60 interpreters representing 20 nations, together with WFD General Secretary Carol lee Aquiline, met to plan forming an international association to be known as WASLI. The work began by planning the first conference to be held in South Africa in 2005. While these were the earliest roots of WASLI, the organization was not formally and legally constituted in Switzerland until 2019 at Paris, France.

2003 – 2005

The Working Group* set about (1) establishing contact with as many interpreters and interpreter associations throughout the world as possible (2) preparing the documentation that was needed to formalise the Association (3) developed a sponsorship programme raising money to assist delegates from the poorer nations to come to South Africa (4) to set in place the structures needed to be an International Association

2005 Worcester, South Africa

The first conference of WASLI welcomed over 220 delegates from over 40 countries. With the support of WFD and the National Association of the Deaf this 3-day event was the realisation of the previous 20 years.

The first WASLI Board** was elected, including Liz Scott Gibson as president and Zane Hema as secretary.

The Board will now get to work to put in place the necessary structures, policies and procedures that WASLI need.

FILSE, the Spanish national association of interpreters agreed to host WASLI 2007

2007 Segovia, Spain

The second WASLI Conference welcomed 293 delegates from 44 countries. The WASLI/WFD Joint Agreement is signed.

The second WASLI Executive Board was elected and 3 individuals were appointed to develop the work of WASLI in Africa, South America and the Balkans

2007 Madrid, Spain

The WASLI and WFD Presidents sign the joint agreement before the WFD General Assembly.

The WASLI President and Secretary made a presentation ‘Working Together’ at the WFD Congress as part of the Commission on Interpreting.

2011 Durban, South Africa

The third WASLI Conference welcomed 160 delegates from 46 countries, including 17 African countries.  The keynote speaker on the conference theme of “Think Globally: Act Locally” was Colin Allen who went on to be elected as WFD president a few days later.

The new WASLI Executive Board saw a significant change of personnel with only three remaining from the previous board. The new president was Debra Russell and the new secretary, Awoii Patrick Michael.  Honorary Life Membership was awarded to the founding president and secretary, Liz Scott Gibson and Zane Hema respectively, who each stood down from office.

2015 Istanbul, Turkey

The fourth WASLI Conference welcomed 295 delegates from 56 countries, including 60 Deaf interpreters. The keynote speakers on the conference theme of “Creating Collaboration and Community” were Robert Adam and Christopher Stone, and Liz Scott Gibson and Markku Jokinnen.

The new WASLI Executive Board was elected. The president was Debra Russell (Canada), Vice-President Jose Ednilson (Brazil), Treasurer, Susan Emerson (Australia) and the new secretary, Isabelle Heyerick (Belgium). In addition, Nigel Howard was elected as Deaf Interpreter Advisory Committee Chair. Regional Representatives: Asia – Etsuko Unemoto, Oceania – Angela Murray, Latin America – Isabel Rey, North America – Liz Mendoza, Europe – Christopher Stone, Balkans – Desa Zizik, Africa – Natasha Maliko, Transcausia – Anna Komorova.

2018 Brazil

Santiago Parra, Juan Carlos Druetta and Jose Ednilson about WASLI development in Latin America.