Collection 8 - Blissymbolics Communication Institute - Canada

Identity area

Reference code



Blissymbolics Communication Institute - Canada


  • 1952 - 2023 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

4.89 m of textual and graphic records and other material

Context area

Name of creator

(1975 - present)

Administrative history

Blissymbolics Communication International (BCI) was established in 1975, originally as Blissymbolics Communication Foundation (BCF). BCI is a non-profit organization with the worldwide authority, “to publish, teach and disseminate Blissymbols in any manner whatsoever for use by handicapped persons and persons having communication, language and learning difficulties.” (Legal agreement with C.K. Bliss, 1982).

Blissymbolics is an augmentative communication language, derived from an international semantic language developed in the 1940s by Charles K. Bliss (1897-1985), published in his book Semantography – Blissymbolics (1965). The language uses pictographic and ideographic symbols to convey meaning, with symbols representing specific words or concepts.

In 1971, Shirley McNaughton (1931—) within a clinical team working with children with cerebral palsy at the then Ontario Crippled Children's Centre (OCCC) – now the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital – discovered the work of Bliss in a book called Signs and Symbols Around the World by Elizabeth Helfman (1967). The team was able to acquire Semantography which detailed the use of Blissymbolics as an international language. Then, the team introduced Blissymbols as a communication method for non-speaking students at the OCCC.

After the successful response to Blissymbolics in OCCC classrooms, the Blissymbol program was formalized as an OCCC service called Blissymbolics Communication Service (BCS) in 1975. This program gained international recognition as a breakthrough for persons who were non-speaking. The BCS was later renamed to Augmentative Communication Service (ACS) in the 1980s with a broader communication mandate, and was supported by the Easter Seal Society (ESS) until 1991, when the ESS program was closed. This augmentative communication service then became a program of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

Blissymbolics programs have had many name changes through the decades. In 1975, BCI was established as the Blissymbolics Communication Foundation in order to separate the international administrative work of Blissymbolics from the services provided by the BCS. In 1980, BCF was renamed to Blissymbolics Communication Institute to clarify that the organization was not a foundation giving out grants. In 1987, the program was renamed to the Easter Seal Communication Institute (ESCI) to recognize the primary financial supporter of Bliss services, the Easter Seal Society. In 1994, the organization was renamed to Blissymbolics Communication International to recognize its primary mandate. In 2009, a process began in order to enable the Sweden Bliss organization to take on the international responsibilities. This agreement was completed in 2011, and the Sweden organization assumed the name, Blissymbolics Communication International, and acquired the worldwide authority to publish, teach and disseminate Blissymbols. The Canadian organization adopted the trade name of Blissymbolics Communication Institute – Canada (BCIC) in 2009, changing from its international mandate to providing resources and support for the Bliss community in Canada. Today, BCIC continues to support Bliss users and alumni.


Archival history

The materials in this collection were held by Shirley McNaughton of Blissymbolics Communication International and Blissymbolics Communication Institute - Canada until their donation in 2022.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This collection contains a variety of materials relating to the development, dissemination, use, and study of Blissymbols by Blissymbolics Communication Institute - Canada, and by affiliate organizations, scholars, educators, and users of augmentative communication around the world. The collection additionally includes administrative records, promotional material, and memorabilia of the BCIC.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Some of the material in Series 3, Series 5-7, Series 9, and Series 11-15 have Access Restrictions. For further details, please contact OHEC Reference Services via email:

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • Afrikaans
  • Bengali
  • Blissymbols
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hungarian
  • Icelandic
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
  • Swiss French
  • Swiss German
  • Xhosa

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Related descriptions

Notes area


Includes 1,819 transparencies, 107 volumes, 109 objects, 46 photographs, 46 digital media discs, 17 kits, 9 videocasette tapes, 1 drawing, and 1 film reel.


Please be aware that this archival collection includes materials that refer to people with disabilities using terminology that may be upsetting or offensive.

In the past fifty years there has been considerable advancement and attention paid to the language used to describe people with disabilities. Many terms that were once considered appropriate by the public and in the medical field are known today to be offensive and should not be used.

In an effort to be transparent and keep the contents of this archival collection in its original context, these words have not been stripped in the archival description.

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Description control area

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Rules and/or conventions used

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by Emma Thomas, 2022
Revised by Nat Johnson-Tyghter and Andrew Sandock, 2023




Accession area