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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 Kid’s 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 of 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 and this augmentative communication service 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.
The materials were held by Shirley McNaughton of Blissymbolics Communication International and Blissymbolics Communication Institute Canada until their donation in 2022.
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Scope and content
The Blissymbolics Communication Institute Canada collection contains a variety of materials relating to the creation and development of Blissymbols as they were used and disseminated by Blissymbolics Communication Institute Canada. This includes materials used to teach Blissymbolics, publications by both Canadian and International bodies.
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Language of material
- Swiss French
- Swiss German
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Please note that this collection is an active project and this is not the complete collection. Discover Archives will be updated as sections of the project are completed.
Please be aware that this archival collection may include the use of terminology referring to people with disabilities that some may find upsetting or offensive.
In the past fifty years there has been considerable advancement and attention paid to the ways in which language and terminology has been used to describe disabled people. Many terms that were 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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Dates of creation revision deletion
Created by Emma Thomas, 2022
Revised by Nat Johnson-Tyghter and Andrew Sandock, 2023