History of Blissymbolics

Mr. Bliss

Charles K. Bliss developed the system of Blissymbolics as an international language, beginning his work in 1942, in Shanghai – his place of refuge, having been released from Buchenwald concentration camp and travelling via England to China.


(See Film, Mr. Symbol Man, available from the National Film Board Canada)


In 1965, Mr. Bliss published Semantography-Blissymbolics in Australia – having emigrated there following the second world war.

The beginnings in Ontario

In 1971, a clinical team at the Ontario Crippled Children's Centre (OCCC) in Toronto, Canada (now the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital) began teaching the Blissymbols to children with cerebral palsy. These children were unable to speak in a way that could be understood, but through pointing to the symbols, they began demonstrating their abilities to communicate and to succeed in educational programs. The work begun in Canada was emulated in children's treatment centres and special education schools around the world.

In 1975 and 1982

through legal agreements with Charles K. Bliss and OCCC, Blissymbolics Communication International (BCI) was formed and given the rights and responsibilities for the application of Blissymbols for “handicapped persons and persons with communication. language and learning difficulties”.   Through four decades, Canada provided leadership in the development of Blissymbolics and worked in close collaboration with its international colleagues to further the application of Blissymbolics within the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication. In 1998, responsibility for the further development of the language of Blissymbolics was assumed by the BCI Secretariat in Sweden.

In 2012

In 2012, the organizational leadership responsibilities were transferred from Canada to Sweden, where ongoing support to Bliss users is maintained throughout the school system and where there are strong technical and educational competencies. BCI continues to work collaboratively with its Affiliates around the world, and we, in Canada, are proud to provide Canadian representation on the BCI Board of Directors. We participate in the work of the BCI International Panel in the development of new Bliss-words for the BCI Authorized Dictionary.  For information regarding the work of BCI, see BCI website (www.blissymbolics.org).