Austria is a country with a special geography. The country is divided in several regions. Each region has its own laws and structure. That is the reason why awareness raising and initiatives involving deafblind children and adults are done on a regional or local level.
This EDbN conference in Vienna on the 19th and 20th of May this year was a good opportunity for the different local projects to get to know each other and share experiences with each other and with all the other participants from allover Europe. 48 deafblind people, family members and professionals from outside Austria were given an overview of the different projects and the latest developments.
The theme of the conference was: Deafblind people, family members and professionals working together. In his keynote speech Lex Grandia said that this was what EDbN has tried to do the last 14 years.””e have our goals and aims together and we formulate them in wonderful words like: improving the situation of deafblind people and their families, combat discrimination against deafblind people, social inclusion in all areas of society and so on. Behind this are however the emotions of each of the three groups: deatblind people feel angry, sad, lost, isolated because of an increasing deatblindness. Family members feel often lonely, disappointed, very responsible and sometimes even guilty having a deatblind person in the family. Professionals also feel responsible and always have the insecurity of not being good enough. There are also prejudices, but it is necessary to try to understand each others backgrounds and that became possible in EDbN.
Workshops on 8 areas
8 areas were selected where all the three groups have their interest and where working together is needed.
- What happens after a deatblind person has finished the education? A job? A meaningfu1life? In many countries deafblind people’s school education stop at the age of 18. Congenitally deafblind people are living with the family or in residential care without any further education. People with acquired deafblindness have no possibilities of further education. How is the quality of life after the school period?
- Diagnostics, definitions and changing populations. (Ann Huvenaars, Kalorama). Many parents have difficulties recognising that their chil is deafblind. Many older people with dual impairment do not consider themselve deafblind.
- What are the special problems of older deatblind people?
- What is important in awareness raising campaigns?
- How does our attitude have to be in the communication with deatblind people? (Dr Holzinger). Communication is not only a technical matter, it is also about attitudes and relationship.
6.What is the employment situation of deatblind people? Are there any possibilities? William Green, Lega del filo d’Oro). What kind of employment possibilities exist for congenitally deafblind people and people with acquired deafblindness and are those jobs giving deafblind satisfaction and a better quality of life?
7.What is the role of family members and professionals in the bringing up of a deatblind person and how can they respect each other? (Raija Rantalainen, Finland)
8.Do deatblind people need to live separate from others, together with people with other disabilities or integrated in society? Models of services, integration and quality of life indicators for the evaluation of intervention. (Christa Heinemann, OTH)
9.What are the technical aids deatblind people use nowadays and how are the experiences? (Dr. Holzinger)
10.Leisure and recreation. (Sanja Tarczay, Dodir)
A Successful Conference
Although it was the first time our Austrian members hosted the EDbN Council Meeting and Seminar, it looked as if they had many years of experience. The goodbye party for Ann and Lex, the visit to a Heurigen, the reception in the city hall of Vienna were moments never to forget.
Many thanks to the Austrian organising committee and also to William Green from Lega del Filo D’Oro from Italy who supported the committee having organised the EDbN seminar last year.