The Social Inclusion for Deafblind people in the European Union
Brussels. May 2002
There are at least 150,000 deafblind citizens livings in the European Union. The personal testimony which forms the basis of this report, reveals a group of people who count as amongst the most socially excluded citizens in Europe. They face unique disadvantages in a world that is organised for the hearing and sighted.
In January 2001, the Employment and Social Affairs Directorate General funded an 18-month project that brought together deafblind people from Sense (UK), Lega del Filo d’Oro (Italy), Casa Pia (Portugal), and the European Deafblind Network, under the transnational management of Sense International.
A series of semi-structured interviews with deafblind people and family members were conducted during 2001-02. This personal testimony was brought together in a report which highlighted the staggering extent of social exclusion experienced by deafblind people in the European Union.
- In education, 41% of deafblind people surveyed have been discriminated against during their career
- In employment a third of deafblind people have been refused a job because of their impairment, and a further 22% have had to leave jobs
- In health more than half of deafblind people have had hospital procedures which have not been properly explained to them, and a third have been given tablets without knowing the reason
- Almost half of deafblind people experienced problems participating in social activities in their communities
- Only one in five deafblind people have access to paid communicator guides and interpreters
The report goes on to make recommendations on how the European Union can play a role in combating social exclusion.
Further discussion of this material took place at a seminar in Brussels in May 2002 attended by Richard Howitt MEP, Chair of the EU Parliamentary Disability Group, together with representatives from the European Disability Forum and the Disability Unit in the Employment and Social Affairs Directorate General. 50 deafblind people and their representatives attended this seminar, from 16 European countries (and including 11 Member States). The discussions conducted during this seminar form the basis of the recommendations contained in this report.