April 1st, the day the European Parliament settled as the most remarkable date for the European Deafblind Community

2004 was an unprecedented great year for the European Deafblind Community. On April 1st, the European Parliament formally adopted a historic written declaration of the rights of deafblind people. The document also lists the rights to which deafblind people should be entitled.

Deafblindness is a unique impairment, according to the Declaration, a 200-word document. Therefore, those who are deafblind require particular assistance from professionals. Additionally, it:

1. Demands that the rights of people who are deafblind be recognized and upheld by the institutions of the European Union and the Member States.
2. Charges its President with notifying the Council, the Commission, and the governments of the Member States about this proclamation and its signatories.

2. Declares that all EU citizens, including those who are deaf or blind, should have the same rights, which should be upheld by the relevant legislation in each Member State and include:

the right to take part in democratic activities within the European Union
the right to employment and training with suitable lighting, contrast, and accommodations
the privilege of receiving individualized health and social services
the privilege of receiving lifelong education
the right to get individualized assistance from communicator-guides, deafblind interpreters, and/or intervenors when necessary

The ground-breaking decision was the culmination of a determined campaign run by organizations, deafblind people, families, and professionals in Europe. On the side of EDbN (European Deafblind Network) Sense the UK, led the campaign, working closely with Mr. Richard Howitt MEP, Chair of the Disability Intergroup in the European Parliament, on a campaign to get deafblindness recognized as a separate disability at European level.

On that day, Deafblind people from Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France gathered in Brussels alongside representatives of organizations such as Sense, Lega del Filo D’Oro, CRESAM, ANSPA, APASCIDE, APSOCECAT, and Spermalie. According to Lucy Drescher, a prominent campaigner and Sense UK member, this is the case. Over eighty people, including 10 MEPs, attended an incredibly successful event. On April 1, 2004, the European Parliament’s plenary gave the Declaration its official approval.

The greatest significant achievement for deafblind individuals in all of Europe continues to be this fact. Without the cooperation of deafblind persons, their families, and professionals from all throughout Europe, who lobbied their MEPs to sign up, we would not have been able to achieve this success. From EDbN, we highly advise designating this as European Deafblind Awareness Day as it honors the most significant occasion for the Deafblind community and serves as a reminder of the strength of a great team working toward a seemingly unachievable objective.