Touch of Closeness – Maintaining Social Connectedness
From the 5th until the 8th of September 2017 the 9th Deafblind International European conference on Deafblindness was held in Aalborg, Denmark. More than five hundred people related with deafblindness actively participated in talks, workshops and networking meetings during the 4 days of the conference. Some of those people also participated in preconference activities during the 3rd and the 4th of September.
The central topic of the conference was social connectedness. Social relationships are crucial for people’s development and for one’s well-being. Deafblind people are deprived from the two most important senses, so they just have three left to interact with the world. As Linda Eriksson, member of the Scientific Committee who lives with deafblindness, explains, the sense of touch is the most important sense for deafblind people. Physical contact let these people interact with others and avoid social isolation. That is the touch of closeness, the touch of togetherness.
The conference reflected as well, a topic that was decided at the final plenary of the 8th DbI European conference on Deafblindness in Lille 2013. The main conclusion of that final plenary was that it was necessary to look at the common points between the two “sides of deafblindness”, acquired deafblindness and congenital deafblindness. During the organisation of the Aalborg conference DbI collaborated with ADBN to deal with this duality.
The talks and the workshops were divided in three main subjects. The first day of the conference the topic was Social Connectedness, the second day was Touch and the third and the fourth day was Closeness.
During the inaugural conference, that took place the 5th of September, Lars Ejsing Søbye, one of the main organisers of the conference, explained a funny anecdote. As he had no previous experience on holding conferences he asked an expert how to organise a good conference. The expert answered, take note of what I am about to say, if you have a large budget you will not have any problem but if you have no budget, then you have a problem.
In the inaugural conference as well, we had the honour to hear the speech of Ms. Marianne Thyssen, Comissioner of employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility. One of the main points of her speech was that a lot of barriers have been taken down in Europe regarding the rights of people with disabilities, but that we still have a long way to go as well and a lot of things to improve.