500 people with a connection to deafblindness actively participated in speeches, workshops, and networking events over the course of the conference’s four days in Aalborg, Denmark, which hosted the 9th Deafblind International European Conference on Deafblindness. Many of them participated in preconference activities on September 3 and 4.
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. That final plenary’s key conclusion was that it was important to examine the similarities between the two “sides of deafblindness,” acquired deafblindness and congenital deafblindness. DbI and ADBN worked together during the conference’s planning in Aalborg to address this dualism.
Three main topics were divided between the speeches and the workshops. Social Connectedness was the conference’s first day’s topic, Touch was the second, Touch was the third, and Closeness was the fourth.
Social connectivity served as the conference’s main theme. Social interactions are essential for a person’s growth and wellbeing. People who are deafblind are left with only three senses, which limits their ability to interact with the outside world. The sensation of touch is crucial for deafblind people, according to Linda Eriksson, a member of the Scientific Committee who is herself deafblind. These persons were able to socialize and escape social isolation thanks to physical interaction. That is the touch of closeness, the touch of togetherness.
One of the primary conference organizers, Lars Ejsing Sbye, shared a humorous anecdote during the opening conference on September 5. He sought advice from a professional on how to plan a successful conference because he lacked prior conference organization experience. Take heed of what the expert is about to say: if you have a sizable budget, you won’t run into any issues, but if you don’t, you will.
We also had the privilege of hearing Ms. Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner of employment, social affairs, skills, and labor mobility, speak at the opening conference. One of the key aspects of her address was that, while many impediments to the rights of persons with disabilities have been removed in Europe, there is still a long way to go and much work to be done.