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Deafblind People Should not Become the Invisible Citizens of Europe

Deafblind People Should not Become the Invisible Citizens of Europe

2015. 06. 24.

Opening the discussion, MEP Stier, coordinator of the EPP Group, emphasized the importance of social inclusion: "We cannot achieve sustainable development without the full integration of all European citizens, including the deafblind,” he said.

Helga Stevens, MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, said that deafblind people cannot remain invisible European citizens any longer.

Representative Ádám Kósa, who also serves as the president of SINOSZ, the Hungarian Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing, together with his colleagues, MEPs Davor Ivo Stier from Croatia and Helga Stevens from Belgium, received the Croatian president of the European Deafblind Union (EBDU) and leaders of the Hungarian, Finnish, Belgian, and Spanish organizations.

As the co-host of the event, the Hungarian association emphasized the social inclusion of deafblind people. This may only become reality as people get to know them better because they are only different in their special communication needs, its representative said. He underlined the importance of recognition at the legislative level of the communications needs of de afblind people. Hungary was the first in Europe to make that recognition, adopting national legislation on sign language.

Deafblind participants at the event noted that while the European Union has recognized deafblindness as a special disability since 2004, most countries still treat it as a combination of deafness and blindness, so in many countries there is no actual data on how many people are affected. Confirming this, Tamás Gangl, president of the Hungarian Deafblind Association (SVOE), pointed out that Hungary’s 2011 census revealed that there is a higher number of deafblind Hungarian citizens than previously estimated. “There are no statistical data available on the number of deafblind persons living in Belgium, and the association of deafblind people receives no funding from the Belgian government, said Peter Vanhoutte, representing the Belgian organization. “That makes it difficult to fight for our rights.” Francisco Javier Trigueros Molina from Spain emphasized that even laws are often not enough to raise the needed level of social awareness.

“In spite of the imposed social exclusion and isolation, deafblind persons have devoted and still do dedicate great efforts to take the decision-making process affecting their lives and their future into their own hands,” said Sanja Tarczay, head of the EBDU, referring to the slogan“Nothing about us without us.” Representatives of the European Commission and European Ombudsman also participated in the discussion.