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How was the conference?

I CAN too! I HAVE COURAGE too! I GET INVOLVED too!

With these messages, with plenty of smiles and ideas for the future, we concluded the National Conference The Voice of People with Deafblindness from Romania, which took place on March 15-16, 2024, in Bucharest.

It is impossible for us to fully convey the atmosphere filled with warmth, empathy, and joy of these days, but we will try to capture at least a part of what was discussed together, so we invite you to read the lines below.

Day 1 – Reflecting Back

At the opening of the first day of the conference, we were delighted to have the presence of distinguished guests: Mr. Romi Mihăescu, President of the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Dolores Maria Neagoe, representative of the Norwegian Embassy in Romania, Ms. Andreea Drăgan and Ms. Iulia Vizi, both representatives of the Foundation for Civil Society Development and the Active Citizens Fund Romania program.

The 68 participants, including 31 people with deafblindness, 15 parents and caregivers, and 12 Romanian Sign Language interpreters, rediscovered the main elements of the project The Voice of People with Deafblindness from Romania, a project carried out over two years (April 2022 - March 2024).

Thus, discussions revolved around the group of 45 people with deafblindness involved in project activities over the past 2 years, activities through which they have come to better know themselves and advocate for their own rights, to have a voice. There was talk about the Introductory Course in Deafblindness for the 17 Romanian Sign Language interpreters, addressing topics related to communication with people with deafblindness, and about promoting the red-and-white cane as a distinctive element drawing attention to the fact that the user is a person with deafblindness.

Additionally, we recalled the two awareness campaigns about the specific aspects of deafblindness, involving over 1.000 children and young people with deafblindness and sensory disabilities from 22 partner schools, along with over 400 teachers and parents.

In the second part of the day, we all visited the Palace of Parliament and extend our heartfelt thanks to our guide, Ms. Irina Pandelas, an Expert at the Center for Organization and Event Promotion within the Romanian Senate.

Day 2 – Looking Forward

On the second day of the conference, the three present groups: the group of young people with deafblindness, the group of parents, and the group of interpreters, engaged in in-depth discussions regarding the future steps needed to foster growth, development, and problem-solving within the deafblind community.

Moreover, participants had the opportunity to learn more about Professor Vasile Adamescu (1944-2018), a person with deafblindness who consistently advocated for the rights of deafblind people in Romania.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to the guest facilitators who guided the groups in identifying challenges and solutions: Ramona Antonie, psychologist psychotherapist, specializing in couple, family, child autonomy; Assistant Professor Dr. Ioana Tufar, Romanian Sign Language interpreter and national trainer in the field of deafblindness; Steluța Tudose and Professor Viorel Micu, members of the Board of Directors of Sense International Romania Foundation. Additionally, we thank all the interpreters who facilitated communication between participants, with special thanks to Ms. Monica Cătuțoiu, Lena Dermengiu, and Elena Demeter.

We were delighted to have Mr. Romi Mihăescu, President of the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with us again at the end of the conference. He brought forth a concrete set of proposals for addressing the challenges faced by the deafblind community in Romania.

The conference concluded with a festive evening where, while enjoying a delicious cake, we all sang Happy Birthday to the new association of deafblind people in Romania, an association born from this project. The event marked the end of the "Voice of People with Deafblindness from Romania" project but also the beginning of a new chapter.

We thank all those present for their involvement, warmth, desire for change, and perseverance!

"The Voice of People with Deafblindness from Romania" is a project carried out by Sense International Romania Foundation in partnership with Sense International, with financial support from the Active Citizens Fund - Romania, a program financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA Grants 2014-2021. The content of this material does not necessarily represent the official position of the EEA and Norwegian Grants 2014-2021; for more information, visit www.eeagrants.org

We work together for a green, competitive, and inclusive Europe.

I too have a voice!

During December 2023 – January 2024, within the 22 special schools partnered with Sense International Romania nationwide, a campaign dedicated to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities took place. Over 800 children with deafblindness and sensory impairments were involved, alongside over 340 teachers, parents, and volunteers.

The main goal was to raise awareness and understanding of deafblindness among the general public, as well as among authorities and institutions in the fields of social services, healthcare, and education.

Pottery-therapy

The activities were based on art therapy, particularly pottery therapy, which proved to be an effective means of expression and communication for children with such disabilities. Pottery therapy is a form of expression that allows pupils to explore and express their emotions, thoughts, and experiences in a creative and accessible way.

Through pottery molding, the pupils had the opportunity to manifest their inner world and translate their inner experiences into material forms. The artworks created were diverse and varied, including objects in different shapes and colors, such as beads, bracelets, Christmas tree decorations, refrigerator magnets, snowman figurines, candle holders, pretzels, elephants, migratory birds, and many more. The campaign slogan, "I too have a voice!", was reflected in each creation made, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and listening to the voice of each individual, regardless of the mode of expression.

Impact on Children

It is also essential to mention the positive impact that this type of activity has on the individual development of pupils. Through engagement in the creative process and through art therapy, students had the opportunity to develop fine motor skills, freely express their thoughts and emotions, and strengthen their confidence in their ability to make their voice heard in the world. Thus, this campaign was not only an opportunity for awareness but also a means of providing confidence in their abilities for individuals with deafblindness and multiple sensory impairments.

In memory of Professor Vasile Adamescu

As we do every year, we dedicate this campaign to the memory of Professor Vasile Adamescu (1944-2018), a remarkable individual who, despite being completely blind and deaf, achieved remarkable feats in life, becoming a teacher, writer, and sculptor, a true advocate for the rights of individuals with deafblindness.

 

"The Voice of People with Deafblindness from Romania" is a project carried out by Sense International Romania Foundation in partnership with Sense International, with financial support from the Active Citizens Fund - Romania, a program financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA Grants 2014-2021. The content of this material does not necessarily represent the official position of the EEA and Norwegian Grants 2014-2021; for more information, visit www.eeagrants.org

"We work together for a green, competitive, and inclusive Europe."

I want to be heard and seen!

I too have a voice! I want to be heard and seen!

With this emotional message and the certainty that we are stronger together, we concluded the fourth workshop organized within the project "The Voice of People with Deafblindness in Romania," which took place in Bușteni from January 11th to 14th.

23 people with deafblindness, along with 11 family members (mothers, a father, and a life partner), discussed the need to establish an association for people with deafblindness in Romania, reviewing the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the deafblind community as identified in the previous workshop.

They discussed what this association could do to improve the lives of people with deafblindness and expressed their support and desire to get involved.

Through Sense International Romania, participants received detailed information about the steps necessary to establish an association, from drafting a statute document to choosing the organization's leadership and setting priorities.

Deafblindness on the stage

After the plenary discussions, participants worked in small teams and came up with proposals for the name and logo of the future association: Association of People with Deafblindness in Romania, Deafblindness Romania, and I Want to Be Heard and Seen were just a few of their creative ideas.

Subsequently, participants with varying degrees of deafblindness became directors, scriptwriters, and actors in emotional short plays with the following themes: Accessibility, Specialized Interpreters in the Language of Deafblind People, Awareness Activities for Deafblindness, and Independent Living.

Through realistic scenes, we witnessed some of the situations that a person with deafblindness may face in everyday life, the support she/he needs at work, in a store, or on the street, as well as possible solutions to enjoy an independent life.

Throughout the entire workshop, communication was facilitated by two Romanian Sign Language interpreters, Monica Cătuțoiu and Elena Demeter, who graduated of the introductory course in deafblindness for interpreters organized by Sense International Romania in the fall of 2023.

Orientation and Mobility in Bușteni

The agenda also included moments of orientation and mobility. Participants enjoyed walks in the snowy outdoors and a guided tour of Cantacuzino Castle, a first-time experience for many of them.

The workshop concluded with a sculpting session. Each person molded a clay piece of art, which they then offered to a fellow participant along with a hug, a grateful thought, or a promise of reunion in the spring.

The final conference, in March

The group of people with deafblindness will gather in Bucharest from March 14-17, accompanied by family members, Romanian Sign Language interpreters, and interpreters trained in the specific language of deafblind individuals. They will also be joined by guests representing national authorities at the conference that will mark the conclusion of the project "The Voice of People with Deafblindness in Romania."

The connections made and plans set for a future association of people with deafblindness will, however, continue to develop even after the conclusion of this project.

The Voice of people with Deafblindness in Romania is implemented by the Foundation Sense International Romania in partnership with Sense International UK, with the financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Grants 2014 -2021. The content of this materiale does not necessarily reflect the official position of the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org. More details about Active Citizens Fund Romania are available at www.activecitizensfund.ro.

Working together for a green, competitive and inclusive Europe

 

A new organisation is being born…

A new organisation is being born…

Bogdan, Cătălin, Crina, Delia, Emina, Iohana, Ionel, Iulian, Mădălina, Mario and Oana, the 11 participants in the workshop I too have a voice!, the third workshop organised within the project "The voice of people with deafblindness in Romania", took the decision to found an association of people with deafblindness in Romania.

During the workshop that took place in Predeal, between December 14-17, 2023, the 11 participants, together with 3 family members and the rest of the Sense International Romania team, discussed and debated the challenges faced by people with deafblindness in Romania. Thus, the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the deafblind community were identified and some priorities for the future were outlined.

The discussions were facilitated by a Romanian sign language interpreter, Monica Cătuțoiu, a graduate of our initiation course in deafblindness for interpreters in RSL, organised in the fall of this year.

Strengths and opportunities

The fact that a working team has already been created, a diverse group of people with deafblindness with different life experiences, with self-confidence and desire for change, a group that is starting to know their rights and demand their respect: here are some from the strengths identified by the participants.

Collaboration with other associations of people with deafblindness in the world, but also with Sense International Romania, with authorities and educational institutions, identifying and attracting new members to the group, the diversity of communication methods and the emergence of new technologies that support communication, all these are just some of the opportunities discussed.

Weaknesses and threats

Isolation, limited access to information and insufficient support resources, low visibility, poor knowledge and understanding of deafblindness are some of the weaknesses identified, alongside perhaps the most important weakness: the lack of a representative association for people with deafblindness.

Added to these are external threats related to the small number of identified deafblind people, the fact that although deafblindness is recognized by Romanian legislation as a distinct disability, the criteria for classifying it as a specific disability are missing. The lack of deafblind adapted sign language interpreters or a communication guide was another difficulty identified by participants.

I was very happy to be able to take part in this activity. It was a very beautiful and valuable experience from many points of view. Thus, it was an opportunity to broaden my horizon of knowledge regarding the specific characteristics of deafblindness and to reflect, together with my fellow participants, on the main challenges it entails, as well as on potential solutions. I also had the joy of seeing old friends again and making new friendships.

Throughout the three days spent at Predeal, the atmosphere was warm, the work sessions being seasoned with group walks, with special culinary experiences and finished with a surprise moment prepared by the Sense International Romania team, in the form of a campfire and gifts given on the occasion of the approaching Christmas.B

Bogdan S.

Priorities

Starting from those identified above, the participants present established together a series of priorities for the future: first of all, the establishment of an association of people with deafblindness in Romania.

Then, this newly established association will be able to actively campaign for the improvement of the legislation, mainly regarding the creation of criteria for inclusion in the type of disability "deafblindness" and the resolution of issues related to the adapted sign language interpreter/communication guide. It can increase the level of awareness and sensitization of the general public and the authorities regarding the specifics of deafblindness and actively engage in programs to develop personal autonomy.

Next steps

In January, we will continue the process with the fourth and final workshop, where a larger number of deafblind participants will continue the discussions and, if they wish, will join the process of establishing the association.

In March 2024, we will organize the closing conference of the project in Bucharest, on which occasion all those involved, people with deafblindness, family members, Romanian sign language interpreters, together with guests from the national authorities, will share the results obtained in the two years of implementation and will together draw up the strategy for the near future.

 

The Voice of people with Deafblindness in Romania is implemented by the Foundation Sense International Romania in partnership with Sense International UK, with the financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Grants 2014 -2021. The content of this materiale does not necessarily reflect the official position of the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org. More details about Active Citizens Fund Romania are available at www.activecitizensfund.ro.

Working together for a green, competitive and inclusive Europe

 

You do this profession out of vocation

From Vasile Adamescu's interpreter to special education teacher

Viorel is a special education teacher at the high school for visually impaired children in Cluj, the same high school he graduated from. At 7 years old, he came to Cluj-Napoca to study, and after high school, he pursued special education. In 2007, he started working alongside his teacher and mentor, Vasile Adamescu, a person with deafblindness.

"Almost everything I am today is due to him, and I have tried to steal as many of his qualities as possible" Viorel says about Mr. Adamescu, whom he describes as "a mountain of a man in a fragile body." He worked as an interpreter and communication guide for Mr. Adamescu for 11 years, and his mentor inspired him as a teacher also. 

"I always say that my students are like my own children, that's how I feel about them. When you enter the classroom, their faces light up, they shout your name, jump and embrace you. It's the most important moment of the day, of the month, the year!",  says Viorel. 

Member on the Board of Directors of Sense International Romania

He first heard about the Sense International Romania (SIR) when he was a student, also from Mr. Adamescu. In 2006, he accompanied him to a meeting, and after that followed conferences and roundtable discussions, meetings with specialists in the field, authorities, and individuals with deafblindness. He has fond memories of their first outdoor trip, when they climbed a mountain and took a boat ride on the Danube, as well as the conferences organized by SIR.

"Everything SIR does is at European level, every meeting. At the 2015 Deafblind International conference in Bucharest, there were people from about 40 countries. I think there were 400 people; it was like an anthill. We had the opportunity to meet many specialists, people whose articles we had read, but also people with deafblindness who excelled at what they did", remembers Viorel. 

Another aspect he appreciates is the training courses organized by SIR, especially considering the fact that "universities only provide theoretical support and very little practical training." He completed the first edition of the online initiation course in 2021. He remembers eagerly awaiting the Monday evenings when the live sessions with the trainers took place.

Very informative were the meetings organized by SIR together with local and central authorities. This is how he learned about the services provided by the state and was able to guide parents accordingly.

In his opinion, the early intervention program developed by SIR was also very important: "early intervention is essential for a child with deafblindness. The early years are crucial in a child's life, and without this early intervention, they fall behind. When you have a child in kindergarten or school who has benefited from early intervention, the difference is clear" he emphasizes.

The young teacher considers the work of SIR to be very important and sometimes wonders what would have happened in Romania had the organization not existed: "probably, we wouldn't know what deafblindness means; we wouldn't have this term. Maybe there wouldn't be early intervention, and there wouldn't be such excellent teachers and many other things" he concludes.

In this profession,you do everything with your heart, out of vocation"

Viorel is greatly motivated when he sees the progress of his students, their desire to learn and overcome their condition.

"I have a pupil at school who started speaking at the age of 12. And last year, she started learning to write and read, to do calculations. Now she is 14 years old and can write letter by letter, dictation-style" he adds. In the classroom, he works hard to teach his students life skills: they go out together on the streets, take the bus, visit parks, museums, and supermarkets. Thursdays are usually spent in the skills room where they cook, iron clothes, vacuum, and use other household appliances. Wednesday is cooking day.

"We think about what recipe to make, write it down, list the ingredients and preparation method, divide the tasks. We make our shopping list and go to the store; each person buys their items from the list and pays. So it's a whole adventure" Viorel adds.

He believes that love for this profession and creativity are the key ingredients.

"A special education teacher must love their profession very much, and be very creative. Everything is done with heart in this profession; you do it out of vocation." 

Driven by his vocation, he works with his children with multisensory impairments and feels his work has a big impact. This way, he carries on the legacy of Mr. Vasile Adamescu, whom he constantly feels by his side. "I always feel his energy! It's interesting that in the classroom where he worked, on the ground floor, you can still smell the scent of clay and other substances he used. I constantly sense him next to me. A large part of what I am able to do at school today is thanks to him because he was absolutely stellar in the classroom, even though he lacked sight and hearing."

Promoter of the Rights of People with Deafblindness in Romania

In February 2023, when Sense International Romania celebrated its 22nd anniversary, Viorel’s efforts and commitment were acknowledged and celebrated as he received the Award Promoter of the Rights of People with Deafblindness in Romania, 2023 edition.  

Story written by Cristina Botezatu

We have to move forward and leave the adversities behind

Alexandra is a 23 years old young woman with deafblindness.

She was born prematurely at 7 months, and that's when her fightbegan. 

"They placed her in my arms and told me: your child will not hear, will not walk, will not speak, will have paralysis either in one hand or on one leg. I was scared! Then I told myself that my daughter has to be strong. I brought her home and put her on the bed; I was even afraid to lift her up. It was very difficult in the beginning!", her mother recalls.

Later on, her mother noticed that the baby didn't make many sounds, so she decided to take her for a thorough examination. This was followed by many therapies and treatments. 

"It was very difficult in the beginning, until she grew a bit, but we got through it. Little by little, day by day. With check-ups, visits, massage, physiotherapy, injections, and she kept progressing", her mother adds.

At the age of 4, Alexandra said "mom" for the first time, and at 6,she took her first steps. Little by little, Alexandra became more independent, and now she communicates verbally.

The group helps me communicate better

Alexandra learned about Sense International Romania (SIR) when she was a pupil, at school. She was curious to know more and joined the group of young people with deafblindness that the organization works with. "I was very curious to see how things work there. I spent days with friends who have deafblindness, and it was very interesting", she remembers.

She participated in several trips organized by SIR and has fond memories from the mountains or from the seaside, where she rode the cable car and met other young people with deafblindness, just like her, from various cities in the country. 

"The group helps me to be more open, and communicate better," Alexandra says.

We have to move forward!

Her mother was also happy when she found out what deafblindness exactly meant and that she could meet other children and parents going through similar situations. 

"I was happy when I learned about deafblindness; I realized that there are other children like her. I wanted to meet them; I thought maybe they would become friends with my child! I wanted to share with them what I had learned and to have the opportunity to communicate with them", Alexandra's mother emphasizes.

It has been a long journey for the two of them, mother and daughter, and it continues with new challenges. For the past few months, Alexandra has been working full-time at the same factory as her mother. Working eight hours a day in three different shifts is tiring for her, but she enjoys it and is proud that she can do it. She now wants to save money for driving school and, if possible, even have a car. 

Her mother would like to encourage other parents with similar stories: "They should start somewhere, even if it's difficult! We have to move forward, leave the difficulties behind a bit for them! We can't leave them behind! You can be anyone, you deserve to be helped!"

Even if you can’t see or hear, you can do many things

Mădălina is a 24 year old young woman who is studying clinical psychology. 

She has been a fighter from the first day of her life. Doctors didn't give her many chances when she was born, and even now they are sometimes amazed when they see her medical history.

Mădălina has deafblindness; she wears a hearing aid and glasses, but for a long time, she considered herself a person with a hearing impairment.

"I have had a visual impairment since birth, and at the age of 6, after a treatment, my mother discovered that I also have a hearing loss, which was confirmed by many doctors. For a long time, I considered myself a person with a hearing impairment until Mr. Vasile Adamescu, a person with deafblindness, published a book that I really wanted to read."

According to her, learning the term "deafblindness" represented an opportunity.

"I understood myself better when I found out that I have both impairments and the subsequent decision to leave the school for the deaf and go to college. The simple curiosity about deafblindness has brought me many beautiful things!", Mădălina recalls.

Meeting Vasile Adamescu

She met Mr. Adamescu at an event organized by the Sense International Romania (SIR) and she remembers that moment as a major event that greatly contributed to her story.

"He managed to overturn things in my mind and soul. I thought that if he succeeded, I could too! He was an inspiration and proof that even if you can't see or hear, you can do much more; you are beyond what disability implies. There is also a principle in psychopedagogy that says disability is something you have, but society imposes the handicap on you. I think that's what it was; he transformed my handicap into a disability", adds the young woman.

She believes that her encounter with SIR and Mr. Adamescu came as an answer to the questions she had.

"His story was the answer that came after many, many years! It matters a lot what you plant in your garden, what seeds you sow, because at some point, they will sprout, even if it takes a long time for these seeds to grow", says Mădălina.

In the 8 years since she started attending SIR activities, she has planted many seeds: first as a participant, then as a volunteer, and now as part of the team.

The job offer came at a time when she felt disoriented. After graduating from college, she took a year off to think about what she wanted to do next, but looking back, she believes that break helped her get to know herself better.

"The offer was like a message telling me: Don't worry, things will happen as they should! I think these moments of disorientation are necessary in life because they help us find our way back, the path we need, actually. And that's how it was with SIR, in the end," emphasizes Mădălina.

One of the things she is currently practicing in SIR projects is patience, along with many other things that contribute to the person she is today.

"I think everything has come together, all the things I have learned. The fact that I stayed, that there was collaboration between SIR and my school, the fact that I was invited to be part of projects. I have met many people here over time, people I highly admire. Everything comes with challenges and teaches me things."

"Move forward because you've already been backward"

At SIR, Mădălina coordinates the group of young people with deafblindness, alongside another colleague who has the same disability. She interprets in sign language whenever necessary, and she tells new people about deafblindness and their rights. She strongly advocates for people with disabilities to know their rights because there were situations where she or other persons were treated unfairly. Now she helps others discover their rights and is delighted every time she can help.

Mădălina says she has faced many difficulties and has fought for inclusive education because she strongly believes in the power of education. She has learned not to give up easily when something doesn't work out at first and to keep moving forward, being careful about who she allows into her garden.

For the future, she wants to have her own psychotherapy practice, where she can support those in need and conduct research on the topic of disability.

What can you do, according to Mădălina, despite having a disability? "You can dream, laugh, be positive, and move forward because you've already been backward!"

 

When hands become eyes and ears

Between September 14th and September 17th, we organized a face-to-face training session in Predeal with experienced Romanian Sign Language interpreters. Over the course of four days, we explored elements related to communication methods for individuals with deafblindness, orientation and mobility aspects, as well as practical recommendations for interpreting for individuals with deafblindness.
This session is part of the Deafblindness Initiation Course for Romanian Sign Language interpreters, which runs from September 4th to October 16th, 2023, as part of the project the Voice of People with Deafblindness in Romania.

Communication, Orientation, Mobility

The theme of the first day of the course was communication for people with deafblindness. Together with the participants, we discussed communication systems based on sign language, communication systems based on verbal language (such as Block alphabets, Braille, Moon), as well as hand configuration-based alphabets and location-based alphabets.

Participants took on the challenge of role-playing various life situations. In a doctor's office, at the Disability Evaluation Commission, or at the Civil Registry, interpreters acted as the eyes and ears of individuals with deafblindness, providing support and gaining a better understanding of the challenges they face in their daily lives.

In the following day we focused on recommendations regarding the quality of interpretation for individuals with deafblindness, considering the physical context and interpretation organization. Interpreters shared their valuable experiences, and we discussed elements related to the interpreter's appearance, the communication environment, and interpreting in a team.

The second part of the day, dedicated to orientation and mobility, brought a new challenge. Blindfolded, with reduced hearing, and using the white-red cane, the symbol of deafblindness, interpreters were guided on a short route to experience the world from the perspective of a person with this double disability. After the exercise, they shared their emotions with us, transitioning from fear and uncertainty to confidence, curiosity, and courage.

"Together, we can bring light into the lives of people with deafblindness"

After spending several days learning from each other and building connections, we concluded the course with many ideas about what we can do together to support people with deafblindness and the desire to continue this journey together. We thank all the participants for their presence and involvement!

"The presence of so many people gathered together, the connections we've made, are a valuable treasure to me. So little is known about deafblindness; only together can we change mindsets and bring light into the lives of people with deafblindness!

The role of an interpreter for individuals with deafblindness is extremely demanding and not easy for an LSR interpreter. Being an LSR interpreter is the joy of my life, being an interpreter for individuals with deafblindness is the challenge of my life! Thank you for everything I received in this course, and I eagerly wait what comes next!" - Angela M.

"I am overjoyed by the unique opportunity you gave me! Here, I have learned many important and useful things. During an exercise, I realized that I can once again enjoy small things, such as applauding in my hands for an accomplishment. But there are so many challenges beyond our daily lives! Thank you for welcoming me into your family! I sincerely hope that this beginning has no end!" - Mihaela D.

"I greatly appreciate the effort and willingness of the trainers to provide me with valuable information about people with deafblindness. I realise that I am richer emotionally and intellectually because I have borrowed from the experiences of the group, mature and experienced people. I am confident that the information will be useful in my work." - Diana S.

The Voice of people with Deafblindness in Romania is implemented by the Foundation Sense International Romania in partnership with Sense International UK, with the financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Grants 2014 -2021. The content of this materiale does not necessarily reflect the official position of the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org. More details about Active Citizens Fund Romania are available at www.activecitizensfund.ro.

Working together for a green, competitive and inclusive Europe

“It’s good to show how a person with deafblindness is, we are equal to others”

"My name is Crina, I am 39 years old and I am from Cluj, a city in Western Romania". Crina smiles and shows us the sign she has chosen for her name: her freckles. 

Crina communicates only through signs, she was born deaf and wears glasses. She grew up in a united family, with both parents being deaf, brothers and sisters who can hear and another sister like her, with deafblindness.

For a long time, she didn’t consider herself a person with deafblindness, only deaf. She learned the secrets of tailoring in highschool, then worked in a tailor shop for 9 years. After that, she took on another job in a supermarket, where she arranged merchandise on shelves, all experiences from which she learned a lot. 

Her mother, Elena, told her about deafblindness for the first time. 

“In 2006-2007, my mother went to Finland, where she had a friend. She attended activities with a group of people with deafblindness. She liked it there and discovered new things. When she returned home to Romania, she wanted to find out more about deafblindness and learned about the Sense International Romania. She was impressed", Crina recalls.

Her mother became a volunteer for SIR, getting involved in many activities and representing the parents of children with deafblindness. A curious nature, Crina accompanied her to meetings, met new people, and gained a better understanding of what deafblindness meant.

"That's how I discovered that I am also a person with deafblindness, and that's ok," says Crina smiling. 

Her mother taught her sign language, and this way they were able to communicate very well.

"She was very interested in being close to people. We used to communicate both hand on hand and through signs. Even though she didn’t see well, she always said it was possible. I felt a very important connection with her through communication. Even when it was dark, we could communicate”, adds the young woman. 

From her mother, she inherited a passion for communication, as well as gentleness and patience, which she now applies in her activities with young people and children with deafblindness in SIR's projects.

From participant, to employee

In the spring of 2022, Crina accepted the opportunity to join the foundation's team and continue her mother's work, who is no longer with us. "It was wonderful to meet new people, to feel connected, to feel love. I accepted to work at SIR not necessarily for myself but for those around me", says Crina.

She now coordinates the group of young people with deafblindness, together with another colleague who is also deafblind. She keeps in touch with the members of the group, facilitates the online meetings and explains through signs for those who don’t communicate verbally.

She also attended several trips with the group of young people with deafblindness. Initially, she felt uncomfortable speaking in front of them, but now she likes to share her experiences with the others.

"It’s good to not hide but to show what it means to be a person with deafblindness, what one can do, what talents we have, the fact that we are equal to other people, that we can do various activities. I hope the foundation will develop in the future", says Crina.

During activities with the young people with deafblindness in the group, she noticed that some individuals understand more easily, while for others it’s more difficult. In time she learned to adapt to each individual.

"If someone is new, I tell them that deafblindness is a hearing and vision impairment: poor vision, poor hearing. Some are deaf, wear hearing aids, wear glasses; there are several categories of deafblindness, I give them examples. Some people don't accept it; they only feel deaf, and you can't force them. I have patience and explain," summarizes Crina the way she talks about deafblindness.

Among all the activities she has participated in, she particularly enjoys face-to-face meetings, where people communicate and smile more. 

"They inspire each other with light, trust their friends, and influence each other. In light, there must also be understanding and gentleness", says Crina, recalling the gentleness she learned from her mother, who still guides her.

“We go all the way”

For the future, she desires more activities and better communication. 

As a person with deafblindness, Crina feels she can do whatever she wants. She enjoys traveling, discovering new cultures, and trying food from different cuisines. She can travel by train or airplane, and does her research before embarking on a new adventure: she searches for the itinerary on her phone, gathers information about the hotel where she will stay, reads comments and reviews from other travelers. This summer, she will go on a trip to Greece with her father and younger sister, together with a large group of deaf people. 

In the future, she dreams of more distant destinations, such as Africa or Asia, but until then, she believes there are still things to be done within the group of young people with deafblindness.

"I want to continue working, to develop projects as part of the team. I don't want to think that it's enough as it is, NO! We go all the way... even though I don't know where this end is!"

Even if what you want to do is difficult, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

Iulian is 22 years old, wears glasses and sometimes uses a hearing aid because his hearing is at approximately 50%.

He finished high school in Focșani, and for the past two years, he has been working at a plastics factory. Initially, he packed orders, but progressed in time. Now, he is learning everything about the production machines in order to take over the responsibilities of his colleague, an engineer who is about to retire. He is proud of his journey, as this is his first job.

When he was in the twelfth grade, he first met the Sense International Romania team during a trip to Brașov. That's when he learned about Hellen Keller, a famous person with deafblindness. He was curious to find out more and searched her name on Google.

"When I learned that she couldn't see or hear at all and still managed so well, I became interested in learning more about these special people", Iulian recalls.

In the following SIR workshops, he also learned the stories of other individuals with deafblindness who have succeeded in life, which made him trust more his own abilities.

"When I was younger, I didn't have much confidence in myself. Even now, I still struggle with that sometimes. But when I found out about people who excel in all situations, I gained more confidence. It was a good experience. I believe that if I hadn't had contact with such people, I would have remained unconfident", says the young man.

The group of young people with deafblindness

When he started attending the activities organized by SIR, he felt a sense of belonging to a group of extraordinary people, and that made him happy. Since 2020, he has been a member of the SIR group of young people with deafblindness.

"When you belong to a group, you can discuss topics you have in common, you can reach out to someone when you need to, and that increases understanding", adds Iulian.

He also enjoyed the discussions about the rights of people with disabilities and learned many things that help him when he travels.

"We found out about our rights, about how society can support us in various situations, that you can find support anywhere, even if sometimes you feel like you're alone on this journey. It helps to have greater pride in yourself", the young man recounts.

He believes that the work of the foundation is important because it brings people together.

"We come together as part of society; it helps us understand certain things, how society works and how to cope with things. It's important because many people don't know that there are things which can help them. You don’t hear these things anywhere else, maybe you haven’t thought about them”, he further explains.

"If I can help with something, I want to help”

Iulian is a good friend, always ready with advice or a helping hand for anyone in need. He has always enjoyed helping others, and now he has more confidence that he can handle any situation that may arise.

"If I can help with something, I want to help. Even with a question, accompanying someone at the bank or hospital. For example, I went with someone to the hospital to ask about a person there. The person I went with could hear, but he was embarrassed to speak because he thought he couldn't speak very clearly, so I accompanied him”, adds Iulian.

He feels that he has a greater understanding and empathy, similar to people who have gone through more difficult experiences. When both your senses, sight and hearing, are affected, you have different needs, says the young man, but even so, he believes he can do everything that anyone can do.

"Even if what you want to do is difficult, it doesn't mean it's impossible! The fact that it is difficult gives you greater satisfaction in the end."

He felt satisfaction when he first got on skis, also during an SIR activity. At first, he thought it might be similar to ice skating or rollerblading, but he quickly realized it was not the case.

"On skis, you're stuck, you can't move at all, and it gives you a sense of lack of control, that you won't be able to control your legs. But I did well because I tried to move forward, even though there was a whole battle going on inside me", says Iulian.

For the future, he wants to start a family, continue helping others, and take care of himself. He wants to balance leisure time with work and hopes to start drawing again one day, as this is one of childhood passions. He wants to continue attending activities with the group of young people with deafblindness, and feel that he is part of a community.

Iulian la Predeal

Story written by Cristina Botezatu

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