In a time when physical and social distancing has an influence on every aspect of our life, it is our responsibility to make sure that people with deafblindness are able to deal with these challenges, so that the risk of marginalisation, neglect and double isolation is as reduced as possible.
Why double isolation? Deafblindness represents a combination of both hearing and visual impairments, leading to great difficulties in communication, access to information, orientation and mobility. When these difficulties are overlapped by those caused by the pandemic, the risk of isolation becomes major.
In order to make the information on the COVID-19 pandemic accessible, we have produced a series of videos that address the major themes of the current life context, which are accessible to people with sensory impairments (in Romanian sign language, with contrast, subtitles and text, also in Romanian). In addition, in order to support the families of children with deafblindness, we have produced and translated materials containing activities ideas that can be done at home with the children, in order to continue the sensory stimulation that took place in schools.
Working in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the special schools for visually impaired and hearing impaired children from all over the country, we have come to their aid during this period. We have donated materials to 16 schools across the country – transparent masks for better communication with hearing impaired people, disinfectants and other protective equipment against SARS-COV-2 virus.
"The transparent masks were a very pleasant surprise for our children," said the director of one of the partner kindergartens where children with deafblindness, multiple sensory impairments and hearing and vision impairments are enrolled. "It's difficult for them to understand what we're saying to them with surgical masks on our faces, but the fact that they can now see the mouth and read the lips of the interlocutor has turned the safety of wearing the mask into a fun play for them."
A big part of our lives happens online these days. Because we believe that children with deafblindness must also have access to quality education and not be "left behind", we have channeled much of our efforts in this area.
Thus, we are in the midst of implementing the project "e-Sense – using digital technology, we are revolutionizing the education of children with deafblindness". We are working on this project together with Code for Romania, a community of young professionals and enthusiasts who develop IT solutions with the aim of solving society's problems, as well as with three schools providing educational services to children and young people with deafblindness. We develop, test and we will approve e-Sense – a package of open source, free and accessible educational software for over 335 children with deafblindness in Romania, for their parents and their teachers. Intensive work is being done on this project and partner schools are receiving laptops for the teachers involved in the project and tablets for children to use. This project is funded by the Orange Foundation under the World through Color and Sound Funding Program, 2019 edition.
In 2021 we will start a new project, funded also by the Orange Foundation under the World through Color and Sound Funding Program, 2020 edition. The project is called "Sensi" and aims to create tools to protect children and young people with sensory impairments online, so as to diminish the risks of online abuse.