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Sense International Romania

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!"

The first initiation course in the field of deafblindness for sign language interpreters

People with deafblindness in Romania represent a vulnerable, marginalized, isolated group, affected by inequalities and social exclusion. The combination of the two disabilities, sight and hearing, raises serious barriers to accessing services, given the major difficulties in communication, orientation and mobility, in accessing information, to which is added the lack of trained interpreters in the field.

In this context, Sense International Romania  organized, between September 4 and October 16, 2023, the first Deafblindness Initiation Course for Romanian Sign Language Interpreters, attended by 17 experienced interpreters from Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Craiova, Slatina, Bârlad and Brașov.

The course totaled 44 hours of theoretical and practical training and had both an online component, on the organization's e-learning platform, www.cursuri.surdocecitate.ro, and a face-to-face component.

Thus, during four online sessions, the participants learned about the specifics of deafblindness, which are the main types and causes, basic notions regarding the anatomy and physiology of the senses, as well as legislative elements regarding deafblindness. A special moment in the course was the presence of Viorel Micu, interpreter of Professor Vasile Adamescu, and the guests from Sense International India and Sense UK, who shared their experience regarding the interpreter for people with deafblindness.

Only together can we bring "light" into the lives of people with deafblindness

In the face-to-face workshop, organized in Predeal between September 14-17, the participants practiced the communication methods and adaptations necessary for people with deafblindness, as well as aspects of orientation and mobility, using the red-white cane, symbol of deafblindness worldwide. Through role-playing and creative exercises, they experienced some of the challenges faced in everyday life by visually and hearing-impaired people, guided by the course trainer, university assistant dr. Ioana Tufar.

"Emotion was the word that ran through this formation like a red thread. The position of interpreter for people with deafblindness is extremely demanding for an interpreter in Romanian sign language. So little is known about deafblindness, only together we can change mentalities, we can bring "light" into the lives of people with deafblindness!" - Angela Mate, special education teacher and Romanian sign language interpreter


This was the first edition of the initiation course in deafblindness for Romanian sign language interpreters, but Sense International Romania intends to organize other editions.

"We created this first course dedicated to interpreters in Romanian sign language to respond to a real need for training and information regarding the specifics of deafblindness as a distinct and very complex disability. We are glad that the participants received the course with so much enthusiasm and we want to organize new editions to have as many interpreters specialized in the field of deafblindness as possible. There is still a lot to do, we will also continue the efforts to harmonize the legislation on deafblindness, but now we have dedicated interpreters with us, friends of deafblind people in Romania" - Etelka Czondi, director of Sense International Romania.

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.

About Active Citizens Fund Romania

The Active Citizens Fund Romania programme is funded through the EEA Grants 2014-2021. The overall objective of the Grants is to reduce economic and social disparities, and to strengthen bilateral relations between 15 beneficiary countries and the Donor States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The programme is administered by a consortium composed of Civil Society Development Foundation, Romanian Environmental Partnership Foundation, Resource Center for Roma Communities, PACT Foundation and Frivillighet Norge, acting as Fund Operator designated by FMO – Financial Mechanism Office of the EEA and Norway Grants. The objectives of the Active Citizens Fund Romania are to strengthen civil society and active citizenship and to empower vulnerable groups. With a total allocation of 46,000,000 euro, the programme pursues a long-term development of the civil society sector sustainability and capacity, stepping up its role in promoting democratic participation, active citizenship and human rights, while strengthening bilateral relations with organizations from the Donor States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. For more information about the Active Citizens Fund in Romania, please go to www.activecitizensfund.ro. For more information about the EEA and Norway Grants, go to www.eeagrants.org.

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!"


“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!"