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The Voice of People with Deafblindness

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.

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