The seminar on deafblindness was organized with the aim of raising public awareness of deafblindness to give the opportunity to professionals and other involved persons within the field of deafblindness to learn the experience from Nordic countries and to meet the demand of challenges in the field of deafblindness.
Two Nordic experts participated in the seminar: Trine Skov Uldall from Denmark, the consultant on acquired deafblindness and Maria Creutz, a senior adviser at Nordic Welfare Center with responsibility for deafblind issues.
Deafblindness is a combined vision and hearing impairment of such severity that it is hard for the impaired senses to compensate for each other. Thus, deafblindness is a distinct disability.
To varying degrees, deafblindness limits activities and restricts full participation in society. It affects social life, communication, access to information, orientation and the ability to move around freely and safely. To help compensate for the combined vision and hearing impairment, especially the tactile sense becomes important.
The severity of the combined vision and hearing impairment depends on a number of prerequisites:
- the time of on-set, especially in relation to communication development and language acquisition,
- the degree and nature of the vision and hearing impairments,
- whether it is congenital or acquired,
- whether it is combined with other impairments,
- whether it is stable or progressive.
The fact that it is hard for the impaired senses to compensate for each other means that attempting to use one impaired sense to compensate for the other one is time-consuming, energy-draining and most often fragmented. A decrease in the function of vision and hearing increases the need for making use of other sensory stimuli (i.e. tactile, kinaesthetic, haptic, smell and taste), it limits the access to distance information. It creates that person need to rely on information within the near surroundings and to rely on memory and to draw conclusions from fragmented information.
Deafblindness limits activities and restricts full participation in society. In order to enable the individual to use their potential capacity and resources, society is required to facilitate specialized services. The individual and their environment should be equally involved, but the responsibility for granting access to activities lies on society. An accessible society should at least include:
- available competent communication partners,
- available specialized deafblind interpreting, including interpreting of speech, environmental description and guiding,
- available information for everyone,
- human support to ease everyday life,
- adapted physical environment,
- accessible technology and technological aids.
Specialized competence related to deafblindness, including an interdisciplinary approach, is vital for proper service provision.