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Historic European Recognition of Deaf-Blindness

Editor's Note: This item is reprinted with permission from Sense's website:

April 5, 2004

The European Parliament has just passed a written declaration on the rights of deaf-blind people.

Deaf-blindness is not simply the sum of deafness and blindness but has its own complexities. However, many European countries do not even recognize it as a distinct disability.

Now, more than 320 MEPs have signed a declaration urging Europe to recognize deaf-blindness. This was the result of a long campaign organized by the European Deaf-blind Network (EDbN) and led by the British charity, Sense.

Liz Lynne, MEP, said, "After the last minute rush to get the final few signatures, it was a great privilege to be able to stand up in Parliament and announce the success of the declaration. I hope it will encourage governments at all levels to tackle the problems of social exclusion experienced by the 150,000 deaf-blind people in the EU."

Richard Howitt, MEP, who has been involved in the campaign from the outset, added, "The European Parliament has recognized that, as fundamental human rights are the basis of the EU, they cannot be denied to deaf-blind people. This is only the seventh time the European Parliament has passed a written declaration in the last five years."

Lucy Drescher, Campaigns Officer at Sense, said, "We have been campaigning for months to make sure MEPs signed this declaration asking for rights for deaf-blind people. The importance of recognition to the daily lives of deaf-blind people can be seen by hearing a few accounts of their experiences."

One deaf-blind person recalled going "to vote but they wouldn't tell me who was on the list."

Another said, "When my daughter told them I couldn't hear, one nurse kept writing things on paper (I couldn't see). I dread going there as I get so scared when I don't know what is going on."