Update June 2007 - Special Issue

04 Jul 2007

EUD 2007 Seminar on Equal Opportunities for All Report

EUD Seminar on Seminar on Equal Opportunities for All, Berlin, 4th May 2007

This seminar was open to anyone interested in promoting non-discrimination.

The Equal Opportunities for All seminar was made possible thanks to support from the European Community – the European Union against discrimination.

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Welcome by Helga STEVENS, EUD President

Helga StevensEUD President Helga STEVENS opened the seminar by welcoming everyone and by thanking DGB for its cooperation in preparing the seminar.

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Welcome by Alexander VON MEYENN, DGB President (Deutscher Gehörlosen-bund)

Welcome by Alexander VON MEYENN, DGB President (Deutscher Gehörlosen-bund)

DGB President Alexander VON MEYENN welcomed the audience in Berlin and called out a special welcome to the President of the European Union of the Deaf and to the President of the World Federation of the Deaf.

He also thanked Ms. EVERS-MEYER, as member of the German Parliament and Commissioner for People with Disabilities, for all the support that the German Government is giving to Deaf people.

He showed his gratitude for personal efforts to support EUD and DGB in preparing the seminar. He stressed the high demand for interpreters, real time typing and projection screens that make the interpreters more visible and stated that this kind of provisions and technical equipment are no luxury but a real necessity for Deaf people in order to have full access and participation in conferences. He also informed the audience briefly on a new German Law on Equal Opportunities.

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Opening address by German MP Karin EVERS-MEYER

Ms. EVERS-MEYER opened her speech by saying that the German Presidency was honoured to host conferences within the framework of the European Year of Equal Opportunities. She added that for people with disabilities international cooperation is even more important and said that she would do her best to fully support this.

The European Union very much focuses on policies for people with disabilities: the European Year 2003 and the current European Year 2007 are good examples of the awareness rising within the EU. Also the Council of Europe contributes to this debate with their Action Plan.

However, despite all efforts it is not yet evident for people with disabilities to have equal chances and to be accepted as equal citizens. In Germany the policy regarding people with disabilities has shifted towards more self-determination and equal participation in society. The German Government has created a legal framework (the Law SGB IX and the 2002 Gesetz zur Gleichstellung behinderter Menschen), which has enforced the rights of people with disabilities and which focuses on Barrierefreeheit in all areas of life, including infrastructure, mobility and communication. In the 2002 Law also German Sign Language has been recognised as an official language for the first time.

Ms. EVERS-MEYER stressed it was important to acknowledge that the term “Barrierefreeheit” needs different interpretation for different sorts of disabilities. This links to the concept of “Design for All”.

For Deaf people the recognition of Sign Language was very important since now Deaf people can ask for interpreters in justice, government and health service communication. They not only have the right to have an own language, but also to use this language in their contacts with official institutions.

Another important instrument is the Anti-Discrimination Law, which focuses on Vocational Training and Employment. Integration, self-determination and participation will only be fully possible when also private persons will have enough awareness.

Ms. EVERS-MEYER stated that the German Government has done a lot of efforts to improve the situation of people with disabilities, but there is still more work to be done. This work should be done in cooperation with the different stakeholders, among others DGB.

Finally, she stressed the importance of the ratification of the UN Convention and promised to keep up the pressure to ensure that Germany would ratify this document very soon.


Ms. STEVENS thanked Ms. EVERS-MEYER for her inspiring presentation and said she was happy to hear from her German Parliamentarian colleague that she supports the rights of people with disabilities in Germany. She added that more MP’s, also in other countries, should work together in order to also obtain support for Deaf people’s rights and for the recognition of sign language.

Ms. STEVENS announced that more detailed information on the UN Disability Convention will be presented later on in the seminar by Mr. Markku JOKINEN, President of the World Federation of the Deaf. This presentation will stress the need of support from the whole Deaf community, from grassroots Deaf people up to the Deaf associations, concerning the ratification of the Convention. Deaf people should lobby to ensure that the UN Convention is followed up by their respective Government.

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“Access to the Media for Deaf people” by Mark WHEATLEY, Executive Director of EUD

EUD Director Mr. Mark WHEATLEY gave a presentation on “Access to the Media for Deaf people”. He explained that, upon request of the members, EUD had prepared a questionnaire on Access to ICT one year ago. This questionnaire had been sent out to 32 EUD members and all of them had responded. The questions dealt with several different topics, among others: access to television, emergency services, text telephones, etc. Mr. WHEATLEY said he would restrict himself to a short presentation focusing on the access to television part. The entire report and presentation will be available on the EUD website soon.

Mr. WHEATLEY warned that the switch from analogue television to digital television seems like progress at first sight but might be potentially a step backwards for Deaf people. The risk exists that sign language interpretation and subtitling might be no longer provided.

Currently, in 18 out of the 32 countries Deaf people have access to digital TV. The situation in Europe is not standardized since only half of the European countries have Sign Language (programmes) available on television, the majority of the countries has subtitling. This lack of standards creates barriers to information for deaf people.

TV channels are under no pressure to make subtitles available. Laws on minimum percentages of programmes to be subtitled are very different. E.g. in the UK 80-90% of the programmes are subtitled and about 5% is provided in sign language. It is very interesting to see that in some countries there is no law but that programmes are presented in sign language. However the situation varies enormously per country. In some countries subtitling is only provided for specific and a limited number of programmes, e.g. government related programmes or election campaigns. Movies may or may not be subtitled.

On EU level the Television without Frontiers Directive is the cornerstone of the EU’s audiovisual policy (adopted in 2002). Article 3a is relevant for Deaf people; “Member States of the EU may take measures to ensure wide access by the public to television coverage of events of major importance for society”. In countries where there is no legislation to prescribe an amount of subtitling or Sign Language on TV, NADs can point out to the National Government that there is this EU Directive in place and that therefore the national legislation has to be developed to meet the requirements of article 3A of the Directive. Mr. WHEATLEY pointed at the fact that in lots of countries a grow path for an increase of subtitling and/or sign language on screen is foreseen. The text of the Directive is available on the EUD website http://www.eudnet.org.

Ms. STEVENS thanked Mr. WHEATLEY for his clear presentation and urged the attendants to provide EUD with more recent national news in order that the information can be kept up to date.

Spain asked whether the questionnaire had inquired which kind of subtitling (open or closed captioning) was preferred by Deaf people. In Spain there is adapted subtitling for deaf people but the preference of the Deaf community goes to open captioning. Mr. WHEATLEY said this was not asked in the questionnaire but would be remembered for future investigations since it was a relevant distinction. He added that in the UK there exists different captioning for children.

Switzerland wanted to have more in depth information on subtitling. In some formats subtitles are recordable, and in others not. At the moment there is not one format in the EU, so information cannot be exchanged within the different EU member states.

Mr. WHEATLEY responded that the Television without Frontiers Directive states that media in general need to be accessible. In the future more programmes will have the capacity to be exchanged within the EU and between different formats.

Ms. STEVENS added that for example Flemish Belgian television stations and Dutch television stations have been discussing the possibility to use each others subtitling. Currently there are some copyright issues that are still being scrutinised. She added that the big problem with the EU Directive on Television without Frontiers is the wording; it says that “Governments may legislate”, there is a lack of obligation in the Directive.

Hungary asked EUD to provide its members with information on how to campaign for those countries that have not achieved subtitling or sign language interpretation yet. In Hungary also other minorities (e.g. the Chinese minority) are campaigning for subtitles. Working together with these groups has proved to be a successful campaign strategy in Hungary. Mr. WHEATLEY agreed with this and repeated that it was of vital importance that different member states inform EUD of their successes and failures.

The Netherlands remarked that there is legislation in place for public broadcasters in their country but that there are loopholes. E.g. television stations move to Luxembourg in order not to fall under Dutch legislation. To discuss this item more thoroughly the Dutch National Association of the Deaf has filed a motion for the EUD General Assembly.

Ireland was of the opinion that Deaf people should not have the obligation to pay fees to the broadcasting companies unless subtitling is (satisfactory) provided. It is very important to have legal obligations in place to ensure that broadcasters make their programme accessible.

Ms. STEVENS added that a few years ago the Belgian government had decided to exempt Deaf people from TV and radio tax. However, Deaf people usually don’t mind to pay these taxes if they get good quality subtitling in return.

Belgium stressed that the question from the Netherlands was very important and wanted to know how Deaf people can successfully fight against this kind of loopholes. More networking and more co-operation amongst legislators in the different countries is necessary.

HS referred to the existence of authorities like e.g. OFTEL, which acts as a regulator for UK communications industries. Belgium and the Netherlands should try to find out which regulations they follow. She also stressed that it was important that Deaf people do follow up themselves, since regulating authorities only respond upon complaints. Deaf people should know what their legal rights and possibilities are with regard to making programs accessible.

Austria stressed the importance of using Article 3A of the Directive as an argument in the national negotiations for better accessibility rights for Deaf people and disabled people in the various countries. Austria agreed with the idea that Deaf people are willing to pay for better quality of subtitling e.g. on children programmes. In Austria there already exists signing on children’s programmes.

Mr. WHEATLEY concluded by saying that EUD has established two working groups; an ICT (Information & Communication Technologies) Group and a Deaf Lawyers Group. The Deaf Lawyers Group is currently collecting legislation and information about the various legal requirements and obligations and will submit these documents to the ICT Group in order to work together on all levels to achieve better accessibility for Deaf people.

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“UN Convention and its impact on the lives of Deaf people – What NADs must do to influence the implementation in their country”, by Markku JOKINEN, President of the World Federation of the Deaf

Markku JokinenWFD President Mr. Markku JOKINEN opened his speech by saying he was delighted to come back to the EUD as previous EUD board member and said it was interesting to see that the EU has been enlarged with a number of new countries.

Mr. JOKINEN said he would be presenting on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). He urged all attendants to download the text of the Convention onhttp://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/ since this was an extremely important document.

He clarified that WFD has been very involved in the 5 years of campaigning that led to the adoption of the Convention. He thanked the previous WFD President Liisa KAUPPINEN who has been the person leading the campaign on behalf of WFD for the full period since 2001.

Mr. JOKINEN showed some pictures of the UN meeting room in New York where the ad hoc meetings had taken place. He stressed that it was very positive that the sign language interpreters had brought a lot of visual impact on the representatives, which had changed the Governments’ minds about the relevance of sign language interpretations. Initially there were a lot of disability NGOs represented and only two representatives of the WFD, but as the campaign went on more Deaf people were present in the process (among others Australia, Chile, Columbia, Japan, South Korea, Finland, Venezuela). Towards the end of the campaign there were even Deaf people present as members of their governments (among others Russia, South Africa and Italy), which has had very positive impact.

Ambassador MacKAY chaired all the meetings of the Ad Hoc Committee. Mr. JOKINEN announced that Mr. MacKAY will also be keynote speaker at the upcoming WFD World Congress in Madrid.

There is also an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (CRPD). Any individual that feels discriminated can file a complaint with the international committee.

Mr. JOKINEN explained there had been a need for a separate convention on top of the 7 previous conventions (e.g. children’s rights and women’s rights). Only this can ensure that human rights equally cover the right of 650 million people with disabilities worldwide without discrimination. About 70 million people are deaf worldwide.

In 2001 an ad hoc committee was established and since that date eight ad hoc sessions have taken place. WFD has participated in all eight of them. In August 2006 negotiations were finalised and on 13 December 2006 both the Convention and the optional protocol were adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. So far 89 countries have signed up to the Convention but the ratification procedures differ from country to country. Important to know is that, when 20 countries have ratified the Convention, a Committee will be established. Deaf Associations have the responsibility to lobby and monitor their own Governments in order to make sure that Deaf people are represented.

For WFD the main objective was to get Deaf people’s linguistic rights recognised by the Convention. Despite the Convention being new, there are no new rights established by it. The Convention specifies and highlights existing rights based on the 7 previous conventions. The CRPD is the first international Convention which made a reference to sign language. However, all articles are equally important since they ensure the realisation of all the rights contained in other Human Rights Treaties. The CRPD is an international legal instrument, which can be used on top of national legislation.

Mr. JOKINEN stressed that Sign Languages have been inserted in the definition on language and that they are considered equal to spoken languages (art. 2). Important for Deaf children is the reference to “respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities” (art. 3). This is a strong wording which can be used in campaigning for the use of Sign Language. Equally important is that people with disabilities are seen as part of the natural human diversity.

Mr. JOKINEN said the discussions on accessibility (art. 9) went quite easy (provision of sign language interpreters). Article 21 on “Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information” was more difficult to achieve. Many Governments do not realise that Sign Language(s) are languages in its own right and often think it is one international language. Deaf people not only have the right to express themselves in Sign Language, but also should have the right to receive information in Sign Language. It was very difficult to get article 21 (e) included in the Convention, but in the end the recognition and promotion of the use of Sign Languages was inserted. Article 24 on education says it facilitates the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the Deaf Community.

He added that Deaf and Deafblind and blind people campaigned very strongly together in order that appropriate measures will be taken to employ teachers who are qualified in Sign Language and/or in Braille. Article 24.4 will set a lot of challenges for teacher training in many countries since it clearly states that all teachers have to be competent Sign Language users when they are to work in Deaf education.

Mr. JOKINEN summarized that the Convention :

  • recognises Sign Languages as languages and considers them equal to spoken language
  • guarantees the right to get professional sign language interpreters
  • guarantees the right to interact in Sign Languages, to get information and to express oneself in Sign Languages, also in official interactions
  • urges to recognise Sign Languages and to facilitate the use of Sign Languages
  • facilitates learning in Sign Languages and promotes linguistic identity of the Deaf Community
  • ensures that states take responsibility to employ teachers who are qualified in Sign Languages, the most appropriate linguistic learning environment, skilled personnel and staff and education material
  • entitles the Deaf to the recognition of Sign Languages, Deaf Culture and linguistic identity

Mr. JOKINEN called upon the National Deaf Associations to check whether the key concepts have been properly translated. The English text of the Convention is the official one. WFD will also monitor translations and a Committee will be set up to think about how Deaf people can be involved on national level. WFD will try to ensure presence of Deaf on international level, NADs are requested to do the same on national level.

Ms. STEVENS thanked Mr. JOKINEN for his very interesting presentation and said there was an important role for the national Deaf associations in order to monitor their national policy makers. She also said EUD will continue networking in support of the ratification of the Convention.

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Presentation on the International Sign Workshop in Budapest, Hungary (December 2006)

ADAM KOSA, President of the Hungarian Deaf Association (SINOSZ), gave a short presentation on the International Sign Workshop which was organised in Budapest in December 2006.

Mr. KOSA said the idea to organise such a workshop had arisen after the accession of the new EU countries to EUD since 2004. At previous GA’s and seminars there were communication barriers since some members had a lack of experience in international sign.

EUD had asked SINOSZ to organise a workshop designed to make people feel more comfortable in the use of international sign. Invitations were sent out to all new members but only Slovenia, Latvia, Slovakia, Serbia and Hungary could participate. Markus ARO, a Deaf interpreter from Finland, led the workshop.

The program of the workshop addressed different topics: introduction, history of international sign, Gestuno, importance of international sign, IS is not a language- what is it? and practical issues. The idea was that participants could build up confidence by exercises in international sign in order to reinforce the idea that their national sign language is the platform on which they base their international sign communication.

Mr. KOSA concluded that Central and Eastern Europe NAD need more workshops like this. People want more exercise in international sign since this makes a fast information exchange possible. It was fascinating to see how fast people could adapt to the use of international sign and in that way could discuss own national problems like the status of sign language, the problems with interpreters etc.

Future workshops should be organised in various venues in order that more people can participate. More time will also be dedicated on workshops and discussions. Mr. KOSA clarified that people have to pay for their own travel costs but that EUD pays for the accommodation. It would be a good idea to organise future meetings in central places so that people can keep their travel costs low.

The entire workshop has been filmed and will be disseminated under NADs soon.

Questions from the audience

WFD informed that also the WFD, in co-operation with Spain and Norway, is making a DVD on international sign. Norway clarified that at the last WFD Board meeting in Norway, the Norwegian Deaf Association had filmed different varieties of international signing used by the WFD Board members. Currently the recordings are being edited and the DVD will be released during the General Assembly of the WFD. Each national delegate will receive a copy and the DVD will also be available for sale afterwards – revenues will go to WFD. The WFD Vice-President added that international sign is not to be considered as a strictly European phenomenon, international sign is used globally and it is therefore important not to focus too much on the ASL vocabulary.

Switzerland wondered how it was possible to have in depth discussions in international sign since it is only sufficient for superficial communication and not for in depth discussions. A lot of other countries are establishing ASL courses so isn’t a bit of a paradox when Hungary states it “wants to get rid of ASL”? Ms. STEVENS stressed it is important to look at the objective: the EUD DVD is aimed at improving communication within the EUD context. In national situations of course, people will remain working with indigenous sign language interpreters. EUD wants to make the environment more comfortable for new members with little exposure to international sign. She admitted that information gets lost in international sign, but it is addresses the needs in EUD or WFD context.

A person from the audience said the same discussions were ongoing for years. In the meantime ASL is becoming predominant over the world so it is time to be clear on what we want.

Sweden was of the opinion that the term “international” is quite ambiguous. At EUD meetings people use a European based form of international sign ( ó Asia). The global aspect cannot be forgotten.

Germany warned that only about 60% of the information is clear when given in international sign. Germany feared that the more international sign is accepted, the less funding for national sign language interpreters will be available. International sign should be an emergency solution to provide basic information, but should not be used to have 100% communication. EUD should be very cautious in making this wording public (e.g. in announcements), it should only be used for internal use. The speaker added that when he looked around he saw a lot of ASL vocabulary and said he personally preferred ASL over international sign since in that way more information is available.

Ms. STEVENS replied that the use of international sign is an ongoing, controversial discussion. Also there are pro’s and cons against the use of a pure form of international sign, or an ASL influenced form of international sign. She clarified that, obviously, the influence of English has its role in this debate. She suggested that during the workshops there would be more time to discuss this more thoroughly. She stressed that EUD has made the conscious decision not to use international sign on the website as a means of providing information but only the English language. Also this is worth a debate.

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“Equal Opportunities and access to New Technologies”, by Ralph RAULE and Lukas HUBER (members of the EUD ICT Group)

Mr. HUBER introduced Mr. RAULE and himself as members of the EUD ICT Group. During the last EUD GA in Vienna there had been a discussion about ICT. A few months later the EUD ICT Group with Jeff McWHINNEY as Chair was established. The Group consists out of member from Finland, Belgium, France, Austria and Germany.

The ICT Group focuses on different issues related to technology, e.g. the lack of standards for text telephony and video telephony across Europe. Another example is attending differentconferences such as TCAM eWGD, INCOM, ETSI, eAccessibility, Emergency Services Access (112), partnership with EDF, etc. The Group also focuses on the new communication technologies such as TV and broadcasting via WebTV, video relay services, web accessibility (W3C, VLog, V-Mail), Avatar programs. EUD has to make sure to be actively involved in the eAccessibility and Integrating Communication plans of the EU.

The ICT Group has a six fold aim: (1) to act as an advisory group to EUD, board and members on issues related to ICT, multimedia and eAccess. (2) to develop policies and best practices (eg. UK legislation on subtitling) for the EUD board to consider, adopt and disseminate; (3) to represent EUD on EU working groups; (4) to foster legal obligations, best practices and partnerships across Europe; (5) to collaborate with other hearing impairment and disability related NGOs; (6) to create an electronic forum for Deaf and Sign Language experts in ICT and eAccess for meaningful exchange, eg. use of the internet where, next to email, also sign language messages can be used as a medium (www.youtube.com)

The ICT Group is looking for new members in order to enlarge their expertise. Candidates have to be Deaf, able to work in international sign, have good reading skills in English, and have to have expertise in the area of technology. The group hopes to establish projects promoting new technologies like remote interpretation possibilities, increased subtitling and sign language interpretation on television. EUD should also be involved in projects related to avatars (translation of written texts in sign language). The ICT Group works in co-operation with the Deaf Lawyers Group.

Mr. HUBER and Mr. RAULE concluded by welcoming new ideas and by calling upon NADs to nominate experts from their countries, preferably each NAD would nominate 2 experts. New technology should be considered as a valid progression for the Deaf Community in Europe.

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Report of workshop 1: “Sign Language in 2007 – linguistic diversity”

EUD Board member Adrien PELLETIER reported back from the first workshop on

“Sign Languages 2007 – linguistic diversity”. Mr. PELLETIER said the discussion went in a slightly different direction and focused more on international sign an on its possible future in stead of on how to deal with linguistic diversity in Europe.

First clear conclusion was that international sign is no language. Linguistics in the workshop reconfirmed that you need to have a grammar and vocabulary to define a proper language. International sign is considered to be similar to pidgin and Creole. Common facial expressions, space, head configurations are shared but the vocabulary of international sign tends to drift towards the area where the signing is used, it is influenced by the local language.

There was more discussion about the question how detailed a conversation in international sign can be. Some people said international sign is OK as long as it is accompanied by written English (e.g. power point presentations), some other people argued in depth discussions were possible so there was a variety of views expressed. Some other people said that international sign has its place in informal settings and they see no problem there. The contrast between formal and informal settings was outlined. Increasingly there is an international context through international chat rooms but for formal settings such as seminars and conferences there is a need for more detailed information and in international sign there are often misunderstandings and problems. There was also some concern expressed about the implications. If it is argued that there is an international sign, this may shy away from supporting international indigenous sign languages. Internally EUD can use international sign but externally we should be very cautious.

Another topic in this workshop dealt with the rapid developments in the European context; people stated that there are cultural similarities in Europe. People have similar ways of living and have similar educational systems, as well as similar religious and cultural routes. Cultural similarities facilitate communication. On the other hand, American Sign Language (ASL) is the reflection of a different culture and a different continent. Europe is probably the continent where international sign has developed the furthest and the fastest.

It was also stated that international sign as used in Europe is heavily influenced by ASL, especially among Deaf youth that have been educated to some extent in the United States.

Also on the evolution of internal sign existed different opinions. Some people expressed the concern that increasingly vocabulary was borrowed from ASL and some people actively opposed that. They felt that ‘counter ASL signs’ should be created, an own vocabulary as an effort to reject ASL.

It was stated that among some Deaf people, there exists a negative perception of ASL, often this comes from the fact that there was a patriotic attitude towards Deaf who moved to the USA – immigrants had to accommodate to ASL as used by the Americans. In general, youth has a more positive view on ASL than older generations. Also it was felt that in the Latin part of Europe there is more resistance to ASL because there is less command of English as second language (among older people). Younger generations are more multi-lingual because they often had the chance to get proper education in English and so they have less resistance to the use of ASL.

Another remark was that on the one hand schools stimulate learning foreign language(s), but on the other hand in Deaf education there seems to be no room to learn foreign Sign Languages. A good practice was found in Norway where Deaf children have the opportunity to learn British Sign Language (BSL) as second language. This will lead to a generation that will be able to function better in multi-lingual sign language settings.

Some people countered the doubts expressed about the % of international sign that was being understood (60%-80%) by saying that this was also valid for hearing people attending international conferences in their second or third language. Neither they will comprehend everything for 100%.

International sign is relatively young (+/- 40 years old) and at the moment it is not a fixed language as such, but rather a fluid phenomenon. People agreed that maybe international sign may have the potential over time to evolve into a proper language. Another possible future is that another national sign language (e.g. ASL or BSL) becomes the official language in international deaf settings.

Others wanted to promote the term and the use of a variety of “European sign” in stead of “international sign”.

Another topic that was mentioned was the fact that now two DVD’s have been produced (EUD-Hungary and WFD-Norway). It was stated that neither of both DVD’s would be considered as “the official one”. The DVD’s are pictures of the vocabulary use in two specific settings. People in Europe are exercising how to adapt themselves to other sign language users and are recreating international sign.

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Report of workshop 2: “Education for Deaf – equal access to education in 2007”

EUD Board Berglind STEFANSDOTTIR reported back from the second workshop on “Education”.

She said the working groups were very lively and had led to the existence of common trends, which will be illustrated afterwards by the different countries.

Common trends are the increased mainstreaming of Deaf children and the decreasing numbers of Deaf children. Mainstreaming is coping with cochlear implants and increasingly children are integrated individually without support. Some Deaf schools are still strictly oral and the quality of bilingual Deaf schools varies from country to country. It was interesting to learn that a formally very oral country such as Germany now has proper bilingual deaf schools. In Germany and Finland there are models of good practice where all teachers are university trained. However, after their training they may find a hard job market because the number of Deaf schools is coming down.

Another conclusion is that the population is changing within the Deaf schools; more and more Deaf schools educate Deaf children with additional forms of disability.

Also in some countries bilingual schools are only seen as sort of third option: first option is that Deaf children are being integrated without support, second option is going to a school with support, and after that comes the third option; going to the Deaf school. In some countries cochlear implants are promoted as free technical aids and a lot of parents actually decide to have the child implanted. However, in Hungary the opposite is taking place: the number of implants is decreasing, because of the excessive cost.

In Austria the situation of education is not good. Comparative research has been done (the Cheers research project) and four groups of students were compared; Deaf students with and without CI, hard of hearing students and students with other disabilities. Conclusion was that the group of Deaf students without CI did better in school. The main reason is because of the psychological effect on the children.

Sweden addressed the need to attend conferences on cochlear implants. Deaf people should be present there in order to participate in the discussion about CI. CIs are a reality and Deaf people cannot afford to miss the boat; they should discuss how to balance CI with Sign Language education.

Other people agreed that, however Deaf people may get tired of CI and other conferences, it is absolutely vital to have Deaf representation there. The next ICED Conference will take place in 2010 in the UK.

Another speaker emphasized that the view of the parents should be considered. Hearing parents have the best possible future in terms of employment in mind for their Deaf children. They care about the quality of education and the quality of employment, they often don’t care about whether or not there is sign language being used. Maybe on of the reasons why hearing parents do not put their children in Deaf schools is because of the lack of quality there.

Deaf education should improve its quality since this is a major concern for parents. A good example of what a specific government has done to improve the quality of Deaf education can be found in Norway.

In 1997 in Norway a law was adopted stating that Deaf children must be educated in sign language and that sign language had to be the language of instruction in Deaf schools. The curriculum was adapted to encourage a positive self image and some positive contribution to Deaf identity. E.g. there was attention paid to Deaf history, and foreign language instruction (e.g. BSL).

In the Netherlands a ‘high school’ is about to be established, an institute where there will be bilingual education for age 14-18. Increasingly more mainstream students come back to this school. Deaf children want to be educated in a Deaf friendly and Deaf identity friendly environment.

Other participants agreed that the Deaf community should be looking for new ideas such as the Netherlands’ model, rather than accepting that Deaf schools are populated solely by weaker Deaf children with additional disabilities.

In Hungary it was recently found out that roughly 100 Deaf and hard of hearing students are studying in Universities – this is new information since before there were no provisions, nor sign language interpreters. The Hungarian Association is currently trying to track these students down in order to find out whether they would benefit from sign language interpreters but due to government data protection legislation this is not a simple task.

Conclusion from this workshop was that further discussion on the topic of Deaf education is necessary (on all levels: primary, secondary and University level) – the Deaf community may have to adapt its demands and keep them up to date.

Questions from the audience

Ireland wanted to know whether the UN Convention can be used against oral education of Deaf people, since this is not respecting the rights of Deaf people? Mr. JOKINEN answered that article 24 does speak about the rights of Deaf people in Deaf education, and about the use of signing in educational settings. There exists a provision for the use of signing, so Deaf children should be educated in the most appropriate language and teachers who are fluent in sign language should be employed. The Convention clearly states that Deaf individuals must have the right to be instructed bilingually. The Convention does look at various disabilities, not only issues relating to Deaf people are addressed but also to other disabled people, e.g. blind, physically disabled etc. This means that countries, which have ratified the Convention, will have to make their national legislation in accordance with the UN Convention.

Germany wanted to know if also the rights of cochlear implanted people are adequately addressed? Is there any reference to their rights to get bilingual education? The risk exists that the Convention will be interpreted in a way that this group is no longer considered to be deaf and therefore not eligible to the same rights that deaf people have. The questions rise on a practical level: how is deaf education going to be carried out? Do deaf people have a right to be instructed in sign language or do they have the right to have bilingual education. How is this arranged for CI deaf and for hard of hearing people? Mr. JOKINEN answered that the group of Deaf exists out of people with all sorts of hearing impairment. Governments should be informed that these issues are applicable for all groups that have any kind of hearing disability.

Hungary stressed that it was very important for NADs to campaign with their own Government to adopt the text of the UN Convention. In Hungary the Government itself had contacted the Deaf association to inform them of their intention to adopt the document. The entire text was translated in Hungarian sign language and also a full subtitled DVD was released.

EUD Board member Adrien PELLETIER asked how education related to the use of new technologies. He stressed that e-learning is an opportunity for Deaf people. They can participate in classes via remote settings independent of age, and location. The members of the ICT Group considered this to be a very interesting comment and promised to discuss this more deeply in the working group. It is believed that currently there is no legal framework regarding e-learning.

Mr. WHEATLEY clarified that also the EUD ICT Group was forced to make a list of priorities since there is a range of technological issues coming up. However he encouraged people to make suggestions for items to be discussed by the Group (e.g. videoconferencing via the website).

Ms. STEVENS said she hoped the UN Convention will be ratified soon since it will have an impact on Deaf people of all ages, especially the very young. She addressed the issue of the conflict of interest between the rights of the parents and the children’s rights, regarding cochlear implants. Mr. JOKINEN replied that there are nine general principles that underline the rest of the convention. The respect for the child’s identity and the fact that the child’s own will and opinion must be respected and the respect for sign language are three principles which touch on this. In general also the previous existing Convention on the Rights of the Child can be considered. A good way to balance those rights is to inform Governments that respect for cultural language and identity can be translated for parents by setting an obligation for parents to respect the child as a bi-lingual being.

Spain announced that both workshop topics ‘linguistic diversity’ and ‘Deaf education’ are highly political and very sensitive topics. More discussion and investigation is needed.

Belgium asked whether the Icelandic 112 emergency number is a two-way working system. Can deaf people be warned via sms if there is a general emergency warning? Ms. STEFANSDOTTIR admitted that she was not 100% certain, but thought it was technically no problem for the authorities to send out messages to a list of people.

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Closing address by Helga STEVENS, EUD President

Ms. STEVENS closed the seminar by thanking everyone for attending the EUD 2007 seminar. She said she was very happy to have learned that the German government, represented by Mrs. EVERS-MEYER was very supportive to the Deaf association. She also thanked the other speakers and the workshop facilitators and reporters. She also urged upon the participants to provide EUD with feedback on the seminar and on improvement of the communication, if any.

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Coffee break

EUD 2007 Public Affairs and Lobbying Workshop Report

EUD Director Mark WHEATLEY opened the workshop at 15h and welcomed all attendants to Berlin.

He introduced the three presenters for the afternoon: Thomas WORSECK, Jaroslav CEHLARIK and Berglind STEFANSDOTTIR.

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“Opportunities of Deaf Associations for the Empowerment of Deaf and Sign Language Communities in Europe”, by Thomas WORSECK (NAD Germany)

Thomas WORSECK (TW), Executive Director of the German Association for the Deaf (DGB) said he wanted to focus on a problem that he thought to be common for all European Deaf Associations: the decrease of the number of Deaf people.

The results of a DGB research (comparison between 1991-2005) had shown that the group of young deaf people (0-27 years) is vanishing. Furthermore, the number of students at special schools for the Deaf in Germany has decreased dramatically by +/- 50% and it seems that this number will only go further downwards.

Different causes seem to be at the origin of this decrease: the internet and the idea that a Deaf club is something for old people. But the two biggests threats for Deaf people are the technical developments (digital hearing aids and CI) and the rejection of sign language.

Doctors will almost never diagnose a child which cannot hear with the diagnosis “deaf” because being deaf is considered as a result of wrong education. In conjunction with the technical developments, deaf children will get a typical, oral education as if the child was hard of hearing.

Professor SZAGUN (Linguistics) carried out a language research in Germany among 22 children, which were all prelingual deaf and didn’t sign (strictly oral). Results showed that 54% of the children with CI had no natural language acquisition.

Secondly, there are several reasons why sign language is being rejected: it is stigmatized as a language of disabled people and parents often fear sign language might hinder the acquisition of spoken language. For them sign language is a foreign language and they are afraid it might lead to isolation and will hinder integration. They also refer to the dependency on sign language interpreters throughout life.

TW pointed out that the number of deaf people decreases because:

  • the technical development turns deaf children into hard of hearing children
  • many parents and early intervention professionals reject sign language education

This all leads to extinction of associations and diminishment of the deaf community.

Questions from the audience

NAD Spain acknowledged having the same situation in their country. They wanted to know whether there was also some research done about the quality of life for deaf children (bilingual, oral education).

TW replied that no real research was done on this subject but said that the children simply didn’t feel deaf any longer, they are treated as being hard of hearing. The population of deaf children with CI is very diverse: some have no problems, others will have problems.

NAD Sweden said the same outcome was there in Sweden. However in Sweden there is an ongoing consultation between deaf, deafblind, parents, adults. Often sign language is a second solution after learning to speak). Deaf people should campaign for bilingual education, right from the start.

EUDY wanted to know whether the group of children with CI can have some support. In Finland there are assistants who are teaching children how to sign. TW said that the situation in Germany is very different. Only some schools have this kind of provision.

NAD Czech Republic wanted to know how the investigation was carried out: by sending out questionnaires or by visiting schools? TW said the investigation was not done by DGB itself, but by the government. They had sent out questionnaires to different age groups.

NAD Iceland asked how DGB had reacted after getting the results from this investigation? TW replied that since 2001 DGB had done a lot of lobby work and had also published a book.

For DGB it is very important to preserve the sign language community as a place for easy communication and full comprehension. Also deaf children must be offered the possibility sign language acquisition.

Suggest actions by DGB were:

  1. The redefinition of the term “deaf” (gehörlos) Hard of hearing people don’t identify themselves with the term “deaf”. The use of the term “signer” could create other problems because this lacks the political dimension of disability (provisions, interpreters etc.). Deaf people want to preserve the link with disabled group. A new definition is needed.
  2. Information about the meaning and the importance of sign language : research that proves that speaking (language) will become better thanks to signing is needed. There is a need for scientific research and information campaigns such as the annual week of the deaf and the International Day of the Deaf (2007 motto is “Sign to me”). Deaf people need to be informed about new developments (because they don’t attend deaf schools any longer).
  3. Acceptance of technical aids : attitude towards CI? Opposition or ‘critical’ or silent acceptance? (opposition will lead to losing this group of people). The sign language community is what matters: not having or not having a CI.
  4. The cooperation with parents, schools, hard of hearing and CI associations

NAD Switzerland asked whether research was done about which rights prevail: the right of a child of not having CI and/or the learn sign language or the rights of the parents?

TW asked whether EUD could be involvement in this topic? EUD meetings are the perfect location for exchanging information since the same problems are occurring in other EU countries.

NAD Spain said the discussion about belonging to a minority language group or a disability group was very complex and had its advantages and disadvantages. The language of a person is linked to the essence of being a human being, while the link with disability related to dependency on funding.

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“Working relationships between NADs and Young Deaf People”, by Jaroslav CEHLARIK (EUDY)

Jaroslav CEHLARIK explained the idea for this workshop was to discuss the relationships between NADs and Deaf Youth, secondly a brief workshop was planned where countries could refer to their own national situation.

EUDY acknowledged that the working relationships across Europe were very diverse and that there are different ways for young people to walk. For EUDY it is very important that young people can work actively themselves. NADs should give them some space in order that they can undertake their own actions – and sometimes make their own mistakes. On the other hand: young people should try to coordinate their activities in a way that they will not oppose to the work of the NAD.

The best way to work together is to get advised by the NAD about their experiences. Youngsters need to build up confidence in management skills. There is a range of possibilities: camps, training, universities, research, …

Youth is the future!!

Some remarks from the workshops were:

  • ‘the older generation’ has had a good model themselves, but what will happen now? Now that deaf schools are closing?
  • NAD Hungary suggested establishing an email group forum where the NAD president and general secretary can enter and watch the discussion from the young people. The young people can develop their own work programme but if required the official representatives from the NADs can assist them to prepare for meetings etc. and temper them.
  • NAD Belgium referred to a new project with developing countries: Belgian deaf youth goes to developing countries ( Burkina Faso, Morocco, Congo) to help in deaf schools, to empower, and also get valuable cultural information in return.
  • Most of the Deaf Associations give youngsters the space to undertake actions. In some countries however the NAD must approve what is suggested.
  • NADs acknowledge that it is their task to create links between themselves, schools and youth in order to focus on deaf identity and the importance of deaf schools.
NAD Ireland suggested that other countries could follow their example: one of the delegates for the EUD GA is from the Youth Association.

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“Implementation of the 112 emergency number”, by Berglind STEFANSDOTTIR (NAD Iceland)

In Iceland it is possible for deaf people to communicate with the emergency service through 112 when something is wrong. People can send a text message, and can also receive SMS text messages. The number is the same for the whole of Iceland. With a special technology the

emergency services are informed of the incoming message. The message is treated like a normal rescue call. 112 gets in contact with interpreters to assist them.

Deaf people can write short words like “fall”, “fire” – the emergency services are informed about the weaker writing skills of the deaf. If the deaf person doesn’t know where he is located, he can just call to 112 in order that the call can be located.

This system is easy, fast and comforting for deaf. E.g. if a deaf person wants to go hiking he knows that he/she can be located.

NAD Germany said that in Germany, 112 can be reached by fax but that SMS text messages to 112 are a problem since operators say it is not possible to operate in real time. In Germany there are plans to use the Blackberry system. BS replied that in Iceland it was 112 itself which contacted the Deaf Association about 10 years ago to discuss this idea. The system is advantageous not only for deaf people, but also for mute people or for people who are having a heart attack, or are unable to communicate verbally.

NAD Ireland has a similar system in place for car assistance. Deaf people have to register in beforehand to avoid misuse of the system. BS replied that in Iceland the system is open for everyone.

NAD Hungary called upon EUD to be actively involved in the EU level meetings for a general 112 number across Europe.

EUDY asked for statistics of the use of the emergency number by deaf persons. BS would try to find out more about this but feared that because of privacy reasons this might not be easy.

NAD Belgium said that also in Belgium contacts about the 112 accessibility for deaf people are ongoing. The big problem is that operators state it is not possible to exactly locate the call from the deaf person (e.g. if a call is done in a big apartment block).

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