On 27 June we celebrate International Day of Deafblindness. The date refers to the birth of Helen Keller (born in 1880). Helen Keller was a writer, lecturer and American social activist. She was the first person with deafblindness to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
This year’s theme focuses on older persons with deafblindness, a very specific and often invisibilised group.
As our 1st Global Report on Deafblindness highlights, the prevalence of deafblindness increases by 7% with age, in fact, the majority of the world population that experiences deafblindness are 65 years or older. Older persons with deafblindness are an underrepresented group whose rights are often neglected. They are more likely to experience abuse, isolation and loneliness. It is important that the rights of older persons are protected, and efforts are made to ensure their wellbeing, autonomy, independence and empowerment.
Since 2019, WFDB has been involved in SHAPES, which stands for Smart and Health Ageing through People Engaging in Supportive Systems, an European Union’s funded project that aims to address the needs and expectations of older adults, a population group that, according to the United Nations, grows 3% on average per year.
WFDB is one of the 36 consortium members of this project, launched in October 2019 and ending in October 2023. The project involves a total of 14 European countries and engages more than 2000 older, including those with deafblindness.
The SHAPES project provides an excellent example on how to include and enhance the involvement of persons with deafblindness in wide initiatives, preserving their ownership in any processes that involves or affects the deafblind community. A case study on the SHAPES Project and the life story of an older woman with deafblindness is included in the 2nd Global Report, which we published last March.
Moreover, we have made efforts to disseminate the report, our participation in the SHAPES project, as well as the importance of including the perspective of older persons with deafblindness, in line with the promise “leaving no one behind”. Examples include an event at the European Parliament in Brussels early this month and WFDB’s presence at the Conference of State Parties (CoSP16) to the CRPD in New York, two weeks ago, and an online side event where the report was presented, as well as WFDB’s role in the SHAPES Project.
Finally, WFDB is currently producing a global report on the situation of older people with deafblindness, which will include the findings and data collected from our involvement in the SHAPES project, as well as world challenges, good practices and recommendations, to be published in the last quarter of this year.
We will continue advocating for all persons with deafblindness, and use this day as an opportunity to remind us that healthy, independent and dignified ageing is a right for all.
Happy International Day of Persons with Deafblindness!