The aim of the Helen Keller World Conferences (HKWC) is to provide opportunities for persons with deafblindness to have their own forum to learn from others and have the possibility to share personal experiences of deafblindness. There are plenty of conferences where professionals in the field of deafblindness have the main role. HKWC is the only of its kind, organized at world level, where only persons with deafblindness can share their own experiences with others in similar situations in other countries.
The first conference was held in September 1977 by “Committee on Service to the Deaf-Blind” of the World Council for Welfare of the Blind and have since then been held every 4 years. Since 2001, when The World Federation of the Deafblind (WFDB), was founded, the arrangement are made by WFDB and is held in connection with WFDB’s General Assembly (GA).
The conferences have been held as follows:
I HKWC was held in New York, USA the 11th to 15th of September 1977. Delegates from 30 countries around the world assembled for this first international conference on service to deaf-blind youths and adults, welcoming the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons, having agreed upon and adopted a Declaration specifically concerning the needs and rights of deafblind persons and commend it to the attention of the world community. See the Declaration* further down the page.
II HKWC was held in 1981
III HKWC was held in 1985
IV HKWC was held in Stockholm Sweden 28th of September to 3rd of October 1989. It was arranged by FSDB, The Swedish Association of the Deafblind.
V HKWC was held in 1993
VI HKWC was held in Paipa, Colombia 13th to 19th of October 1997. During the conference, there were discussions to start a World organization for people with deafblindness.
VII HKWC was held in Auckland, New Zealand in October 2001. During the conference WFDB held the founding GA of the organisation.
VIII HKWC was held in Tampere, Finland in June 2005. In connection to the conference WFDB held the 2nd GA.
IX HKWC was held in Munyono, Uganda 22nd to 27th of October 2009. The main theme of the Conference was “CRPD, changing the lives of persons with deafblindness”. 11 plenary sessions and workshops were carried out.
X HKWC was held in Tagaytay, Phillippines 6th to 11th of November 2013. 220 participants from 30 countries attended the conference. The main theme for the conference was: “Accessibility and inclusion for people with deafblindness in the daily life – CRPD for everyone everywhere” 17 plenary sessions and workshops was carried out. WFDB held the 4th GA.
XI HKWC was held in Benidorm, Spain 20-27 June 2018. 526 participants from 50 countries attended the conference. The main theme of the conference was “Our rights; Our Voice; We lead the Way”. 5 plenary sessions and 15 workshops were carried out during the conference. WFDB held its 5th GA.
Deafblind day was arranged by the Spanish Federation of Associations of Deafblind People (FASOCIDE) on the 27th. Queen Letizia of Spain honored the day with a visit and delivered a speech to the participants. She also arranged a meeting with the officers of WFDB with discussions and information about deafblindness.
XII HKWC will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 24-29 October, 2022. It will aim to launch a follow up presenting innovative best practices for the inclusion of persons with deafblindness in all aspects and stages of life – Globally, regionally, nationally and locally in our societies where we live. The main conference theme is: “Empowering persons with deafblindness – Inclusion through investment and innovation.”
* Declaration of Rights of Deaf-Blind Persons, in Conference of Hope: Proceedings of the First Historic Helen Keller World Conference on Services to Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults 91-92 (1977).
A Declaration of Rights of Deaf-Blind Persons adopted by the Helen Keller World Conference on Services to Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, sponsored by the Committee on Service to the Deaf-Blind of the World Council for Welfare of the Blind; September 16, 1977, New York City, U.S.A.
Delegates from 30 countries around the world assembled for this first International conference on service to deaf-blind youths and adults, welcoming the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons, have agreed upon and have adopted the following Declaration specifically concerning the needs and rights of deaf-blind persons and commend it to the attention of the world community:
Every deaf-blind person is entitled to enjoy the universal rights that are guaranteed to all people by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the rights provided for all disabled persons by the Declaration on Rights of Disabled Persons.
Deaf-blind persons have the right to expect that their capabilities and their aspirations to lead a normal life within the community and their ability to do so shall be recognized and respected by all governments, administrators, educational and rehabilitation personnel and the general public.
Deaf-blind persons have the right to receive the best possible medical treatment and care for the restoration of sight and hearing and the services required to utilize remaining sight and hearing, including the provisions of the most effective optical and hearing aids, speech training when appropriate, and other forms of rehabilitation intended to secure maximum independence.
Deaf-blind persons have the right to economic security to ensure a satisfactory standard of living and the right to secure work commensurate with their capabilities and abilities or to engage in other meaningful tasks, for which the requisite education and training shall be provided.
Deaf-blind persons shall have the right to lead an independent life as an integrated member of the family and community, including the right to live on their own or to marry and raise a family. Where a deaf-blind person lives within a family, greatest possible support shall be provided to the whole family unit by the appropriate authorities. If institutional care is advisable, it shall be provided in a surrounding and under such conditions that it resembles normal life as closely as possible.
Deaf-blind persons shall have the right, and at no cost, to the services of an interpreter with whom they can communicate effectively to maintain contact with others and with the environment.
Deaf-blind persons shall have the right to current news, information, reading matter and educational material in a medium and form which they can assimilate. Technical devices that could serve to this end shall be provided and research in this area shall be encouraged.
Deaf-blind persons shall have the right to engage in leisure time recreational activities, which shall be provided for their benefit, and the right and opportunity to organize their own clubs or associations for self-improvement and social betterment.
Deaf-blind persons shall have the right to be consulted on all matters of direct concern to them and to legal advice and protection against improper abridgment of their rights due to their disabilities.
For purposes of implementation of the DECLARATION OF RIGHTS OF DEAF-BLIND PERSONS, the definition of deaf-blind persons adopted by the Helen Keller World Conference on Services to Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults is as follows:
“Persons who have substantial visual and hearing losses such that the combination of the two causes extreme difficulty in pursuit of educational, vocational, avocational, or social goals.”