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Sense International celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities

30 November 2018

Today (3rd December), is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an awareness day set up in 1992 by the United Nations to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. This year the UN’s theme is on “empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” – something Sense International has been campaigning for and working on for over two decades.

Through our work across eight countries we tackle the economic and social exclusion of people with deafblindness and their families. Our vision is of a world in which all people with deafblindness can be equal and active members of society.

To achieve this we:

  • Campaign for change: Sense International and its partners encourage governments to recognise the unique challenges faced by people with deafblindness and to provide health, education and care services.
  • Work with local organisations: We work to strengthen local organisations and groups - from parent groups to national associations of people with deafblindness
  • Identify people with Deafblindness: We strive to identify babies and children with deafblindness as early as possible so that they can receive vital assessments and support from medical and education professionals which give them the best start in life.
  • Educate: Sense International works closely with governments to ensure children with deafblindness are included in education, and support training for teachers and families to play their part.
  • Promote vocational training: working with public training institutions we support young people with deafblindness to learn livelihood skills and subsequently to run small businesses in their communities.

Kato and Josue are examples of people with deafblindness who were supported by Sense International to contribute to their communities.

Kato, from Uganda 

Pictures is Kato on his graduation dayKato is 20 years old and deaf with a vision impairment.

He completed primary education in a school for the deaf where he learnt to communicate using Ugandan Sign language and tactile sign language. However, when he finished school and started vocational training at a mainstream vocational centre he found it hard to cope, due to communication barriers with both the instructors and fellow learners.

Kato said: “I could feel lonely even when I was amongst the entire school of more than 2,000 students. I was all alone. Entering the school gate every morning was equivalent to entering an empty room. I missed my childhood days of studying in a deaf school, where everyone communicated using Sign Language.”

In June 2017, Sense International Uganda through work with the Uganda Parents of Deafblind Children Association learnt about the difficulties that Kato experienced. In response a professional guide interpreter was recruited to support Kato in overcoming communication barriers.

The guide interpreter has made a huge difference to Kato. Since then he has gained his certificate course in specialised food production and is now working at a hotel, where he works in the kitchen and service section.

Kato shared, “I welcome guests using sign language. I also move with a pen and notebook to ensure that I am understood. I have started teaching my colleagues to communicate using basic signs”.

In addition to Kato’s ambition to pursue his dreams in the hotel industry, he was also part of the Bridge Training on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) and the Sustainable Development Goals which took place in April 2018. Kato was selected to represent people with deafblindness to develop knowledge and understanding of the CRPD. He continues to develop his leadership skills and advocates for inclusion of persons with deafblindness.

Josue, from Peru

Pictured is Josue with his mother and a support workerThe life of 2-year old Josue has been transformed since he was identified by our Early Identification programme in Peru.

Josue lives with his parents and his disability was identified shortly after birth because his mother noticed that he was not developing at what is considered an appropriate speed.

When Josue was first assessed by experts, he was only 17 months old. At that point he could not sit, had no head control, could not speak nor pick things up. He fixed his gaze on certain objects but seemingly without ‘seeing’ or ‘understanding’.

Josue underwent a medical assessment where doctors discovered that he had deafblindness due to his mother contracting rubella when pregnant.

Pictured is Josue sitting up on a foam roll

With support from Sense International Peru’s partners Josue started receiving sensory stimulation, learning how to recognise objects and textures.
Josue has made remarkable progress in the last months. He is now able to sit, controls the stability and movements of his head and is able to maintain eye contact when certain objects are displayed or when a family members shows up or speaks to him. Josue even tries to stand.

Although Josue’s parents are still anxious from time to time, both parents are impressed and optimistic about the great improvements of their son Josue in such a short time.

First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Wednesday 4 April 2018