Deafblind Scotland is launching a definition of Deafblindness for Scotland at the Scottish Parliament.

On the 26th of June Annabelle Ewing MSP will host an event at the Scottish Parliament on behalf of Deafblind Scotland and with support of the Cross-party Group on Deafness to set out a new definition for Deafblindness in Scotland.  Unlike other parts of the UK and many European countries Scotland does not currently recognise Deafblindness as a distinct disability.  The World Health Organisation (WHO), alongside other countries, recognise Deafblindness as:

Deafblindness is a combined vision and hearing impairment of such severity that it is hard for the impaired senses to compensate for each other. Thus, Deafblindness is a distinct disability.

Deafblind Scotland have worked with the Parliamentary Cross-party Group on Deafness (supported by the ALLIANCE) to develop a Declaration outlining a Scottish definition of Deafblindness.

Annabelle Ewing MSP, Co-chair of Deafblind Definition Working Group states: “I am pleased to host this event and to have been able to co-chair the working group on Deafblindness along with Julie Ferguson over the past year. It was evident to me that Deafblindness is a distinct condition that requires a distinct approach. I am delighted that there is now a proposed legal definition on the table and I would call on the Scottish Government to now proceed with its adoption.”

Defining Deafblindness is a crucial step toward recognising and diagnosing combined sight and hearing  loss at the earliest point making it possible for people to gain new skills such as learning tactile languages before the condition progresses. 

Julie Ferguson, who will also speak at the Parliamentary event and is living with Deafblindness whilst working as teacher in Orkney, said: “This work is very important to me because I’ve experienced how essential it is for deafblind people to receive specific support.  I grew up as a Deaf person but I started losing my eyesight in my late teens. Suddenly I couldn’t use my eyesight to help me manage my Deafness and when I was given advice for my sight loss, the advice relied on me being able to hear well.  I felt like I was on my own, trying to learn how to cope, work, and lead a fulfilling life. Adopting this definition in Scotland will reduce isolation and increase life satisfaction for so many of us”.

Rona Mackay, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden said: “I’m delighted to have been supporting this work and to have led a debate at Holyrood in February on this topic. It is a crucial step towards identifying, diagnosing and supporting people with dual sensory loss. Under the leadership of CEO Isabella Goldie, the inspirational team at Deafblind Scotland whose state-of-the-art HQ is based at Lenzie in my constituency, are doing so much to make life better for people with combined sight and hearing loss. I applaud Deafblind Scotland, its members, staff and volunteers, for working to ensure that lived experience plays an integral part in informing policy.”

Isabella Goldie, Chief Executive at Deafblind Scotland is delighted to have the support of Annabelle Ewing MSP as a host for the event. She states: “We want the Scottish Deafblind community to be seen and heard, yet in Scotland, there isn’t an option to identify as Deafblind. Without recognition as Deafblind individuals, people have to navigate between two worlds of Deafness and Blindness with little overlap making living with a challenging condition even more difficult and at times distressing than it need be. This event provides the first step in ensuring that Deafblind people can get the early specialist support they require and go on to live a life where relationships can be maintained and new opportunities are possible – just as we would all want for ourselves”.  

Deafblind Scotland, the ALLIANCE, and partners in the Cross-party Group on Deafness are calling for formal recognition of Deafblindness as a distinct condition.

The declaration can be signed on Deafblind Scotland’s website along with more information:

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