Cristiana Salomie describes the ongoing journey that Sense International (Romania) has taken since 1998
Introducing deafblindness (surdocecitate) into the Romanian language was a long and winding road for Sense International (Romania). It all started back in 1998, when a team of experts from Sense came to Romania to assess the situation of children and adults with deafblindness.
They came into contact with me, Cristiana Salomie, who was at that time working for the British Red Cross, which led to a long and fruitful collaboration. Discussions with national authorities led to a surprising and hard-to-believe conclusion: “there are no children with deafblindness in Romania”. It was obvious that talking about deafblindness was not enough; something had to be done to prove to the national and local authorities that these children did exist and that they need specific education services, in an adequate environment.
The first two classes were established in 1999: one in Bucharest, at the Kindergarten for Children with Hearing Impairments and another in Cluj Napoca, at the High School for Children with Visual Impairments. Each class had four children, identified and assessed by Sense specialists. At the same time, six special education teachers were selected to learn everything there was to learn about how to work with these children.
One year later, representatives from the Ministry of National Education were invited to visit the classes. They met the children and they saw the obvious progress they made in only one year. This was enough to convince them that educating children with deafblindness was not only possible, but crucial for their development. A Partnership Agreement was signed, the government committing to support the education of children with deafblindness, using newly created Sense International (Romania)’s technical expertise.
By 2006, there were now 13 classes, where 52 children with deafblindness were receiving proper education services. A team of Romanian national trainers in the field was created to meet the future needs of the education system.
All these efforts – combined with intensive lobby and advocacy work at the national level – made it possible for Sense International (Romania) to ensure that deafblindness was included in the Romanian legislation.
Four important initiatives were to follow.
1) Deafblindness was recognised as a distinct disability in the Law no. 448 enacted in 2006.
2) A special Curriculum for the Education of Children with Deafblindness was included in the national education legislation in 2008.
3) The National Education Law was revised in 2011 to clearly state that children with deafblindness must be educated in classes of maximum 4 children and importantly by special education teachers trained in the field.
4) Early Intervention for Babies with Multisensory Impairments became part of the Romanian legislation in 2013.
Where we are now?
During these 14 years of activity, Sense International (Romania) has ensured rehabilitation, recuperation, early intervention, adequate education and vocational services for 750 children and young people. It has provided counselling and guidance to their families and became involved in facilitating the auditory screening of 70,000 new-born babies and the visual testing of 13,000 babies.
What we do.
EARLY INTERVENTION – We support the rehabilitation and recuperation of newborn babies with sensory impairments in Bucharest, Oradea, Iasi and Timisoara.
EDUCATION – We support the education of pupils with deafblindness in Bucharest, Buzau, Cluj Napoca, Craiova, Falticeni, Galati, Iasi, Oradea, Sibiu, Târgu Frumos and Timisoara.
VOCATIONAL TRAINING – We support young people with deafblindness from Arad, Bucharest, Galati, Iasi and Timisoara to learn a trade in vocational workshops, so that they may lead an independent life after finishing school.
Sense International (Romania)’s strategic approach to working in partnership with the state, rather than creating alternative services which are difficult to sustain, was internationally recognized during the 2009 ERSTE Awards for Social Integration. It was further recognized with the following awards: the Recognition Award, the Practitioners’ Award and the Excellency Award for Implication in the Education of Children with Special Needs, received during the Edumanager.ro Gala in 2013.
“The quality of life for people with deafblindness has significantly increased since SI(R) began working in the field. Now, there is someone fighting for laws, for our protection and, most importantly, for the future of children with deafblindness who need an education.”
Mr. Vasile Adamescu, a deafblind man who is a special education teacher and writer
“Every moment spent with the staff is a pleasant memory, as with them we found the balance we needed and the strength to keep fighting. We thank them for being there for us!
Mrs. Anuta Banda, mother of Darius, a deafblind boy
“Because my main responsibility within the Ministry of National Education is to coordinate the entire special and special integrated education at national level, I continue to rely on SI(R) to be a key resource in the field of deafblindness for children parents, teachers and authorities.”
Mrs. Liliana Mitran, General Inspector for Special and Special Integrated Education in the Ministry of National Education
“SI(R) has become, since 2001 until now, an example of best practices in the world of non-governmental organisations involved in improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. The positive impact in the life of those with deafblindness is the natural result of four converging principles that guide the organization: vision, strategy, resources, promotion.”
Mr. Cristian Buica, University Lecturer at the University of Bucharest, a long term collaborator of SI Romania, holding training courses in the field of deafblindness for special education teachers who work with children with deafblindness. (
“I believe SI(R)’s priority over the next years should be the development of vocational services for children and young people with deafblindness, an initiative which they started back in 2012 following the successful grant of 50.000 Euro from Orange Foundation.
Mrs. Amalia Fodor, Director of Orange Foundation Romania, one of Sense International (Romania) most important donors
What is our future? Why not a regional network?
We at Sense International (Romania) believe there are issues specific to Central and Eastern Europe when it comes to deafblindness.
We are absolutely positive that other solutions have been identified in other Central and Eastern European countries. Having been part of the the European Deafblind Project, through the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission, alongside 33 organisations from 25 countries, we know the existing services in Europe. We therefore make this appeal to organisations and individuals in Albania, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia to come together and share expertise, knowledge, best practices and concerns through a regional network to promote the rights of people with deafblindness.
Romania will be hosting the 16th Deafblind International World Conference, May 25-30, 2015, the first time that the world conference is taking place in Eastern Europe. Local solutions to common needs, learning and education, identity and belonging, advocacy and recognition – these are the key elements that the 2015 conference will bring to the table.
Organised by Sense International and Sense International (Romania), under the aegis of Deafblind International, the conference will be an excellent opportunity for taking the first steps towards creating a regional network promoting the rights of people with deafblindness.
Looking forward to hearing from you all!
Cristiana Salomie, Director, Sense International (Romania) (firstname.lastname@example.org)