Deaf and hard of hearing finally work together
Up until now, the two largest organisations for youth and young adults with hearing disabilities IFHOHYP (International Federation of Hard of Hearing Young People) and EUDY (European Union of the Deaf Youth) have fought alone for the interests and acceptance of young people with hearing impairments. At the IFHOHYP annual general meeting in April 2010 the two organisations finally decided to join forces.
When Dennis Hoogeveen, Secretary of EUDY, learned that the annual general meeting of IFHOHYP was to be held in his home town of Groningen, the Netherlands, from 1st to 5th April 2010, he contacted Karina Chupina (Russia), President of IFHOHYP and suggested to introduce his organisation at the meeting and at the same time take a look around. At the meeting the representatives of the member organisations of IFHOHYP agreed to a future collaboration with EUDY.
EUDY told its members online that "the main objective was to determine whether we have the same goals as IFHOHYP".
"I found it very interesting here," Hoogeveen said at the meeting. "Although there are differences, we basically want the same thing!" Especially in regards to the subtitling of TV shows and movies screenings, access to Sign Language and palatypists and technical and visual aids such as induction loops, projectors, etc. for public and semi-public events.
What the future collaboration will exactly look like is still undecided, as the objectives and the plan of action will only be discussed in further meetings between the two organisations. Since both organisations have already done some work to achieve the above mentioned goals, the two directors will draw up a plan of joint action and lobbying in the next steps.
"The larger the organisation, the more impact we can have," commented Noora Penttinen, former secretary of IFHOHYP, on the necessity of this cooperation.
Also in question would be the joint execution of Study Sessions that IFHOHYP offers, as well as other workshops and meetings.
Two organisations - two languages
IFHOHYP is an international non-governmental organisation of national and regional youth organisations, that is dedicated to hard of hearing young people all over the world. The priority of the organisation is to improve the quality of life of hearing impaired youths worldwide and the equality of treatment for hearing impaired young adults between 18-35 years in society. Besides this core task, the organisation also promotes the worldwide exchange of young adults with a hearing impairment. IFHOFYP is so far the only youth organisation for young people with disabilities working with the Council of Europe. Switzerland is represented by the organisation Jugehörig.
EUDY (European Union of the Deaf Youth) is an umbrella organisation for associations for deaf youths in Europe and is also a non-government organisation. In addition to equality and international exchange, the goal of EUDY is to promote the recognition of Sign Language and to give deaf people the same rights as hearing people. Sign Language and deaf culture should be fully accepted as part of European culture. The Swiss member organisation is the SDY (Swiss Deaf Youth).
The divide between the two organisations has primarily a linguistic background. IFHOFYP’s main language of communication is the spoken language (English), while at EUDY communication is mostly in Sign Language. However, since accessibility is a priority for both organisations, this linguistic boundary is blurred and no longer a reason for secession.
Bilingualism as a solution
"Deaf and hard of hearing people often have misconceptions about each other. Hearing implants, such as the cochlear implant (CI), blurs the line between the two groups even more,"said Karina Chupina on the convergence of the two organisations. This issue is still hotly debated in the deaf and hard of hearing communities. A simplification of the situation can be the acceptance and use of both languages as is already the case in Scandinavian countries. Especially in Sweden, bilingualism is a priority. The Swedish Association Unga Hörselskadade (swed.: Young Hard of Hearing) – also a member organisation of IFHOHYP – has published a brochure in English, something which also pleased Hoogeveen at the annual meeting: "Sign Language is important, also for hard of hearing".
"Bilingualism is a practice that we can both use," agrees Karina Chupina.
The President looks with great confidence to the future cooperation: "With the experience and resources of our organisations, we will be able to achieve our common goals." Even at EUDY one is certain: "We can happily say the contact and the future cooperation with IFHOHYP will be warm!"
Pictures: EUDY / IFHOHYP / Joppe Boon