Beginning of our activities
The Estonian Support Union of the Deafblind is a non-profit organisation that unites deafblind persons, parents of deafblind children, caretakers, guardians and supporters of deafblind adults on equal grounds and that operates under the self-governing of its members.Parents of deafblind children initiated the activities of the Estonian Support Union of the Deafblind in 1994. Since parents of deafblind children lacked the skills to communicate with their children and teach them and no public institution provided any help in this field, there was a need to form an organisation of their own. At the time, there was no information in Estonia relating to deafblindness, nor were there any skills necessary for working with deafblind people.
When parents founded the Estonian Support Union of the Deafblind, their objectives were the following:
- protecting the legal rights and interests of deafblind people
- pedagogical and social rehabilitation of children and adults and improving their quality of life
- training teachers and partners working with the deafblind ¤ gathering the necessary information on deafblindness
- organising co-operation between legal entities and private persons in fields relating to deafblindness
Parents were supported by specialists working with people with a visual or hearing impairment, disabled persons’ organisations and private persons. At the moment, both children and adults are involved in our support network.
The support of the German Lutheran Church, which made it possible for us to begin working with children, was of great help in the early days of the Support Union. The Jyväskyla Rehabilitation Centre, the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired, the Finnish Deafblind Association, the Association for Swedish Speaking Visually Impaired in Finland and Arla Institute, the Finnish Vocational Training Centre for the Visually Impaired, have for a long time shared their experience and knowledge with us. For the seven year, we are receiving support, professional help and consultations in the framework of the USA HILTON/PERKINS programme.
The support of the Estonian Federation of the Blind in the early years of our activities formed the bases for the development of the Support Union. The co-operation network in Estonia has significantly expanded over the years. Our co-operation partners include:
the Estonian Federation of the Blind,
the North Estonian Association of the Blind,
the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People,
the Estonian Foundation for Disabled People,
the Estonian Association of the Deaf,
the Estonian Association of Hearing Impaired Children,
the Tallinn Children’s Hospital,
the Estonian Library for the Blind, Porkuni School,
the Old Town Educational College,
Juhkentali Upper Secondary School.
Association of international Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Estonia Supporters of the Union’s activities include Sister Mary Venard, AS Falck Estonia, the Estonian Relief Committee in the USA, etc.
Financing and funds
When the Support Union started its operations, donations and sponsorship were the main sources of funding. Gaining membership in the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People made it possible to apply for the financing of administrative and development costs and the costs of organising events. However, the majority of the Support Union’s budgetary funds intended for achieving the objectives specified in the articles of association come from foreign projects.
Fields of activity
The main priority of the Support Union is work with children. We consider early intervention in children’s development and co-operation with their families to be of crucial importance. The aim of the Support Union is to encourage and support families in defending their children’s rights to rehabilitation, education and participation in social life. At the present stage of our society’s development, training people who come into contact with deafblindness (family members, teachers, social workers, assistants, officials, etc.) is still an important issue.
In order to improve our members’ quality of life and provide them equal opportunities in education, we carry out in-service training, family courses for children and adaptation courses for adults and seek co-operation possibilities with educational and social institutions. We organise various information days and seminars, translate and publish training materials and information in order to raise the awareness of the society and of our members.
Further development of the Support Union’s activities
In its further activities, the Support Union plans to:
- identify the number of deafblind people in Estonia
- participate in the development of rehabilitation services in Estonia
- contribute to the creation of new educational possibilities for children with disabilities
- improve the quality of rehabilitation services offered by the Support Union
- continue to provide in-service training possibilities to deafblind people
- increase the number of partners of deafblind people in the different parts of Estonia
- involve deafblind people and parents of deafblind children in the activities of the Support Union’s board