As we have National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in the US, there is a National Association of the Deaf in each country in the European Union (EU). The European Union of the Deaf (EUD) comprises all 31 countries with National Associations of the Deaf (NADs). It is currently based in Brussels, Belgium as a non-profit European non-Governmental organization (ENGO) and it is the only organization representing Deaf people at European Union level since 1985.
Besides, I had a chance to meet the Executive Director of the EUD staff, Mark Wheatley, who has worked and invested in EUD since 2007. He filled me in on how the EUD aims to achieve equality in public and private life for Deaf people all over Europe to ensure they can become full citizens, and continue to possess the same human rights and equal access wherever they go.
We had a brief interview where I got to learn some extra information and examples of what they do.
CALVIN YOUNG (CY): How, a total of 31 countries in Europe, if there’s a problem in one country but other country doesn’t have that problem. How do you keep all these countries united? If a country has an issue, is it brought to EUD and its members?
MARK WHEATLEY (MW): One scenario is: In a particular country, there’s a new law requiring that drivers have to have hearing tests done for drivers license, like how there’s already tests for vision. That means Deaf drivers will not be able to drive, and thus be discriminated. So what they do is they ask European Union (EU) for assistance. EU has “Directive” which lists legislations that shows that all (Deaf) drivers must be allowed to drive. In turn, that specific country uses that to fight back their government to change the law, and succeed in doing so.
There’s so much discrimination going on all over the countries in Europe. We at EUD are working hard keeping an eye on this and provide support.
CY: Does the EUD have an authority to enable the particular action to be applied throughout Europe or only for that specific country that initiated the discriminatory action?
MW: Well, what we can do is this: Each European country has their own law and the way the law is written. We work to rewrite wording according each country’s specific laws and requirements as they all differ among languages.
For an example, people can freely move around Europe. People have the right to move to France, to Germany, to Spain, to Italy. Laws have to be changed to accommodate so people can easily move to anywhere in Europe. Which is great in general…
BUT, this doesn’t always apply to Deaf population. What about sign language interpreting service? What if a Deaf person moves to another country only to find out that they lost a right to have interpreting service in that country? We have to face the difference of languages and cultures.
CY: Wow true, all countries are so different! I can see how difficult it can get for you to find the common ground among all countries to ensure equality and protection from discrimination.
MW: Yes, it’s difficult. Deaf people do have ID’s as a proof that they have a right to interpreting service. But when they move to another European country, they would feel like they had to start over and go to the court, and so forth, which is what they should have not gone through.
While, Europe has to deal with so many different laws. EUD have to work with receiving different 31 countries’ issues, bring it to EUD assembly, then figure out how to ensure that all countries receive equal law protection.
Working out differences in protection and discrimination between countries is what we at EUD do.
Also, we have to work through differences in languages, cultures, and identities like Italy in the south, and Finland and Sweden all the way in the north. We have what’s compared to melting pot. It’s incredible and positive thing about Europe.
CY: Couldn’t agree more! I adore Europe’s written languages, sign languages and their people. Besides, I have traveled to five European countries and I am looking forward to see rest of Europe.
I personally would like to thank Mark Wheatley, Heather Daley and other people I met in the EUD headquarter office for their time teaching me a little about what EUD does for the European Union. I surely had a wonderful time there and I definitely learned a lot!
If you would like to visit the EUD office, I encourage you to book an appointment with them through their contact form beforehand.
European Union of the Deaf
- Address: Rue de la Loi 26, 1000 Ville de Bruxelles, Belgium
- Contact: http://www.eud.eu/EUD-i-621.html
- Website: http://www.eud.eu/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eudeaf