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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Emerging together from the fringes of society

by Manfred Kasper
Language: EN
Document available also in: DE

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Original language: German


Partnertreffen des Projektes in Freising, v.l.n.r.: Veronika Krylova, Anika Loidl, Lukas Huber, Rudolf Sailer, Siegfried Bachmayer, Christian Schönbeck, Paul Steixner.
The manual alphabet’s letter “e” was chosen as a sign of solidarity to raise awareness about the topic of Europe in the deaf community.

Emerging together from the fringes of society

Erasmus+- partnership wants to boost the significance of adult learning in sign language


Lebendige Kommunikation: Rudi Sailer im Interview
Deaf people throughout Europe are still disadvantaged when it comes to school-based and vocational education and training and are still cut off from standard sources of information. The problem is particularly pronounced when it comes to adult learning. According to Rudi Sailer, Chairman of the Netzwerk der Gehörlosen-Stadtverbände e. V. [“Network of Municipalities for the Deaf”], there is catching up to be done in this area. Sailer explains that, with the exception of a few localised offers, attempts to remedy the situation are insufficient, particularly when it comes to deaf people being able to benefit from participation in learning and qualification opportunities.

He believes that the strategic partnership could alleviate the situation and be the key to greater participation. This was also made clear when the project partners met in Freising in Upper Bavaria. Their discussions demonstrated the importance of linking the various initiatives for deaf tour guides in the German-speaking Alpine Region and promoting an exchange of knowledge as a way of helping people to help themselves. This would allow course facilitators to be supported in acting locally on a qualified basis and under appropriate conditions, and in offering a broad range of guided tours in sign language.

Different starting conditions

However, not only sign language itself, but also the social and political conditions vary from country to country. In Germany, there has been considerable development in the training of deaf tour guides as well as in the networking of activities. In Austria, however, training, in particular, represents a challenge. “The main issue, as I see it, is that the occupation of tour guide is a protected occupational title in Austria,” says Paul Steixner, the Austrian co-coordinator of the project. “It requires two years of training, which is often not possible because there is nobody to pay for the necessary interpreters.” Meanwhile, until just a few years ago, there was no school for the deaf in the Italian South Tyrol region, meaning that lessons had to take place in Mils near Innsbruck. The situation has now changed, but it means that the older generation of deaf people were taught to use the “German” sign language. Communication in the German-speaking Alpine region is thus more intensive than in the rest of Italy.

Lukas Huber, head of the Association of the Deaf in Lower Austria, is convinced that both Austria and South Tyrol can benefit from the experience gained in Germany. He emphasises that “the exchange provides us with new ideas for our work, for example in overcoming specific barriers and with regard to political lobbying. By looking at how issues have been solved elsewhere, we can develop appropriate strategies and structures for our own work.” Christian Schönbeck, Vice Chairman of the German Network, also explains that the German partners have received new inspiration, for instance apps and video guides for the deaf in museums.


Die angehenden Gebärdensprachdolmetscherinnen Veronika Krylova und Anika Loidl unterstützen das Projekt.
The partnership involves eight transnational meetings, which consider the specific issues affecting each host country and how they are related to the project as a whole. The aim is for the project’s basic idea of a transnational knowledge alliance to extend beyond guided tours to consider the entire cultural, social, professional, and personal sector. Rudi Sailer would also like to broaden the geographical dimensions: “Our future version is a network that also includes Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Belgium. Compared to the Scandinavian countries, we in Central Europe are lagging behind somewhat. Step by step, we want to reduce this gap.” 

Empowerment and participation in society

According to Sailer, the stated objectives can be reached by empowering the stakeholders and firmly establishing participation in society. In his own words: “We need to actively develop our vision and ideas and help every individual to become more involved. In this way, we can noticeably improve the outlook for deaf people. Guided tours are an excellent means for doing so, especially as they are visible to the broader public.”


Beim Wissensforum in Freising wurde viel über Europa diskutiert.
At the same time, the educational opportunities for deaf people with regard to adult learning also depend on the political framework conditions as well as the legal basis of the language in the respective countries. To this end, the network is striving to ensure greater acceptance of sign language and recognition of its status as a proper foreign language. Just as there is now greater participation in higher education as well as more accessible opportunities in vocational education and training compared to several years ago, the desire also exists to move adult education for the deaf away from the fringes and into the centre of society. To this end, a new project is already in the works. Scheduled to launch at the end of 2019, the project aims to dedicate itself to sustainable learning for the deaf on an international level.

Picture credit: © NA at the BIBB / Photographer: Manfred Kasper

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About the author: Manfred Kasper is a freelance journalist and communication consultant in Cologne. His work focuses on various topics relating to education, politics, the economy and society. In this context, he has also dealt with the topic of adult education over many years.

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  • Lukas Huber's picture
    Danke für den tollen Artikel! Erwachsenenbildung ist für gehörlose Menschen ein total wichtiges Thema. Solche Artikel helfen uns, diese Agenda auf höhere Ebenen zu bringen und ein breiteres Bewusstsein zu erzeugen. Probleme (diverse Barrieren im Bereich der Erwachsenenbildung) werden angesprochen und Lösungsansätze unterbreitet.
    Denn: durchs Reden - oder hier Gebärden - kommen Leute zusammen. Dank an Rudi Sailer und den Verantwortlichen von ERASMUS+ ist so ein Projekt möglich.
  • Christiane Helmstedt's picture
    Auf folgende sehr bewegende Dokumentarfilme möchte ich alle, die sich beruflich und/oder privat mit dem Thema Inklusion beschäftigen, hinweisen: 

    Die Kinder der Utopie: 
    Sechs junge Erwachsene schauen zurück auf ihre gemeinsame Grundschulzeit in einer Inklusionsklasse, über die damals ein Film gedreht wurde („Klassenleben“). Nun reflektieren sie ihre Erlebnisse und Erfahrungen – und blicken in die Zukunft. Ein berührender Dokumentarfilm von Hubertus Siegert.

    Alive inside ist eine Geschichte über die unglaubliche Kraft und Wirkung von Musik. Der amerikanische Filmemacher Michael Rossato-Bennett folgt dem Sozialarbeiter Dan Cohan bei seiner täglichen Arbeit mit Menschen in Pflegeheimen, die an Demenz erkrankt sind, in sich zurückgezogen und fast nur noch vegetativ leben. Dan Cohan stattet diese Menschen mit Ipods aus, mit der sie ihre Lieblingsmusik hören können. Die Reaktionen auf diese Musiktherapie sind wie kleine Wunder! Hier ein paar Impressionen aus dem Film: