The Association of the Swedish Deafblind, FSDB

A History Recap: Glimpses from 55 years with FSDB!

"FSDB was formed with two empty hands. There was not a penny in the cash register and the group of deafblind people was unknown."
- as described by Valborg Karlsson, one of FSDB's founding members

A famous American woman named Helen Keller paid a visit to Stockholm in May 1957. She was deafblind and did inspire a group of people with deafblindness to establish Föreningen Sveriges Dövblinda (The Association of the Swedish Deafblind) two years later – on September 13, 1959.

Karl-Göran Staaf had read an article in a Norwegian braille magazine about people with deafblindness and their need for a separate association. He wrote a small appeal in “De Blindas Veckoblad” (a weekly paper for blind people) and urged deafblind individuals to contact him. Oskar Mattsson then made another call, resulting in an interim – and later the very first – board formed by:

Chairman: Oskar Mattsson
Accounter: Valborg Karlsson
Secretary: Karl-Göran Staaf

They were accompanied by Eva Frunck, Nils Andersson and Axel Wennborg in the real board, whose first tasks were to create bylaws, fix a newspaper in braille and solve matters in counselling to people with deafblindness. Oskar Mattsson, a brushmaker, was FSDB's chairman from 1959 to 1962. He was succeded by Valborg Karlsson from 1962 to 1975.

At the start, FSDB had 18 members with deafblindness. During its first year, 18 inidividuals joined the association while one left, thus making 35 members in total. In 1971, FSDB had 101 active members and ten years later, the number had risen to 168. At the end of 2013, FSDB had a total of 879 members – including 305 voting members, DBU, Föräldrarådet and supportive members.

The first issue of “Nuet”, a newspaper for people with deafblindness, was released in January 1961. During the first ten years, “Nuet” was only available in braille form and attached to “De Blindas Veckoblad”. From 1972 on, “Nuet” could also be read in large-print and its content had gradually widened through the years. However, “Nuet” had to be phased out of circulation during the first half of 2012 due to changes in grant allocations.

In 1967, Ingrid Carlsson (later Losenborg) was appointed as the first consultant in deafblind issues. The following years saw additional consultants across Sweden. Prior to 2015, they all have been replaced by deafblind teams and other forms of cooperation in several locations in the country. The teams are providing advices and support to people with deafblindness of all ages and their families.

Allan Bernving was FSDB's chairman from 1975 to 1983. He was a journalist and very interested in cultural issues. Since the year 1981 was proclaimed by the United Nations as “The International Year of Disabled Persons”, FSDB participated in a demonstration in Gothenburg in May of that year. Slogans like "Build interpretation services", "Right to deafblind interpreters on our terms" and "Signing carers" were displayed on FSDB's placards.

Stig Ohlson was FSDB's chairman from 1983 to 1997, and he had a big passion about technology issues and international operations. Stig was then succeeded by the following persons: Jane Eriksen from 1997 to 2001, Mona-Britt Broberg from 2001 to 2007, and Pontus Degsell from 2007 to 2015.

In 1984, FSDB celebrated its 25th anniversary. During the same year, a big survey regarding people with deafblindness in Sweden was completed by Statens Handikappråd (The National Council of Disability; 1965-1994) and the number of known individuals increased from about 500 to 1200.

Examples of important issues through the years:


In 1975, the first training session for deafblind interpreters was held and it lasted just two weeks! Initially, these interpreters were often sent off from the Salvation Army, and its Commander was declared an honorary member at FSDB's annual meeting of 1984. In 1987, the one-year-long deafblind interpreting education was extended to two years, and the first longtime trained interpreters became available in the fall of 1988. The earlier seperated educations for sign language interpreters and deafblind interpreters were merged in 1989. Handikappreformen (The Disability Reform) of 1994 implented the liability for all county councils to offer interpreting services.

In April 2008, the board of FSDB adopted a very important definition of deafblind interpretation: "Deafblind interpretation is the mediation of both visual and auditory impression to people with deafblindness. This is done through three fully integrated parts: interpretation of what is being said, visual interpretation and guidance. Deafblind interpretation is given by the interpreting methods, when and to the extent that individuals with deafblindness want."

As of today, all issues relating to the interpretation system remain crucial to FSDB's labor.


In the middle of 1980's, FSDB began to use and develop a database that, in conjunction with other databases outspread across the country, would later be Fruktträdet. The last databases, TP44 and TP Nova, were shut down in mid-2012.

As of today, many people with deafblindness use social networks like Facebook.
FSDB has worked closely with Post- och telestyrelsen (The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority), which has procured a particular application with customised interfaces that makes it easier for people with deafblindness and other visually impaired people to use Facebook. The application is called “Fejjan för alla”. PTS and FSDB decided to shut down the application, because of few users.


In the early 1980's, the long-awaited braille phones were made available. One braille phone consisted of a small American braille computer named VersaBraille and a modem. As of today, it's very common for people with deafblindness to use smartphones or tablets with various adaptations.


Utskrivningstjänsten (The Braille Printing Service) started as a project in 1986 serving people with deafblindness. They who use braille can get materials printed for free through this service (with the exception of whole books). There may be articles from magazines and newspapers, manuals and more. As of today, Myndigheten för tillgängliga medier (Swedish Agency for Accessible Media) is responsible. E-mail at or call 08-580 02 730 for braille printing-related questions.


In 1983, a German shepherd dog named Busan became the first specialized deafblind dog. The first sign language-speaking deafblind who received a guide dog in the fall of 1987 was Karin Nickander. As of 2015, there are roughly 300 guide dogs in Sweden. Anyone who is interested in a guide dog would go to the nearest Syncentral (Low Vision Clinic) and ask for an application with various parts filled in by the applicant itself and the clinic. A medical certificate must be attached. The application will be sent to Synskadades Riksförbund (The Swedish Association of Visually Impaired).”