Maják – light for the deafblind
Read how talented deafblind artists found the light in the form of art.
Accepting the difference is inherently hard for anybody. People hold dear their beliefs, in the face of something deviant then what they perceive. For being merely atypical, regardless of intention, is enough to isolate one from the society. Isolation, ostracism and fear of missing out can lead people to a loss of identity, which is why most people conform to unwritten rules. But for those who have impaired vision and hearing, daily task are tremendous challenges: a life a physically functional person can’t fully comprehend. That’s why Maják exists.
Maják, or Lighthouse in Slovak, is a guiding light for people born different from most. Founded by Association of parents and friends of deafblind children following their concern for their children’s future, Maják is a non-profit organization that provides 24/7 care for deafblind adults. It is the first and only specialized facility in Slovakia. Maják, with the financial funding from the self-governing region Košice and the help from European Voluntary Service, provides service, including specialized physical activities, festival celebrations, and personal development plans, for a maximum of nine residents using individual approach to the client. However, among all its services, art therapy is what defines Maják. As a form of nonverbal communication, Maják empowers clients to harness the power of a brush and canvas to creatively express clients’ emotions and experiences.
Maják was established with a mission to create a family atmosphere, provide clients with their own fully-valued life, respect their individual spaces and needs, and recognize them as unique individuals.
Initially started with a group of seven residents the organization has predictably encountered multiple difficulties. It took a considerable amount of time for them to adapt to the new environment, new clients, and new employees, often leading to aggressive encounters. However, over the years, they have prioritized maintaining the harmony of all sides, greatly helping the program flourish.
When Maják started their art therapy program several years ago, there was little external financial and material funding. Through such a harsh condition, Maják creatively learned to use recycled materials for therapeutic purposes, which enriched their learning experiences. Only when they received funding from external sources could they manage smoother management.
Maják residents are never to be called patients, but clients. This is because they are normal human beings with potential and ambition and should be referred as so. Maják’s clients were and, till this day, are required to be taken care of with meticulous attention. Since each client has their own limitations, with each person having a different physical and mental impairment, they are treated with personalized care. This approach requires the caretakers to devotedly understand their clients. For this reason, Maják developed a method called Touch. This method involves hand-centric physical contact between clients and caretakers. Such a simple method has a surprising impact on clients’ lives as they can sense the different touches of different caretakers and can become attached to it. Therefore, clients’ daily routine can be significantly disrupted should the caretakers leave, leading to their emotional rejection and uncertainty. Therefore, it is Maják’s most important task to maintain the team's stability, schedule of activities and respect the limits and limitations of the client, his needs and desires.
Despite the difficulties during their daily works, Maják overcame them to realize the hidden potentials and mark the impacts on those who have come and gone at the residence. Perhaps, their greatest success is the results of the art therapy process. For the residents, visual arts are a form of therapy that inspires to express their feelings, emotions, and desires. It supports their communication with their surroundings. The paintings are their signature and legacy for them to go on. One client described Maják as “the home, family is a visit”. Another female client overcame her deafness to operate daily verbal communication, which managed to surprise even Maják employees there.
With 14 people in employment, Maják is growing stronger and is considering continuing to support clients in their artistic activities, to find sufficient financial support for leisure activities and their further personal development.