Dbi review issue Number 45 • January – June 2010



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Environmental Description for visually and dual sensory impaired people


Environmental Description enables sensory impaired people to perceive spontaneous qualitative information in real time, through everyday life experiences. This type of received information can support a person’s own actions and decision-making processes. Environmental Description provides focused sensations and experiences which encourage the visually impaired person to participate more fully and deeply in their environment.

This handbook analyses how we can describe the environment. It presents different methods and techniques which can be developed and applied to each individual user’s perspective, ranging from life activities to artistic interpretations. It focuses both on the describer’s and the receiver’s perspectives; giving practical examples with additional exercises for professionals who work with visually and dual sensory impaired people. It includes ideas for getting started, and practical tips for the basis of various categories of descriptions. The book also includes comments and experiences of describing the environment in real-life situations from different individuals.

Environmental Description can be applied to the needs of a wide range of visually and dual sensory impaired people of various ages, their family members and friends. It provides a basic educational study book for professionals wishing to supplement their knowledge of how to apply different techniques including audio description for museums and art exhibitions.
Riitta Lahtinen MEd, PhD.

Researcher, Teaching Consultant


Russ Palmer SRAT(M)

Music Therapist,

Visiting Lecturer
Merja Lahtinen MEd.

Special Teacher of the visually impaired


ISBN 978-0-9550323-2-5. Price: £25.00 (plus p&p)
For further information contact:

Email: rpalmer2@tiscali.co.uk


Website: www.russpalmer.com

Or www.earfoundation.org.uk/shop




See Me, Hear Me:

A guide to using the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities to promote the rights of children


The first book to look at how two UN conventions can be used to support disabled children

Published March 2009 Price £9.95 ISBN 9781841871233

This publication can be ordered from our distributor, NBN International.

“an invaluable tool for practitioners committed to bringing an end to discrimination against children with disabilities” Yanghee Lee, Chair of Committee on the Rights of the Child

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities represents the culmination of years of advocacy by the disability community in their struggle for recognition of their rights.

See Me, Hear Me is the first book to look at how this Convention can be used to support disabled children, alongside the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This guide’s analysis of the inter-relationship of the two Conventions, together with practical guidance on advocacy strategies and illustrations of good practice, make it an invaluable tool for child and disability rights advocates.

It is also an essential resource for governments in interpreting and implementing the two Conventions.

Author Gerison Lansdown is an international children’s rights consultant and has published and lectured widely on the subject of children’s rights, both nationally and internationally.

Related reading

• Disabled Children’s Rights: A practical guide

• Including Disabled People in Everyday Life: A practical guide

• Getting it Right for Children: A practitioner’s guide to child rights progamming

For further information, or for bulk orders, please contact us

Save the Children

Registered charity England and Wales (213890)

Scotland (SC039570)

Save the Children International




Helen Keller International Award


The 9th Helen Keller International Award will be launched at the Listen to Me 5 Conference for people who are deafblind and their families in Olomouc, Czech Republic July 27-August 01, 2010.

The competition is open to any artist and entries are invited that focus on exploring the senses and challenging perceptions of deafblindness. Works should consider the senses… touch, smell, sight, sound and taste.

Artworks in any medium are considered for selection and independent judges will choose which entries will be exhibited and have the chance of winning a cash prize. All artists will remain anonymous until the judging is complete.

Further information and a full application pack will be available at the end of August on the Sense Scotland website www.sensescotland.org.uk, by email: arts@sensescotland.org.uk or telephone: 0141 4290294.

The winner of the 8th Helen Keller International Award was Rick Curtis (USA). You can find more information of about the last award on www.sensescotland.org.uk/news/8th-helen-keller-winner.php.


Understanding visual and hearing impairment in Switzerland

using the ICF classification system


The Swiss National Association of, and for, the Blind (SNAB), is responsible for providing advice and support to people who are deafblind in Switzerland via its seven regional advice and support centres. The services provided by the centres include: social support, organising financial and human resources and giving training in techniques for coping with everyday life and lowering barriers. The techniques include visual and auditory measures and aids, computer use, communication techniques and mobility. In addition, SNAB organises adult education classes and group recreational activities adapted to the needs of people who are deafblind.

The publication of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) gave rise to a discussion among the members of the SNAB team about the understanding of former and current disability models. None of the prevailing medical or social models seemed entirely applicable, suggesting the resource-based models needed to be further strengthened.

New approaches within social work, including psychosocial counselling and the involvement of friends, family and colleagues, already focus in principle on the person’s resources. Rehabilitation for the visually impaired in Switzerland, which places a strong emphasis from the start on the person’s existing abilities, the development of new skills and the design of the person’s surroundings, is clearly a resource-based approach. Despite this, our work is continually characterised by the consideration of deficiencies, illnesses and damage to visual and auditory systems. We are bound to this way of thinking, because we are generally faced with medical and, therefore, largely disease-based models of thinking. Examples of this way of thinking include: in discussions with the people affected and their relatives – “I have these problems with my eyes”, “my ears are…”; in our cooperation and sometimes confrontations with social security and health insurance companies – “the visual acuity must be less than 0.2”, “hearing loss of…”, “…permanently needs outside help…”, and in the expectations of the general public – “disability is an illness suffered by others” which forms the basis of charitable donations which represents 50% of our organisation’s funding.

The seven SNAB advice centres for visually and hearing impaired and people with deafblindness have reinforced the focus on resources in their work. They are applying the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), to visual and hearing impairment thus making it the starting point for a new SNAB tool.



What is ICF?


The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is a classification system which describes people’s functional health status, disability, social impairment and relevant environmental factors. This all-encompassing, modern system is structured around such broad components as body functions and structures, activities, participation and contextual factors. The resource-based, biopsychosocial approach of the ICF is an enhancement of the initial medical classification of disabilities developed by the WHO and the ICIDH (International Classification of Impairment, Disability and Handicap), which took as its basis the consequences of disease. ICF can be described as an impairment-and disability-based model. The complete description of the ICF classification system is available on the internet at www.who.int/en and www.en.wikipedia.org.
Using the ICF to advise visually and hearing impaired people

The lists of human activities and participation in the ICF are particularly useful in relation to the work of an advice centre. These are as follows:

1. Learning and applying knowledge

2. General tasks and demands

3. Communication

4. Mobility

5. Self-care

6. Domestic life

7. Interpersonal interaction and relationships

8. Major life areas

9. Community, social and civic life
These criteria can be used to assess the living situation of people with a visual and hearing impairment. Catherine Woodtli (head of rehabilitation at the SNAB until spring 2010) and Helena Schuler (head of social work at the SNAB) asked the members of the teams from the seven SNAB advice centres to draw up a list of questions and topics relevant to the human activities defined in the ICF on the basis of their practical experience. These have been sorted out and used to create an ICF tool which will form the foundation for the advice and support given to visually and hearing impaired people. This new internal tool will be used to evaluate the clients’ living situation, develop resources, broaden the focus of the work and structure the discussions during the advice sessions and interdisciplinary case meetings. It will help to ensure that topics and questions are not forgotten in the course of the day-to-day routine. This can be particularly important, for example, in the case of changes and upheaval in clients’ lives (new school or job, moving house, new tasks at work, separation etc.). The systematic use of ICF categories will help the centres to provide advice which is based on clients’ needs rather than on what the centres have to offer. An overall view of the living situation of the client should be the main focus of the advice, rather than producing quick solutions based on the services which the centre happens to be able to provide. The client’s specific living requirements, but also his or her dreams and projects should be taken into account. On the other hand, the client’s boundaries must be respected, in particular during intervention planning.

The ICF tool for acquired visual and hearing impairment has been developed on the SNAB’s intranet, but the latest version can be printed out on easy-to-use A5 cards. The set of cards is called “ICF toolbox for acquired visual and hearing impairment”. Each card relates to one ICF activity and/or participation and contains key words, topics and possible questions which, on the basis of our experience, could be important in the lives of visually and hearing impaired people of any age. The checklist will, of course, never be exhaustive. It is intended to act as a stimulus to take into consideration the many and varied aspects of the life of a person with a dual sensory impairment, even if the person in question and their environment do not place particular emphasis on these aspects. The cards provide help in structuring discussions, information about the aids currently available and other specific technical hints.

The work at the seven advice centres for visually and hearing impaired and people who are deafblind takes place in small interdisciplinary teams. As the teams begin to use the cards, they will add to them regularly. It will be easy to incorporate new information into the sets of cards and create added value. This is particularly important because, in contrast to the advice service for visually impaired people, there is no training for advisors for visually and hearing impaired people. Therefore, the process of developing, obtaining and passing on specific knowledge has to be organised internally. The cards are not confidential and SNAB clients can request a copy at any time.

We know of no existing advice and rehabilitation concepts based on the ICF and intended for acquired visual and hearing impairments and deafblindness either in Switzerland or elsewhere. By making use of the ICF and its forward-looking approach to disability, we hope to be able to shed more light on specific aspects of visual and hearing impairments and deafblindness and to provide the people affected with an advice service that meets their needs.


Stefan Spring, Catherine Woodtli and Helena Schuler,

SNAB Advice Centres for Visually and Hearing Impaired and Deafblind People Website: www.szb.ch




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