Number 44 • June December 2009

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Australia conference



Deafblindness in Australia

new ideas, directions and solutions


Refer to website for more details

28th – 30th April 2010

Melbourne Australia


Ton Visser

DbI Distinguished Service Award

A modest, hard-working professional who changed the lives of children who are deafblind nationally and internationally Ton has, over his 40 year career, worked tirelessly to improve the quality of education for the children. As a teacher he worked with a population of children with congenital rubella. This was a new group of children who little was known about and each day was a learning adventure for the teacher as well as the student. From the very beginning of his work he was interested in the communication development of the children. He saw the need to give the students a way to express themselves and gain knowledge about the world around them.

He was appointed to the position of the director of Rafael School and in this capacity he used his leadership skills to develop the school into an internationally recognized educational program. Under his leadership he focused on teamwork and encouraged a coaching model with the staff and provided high quality in-service training so that all staff felt competent in their roles. As the school grew so did the need for a larger facility. He had to work with the staff, architects and builders to create a new school. He travelled to other programs to get ideas for the new school building. Again he was always looking to the future to be sure that he students received the very best education.

As a result of his hard work and interest in staff development, he finishes his career as the Director of the Center of Expertise. He worked cooperatively with the University of Groningen to set up the position of Chair of Congenital and Early Acquired Deafblindness.

Throughout his career he has been involved with Deafblind International. He has been a presenter at many conferences and has been a member of two Scientific Planning Committees. Since 1992 he has been a member of the DbI Communication Network

He has been a member of the DbI Management Committee and has served in the role of treasurer. Under his leadership DbI has improved its financial picture and is moving toward formal association status. At every DbI Management Committee meeting his wisdom and clear thinking benefit the organization.

Bernadette Kappan

Inger Rødbroe

DbI Lifetime Achievement Award and Ann Sullivan Award

Inger is a visionary who started her career as a teacher at the school for the deaf and later served in a variety of administrative/leadership roles at the school and throughout the country.

In a letter of support the writer says “She always placed the deafblind person in the center, and she always recognized the particular expertise of the parents… she is a part of our history.”

Her work has been deeply rooted in encounters with people. An encounter with a deafblind person fills her for the moment and from that moment springs deep concern about how she can herself contribute to the improvement of the situation for that particular person.

This approach has characterized her entire career.

She has worked in her own country, in the Nordic countries, and throughout Europe. Her knowledge in the area of communication and her teaching skills brought international invitations to lecture and train parents and professionals. Her international connections are many but she has focused her efforts in Africa and Nepal.

Her leadership had influenced policy makers and resulted in the revision of the Nordic definition on deafblindness and recommendations for services to deafblind individuals and the need for quality staff training. As a member of the Communication Network she has worked tireless to bring the work to publication.

One letter of support speaks to her persistence until the mission has been completed – this can be seen in every task she has taken on throughout her career. She has travelled the world, lectured, informed, given guidance and support and raised awareness of deafblindness with kindness and determination.

Bernadette Kappan

Peter Fasung: Slovakia

In the early 1980’s Peter and Ivana Fasung became parents to Kristina, their deafblind baby. At that time in Slovakia there were no services or education programs for deafblind children, however around 1990 a small education program for deafblind children started in the village of Cervenica in eastern Slovakia. This was accomplished through the efforts of the state and the Evangelical Diacony Church. Kristina was one of the first children to attend and over time it grew to 12 students.

“Peter is a person who shares his families’ experiences and his own determination with others.”

In 1998 the Association of Parents and Friends of Deafblind Children in Slovakia was established to help advocate for the unique needs of their children. As the parents watched their children learn, mature and become more independent, they became concerned about what would happen when their childrens’ education was finished. Peter Fasung, as one of the founding members of the Slovak Parents’ Association, has spearheaded the Slovak national effort to establish the first group home for approximately 6 – 10 people. Through much planning, fundraising and blood, sweat and tears, the Association has purchased a house and reconstructed it to meet government requirements. This was a labor of love that consumed many, many years. Proudly ‘Maják’ opened as the first group home for deafblind young adults in March of 2007.

Peter is a father who also shares his passion for advocacy with the Czech Parent Association so they may achieve similar services within the Czech Republic. More than an advocate, Peter is a person who shares his families’ experiences and his own determination with others. Many of us who have attended the ‘Listen 2 Me’ family gatherings or other European meetings have been touched by his openness and insight. In doing so, he inspires all of us to find both perspective and strength.

Sergei Sorokin

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