Number 44 • June December 2009

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The 8th Conference of the Acquired Deafblindness Network

29 September - 3 October 2010 in Aalborg Denmark.

Building Bridges - connecting people

Using this theme we will be exploring notions of developing relationships between people with deafblindness, families, friends and professionals. Bridges not only connect people but enable movement and development, independence and growth of potential.

Among the conference topics are dementia and deafblindness, haptic communications, practical use of ICF in deafblindness, relations in families with deafblindness, and much more.

The conference language will be English.

Call for Papers

The co-ordinating committee would like to invite people to submit abstracts for the open workshops that will take place during the seminar. How the workshops relate to the theme of the seminar should be made clear in the abstract.

The co-ordinating committee has agreed on criteria that will be applied to all submissions. All information on submitting and presenting a paper can be found at the conference website

Closing date for submission of papers: 26 February 2010.

Acquired Deafblindness Network

The Acquired Deafblindness Network is recognised by Deafblind International (Dbl) and was established in 1989. Its aim is to create and support a network of people who are involved in the world of acquired deafblindness.

Network News


Pilot project to train communication guide use for Australians who are deafblind

Senses Foundation in Western Australia has received funds from the Disability Services Commission to run the country’s first pilot project introducing communication guides for people who are deafblind. The grants will be used to provide special training for a group of communication guides and at least three hours’ intervention each week for the 15 people with deafblindness selected to take part in the twelve-month trial. For more information, contact Senses Foundation (

Computer training

South Australia’s Royal Society for the Blind (RSB), in partnership with Dolphin (United Kingdom) and Quantum Technology (the Australian agents), are conducting a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of new Dolphin Guide software ( This software is designed to enable a person who is blind or vision impaired, with little prior computer experience, to easily perform such activities as browse web pages; write letters; send emails; scan and listen to documents. Ten participants in this trial will receive training from the RSB’s Adaptive Technology Department and will participate in a survey and complete evaluation questionnaires at the end of the pilot project. Each participant will also, compliments of Dolphin, be able to keep the Guide software, as well as a refurbished PC, printer and scanner from the RSB. Dr Celia Chen, from Flinders University in Adelaide, will provide a report on the effectiveness of this software for the participants.

2009 National Usher and Deafblindness Camp

Melbourne-based Able Australia Recreation Program and Victorian Usher and DeafBlind Club and the Vision and Hearing Support Club have hosted a camp from 20 to 22 November on Phillip Island in Victoria for people with deafblindness.

First commercial Braille wine labels in Australia

Fox Creek Wines has released the first braille wine bottle labels in Australia. Working closely with the Royal Society for the Blind they have designed and produced new back labels for their current vintages with braille and large print text. The first three wines with the braille and large print text back labels are the 2009 Shadow’s Run Sauvignon Blanc, the 2008 Red Baron Shiraz and the Vixen Sparkling Red.

Universal access

Participants in a National Dialogue on Universal Design, convened by Australia’s Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities unanimously agreed that more work was needed to make universally designed homes more available. They also unanimously agreed on the need to codify a national approach incorporating the value of universal design to the community; a definition and a set of principles of universal design; and what its features are in relation to housing. There is a need to work closely with industry and the community, including access to education and training. An aspirational goal is for all new homes to be of agreed universal design standards by 2020, with interim targets and earlier completion dates to be determined for some standards. A commitment was made to form a high-level working party to achieve substantial progress within six months. The media release and full statement are at

Launch of web captel trial

A new technology trial was officially launched by the Ambassador for Deafness Forum of Australia. The ACE Web Captioned Telephony (CapTel) trial will allow Australians affected by hearing loss to receive supporting phone captions, in real time, via the internet. While the technology has been available in the US for some time, this is the first chance Australians have had to use it. Web CapTel works with any type of phone. The important difference is its ability to display every word the caller says as they speak, in a similar manner to captioned television. The trial will involve more than 500 people over a two-year period. For more information, go to

Simply scripts

Although some DVDs have audio description, they are few and far between in Australia. After some searching, a student in Victoria found a site called Simply Scripts where film scripts can be downloaded for free. To find out more, go to (Source: Statewide Vision Resource Centre of Victoria)

Minimum qualifications for disability support workers

National Disability Services, (the Australian national disability industry agency) governance board has adopted a position on minimum qualification for disability support workers, which supports the development of a core induction program based on nationally recognised competencies. The issue of minimum qualifications has arisen in the context of the development of a national disability workforce strategy

UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD)

Leading disability organisations in Australia have formed a project group to compile a Shadow Report on Australia’s implementation of the CRPD. The aim is to make recommendations to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These recommendations will provide the basis for the UN recommendations to the Australian Government regarding Australia’s implementation of the Articles of the CRPD. The main focus of the Shadow Report will be reporting the extent to which Australia has implemented its obligations under the CRPD and to provide recommendations for future action by the Australian Government.

Arnold Cielens

Arnold Cielens, disability advocate and champion, has died on 7 July, 2009, aged 87. This tireless advocate for deaf-blind people has fought his last campaign.

Arnold never stopped writing to politicians or advocating for people who fall between the cracks. He is one of the last of a group of early pioneers with disability who saw that it was their responsibility to advocate for those with weaker voices and was active in until his death in trying to secure better services.

The Editor writes: In my job, working for Sense as Education Officer in the 90’s, Arnold was in touch with me very regularly about current policy. He asked me to send him our position papers and responses to government consultations which at the time were very important in lobbying our UK government for recognition and services for deafblind children.

His son Martin has set up a blogspot. Please visit!

The Michael T. Collins Young Leadership Award

In honor of his extraordinary contributions to the field of deafblind education around the world and in recognition of his desire to develop the field and ensure the future of his life-long passion, The Michael T. Collins Young Leadership Award will be bestowed every four years at the DBI World Conference and on alternative years at another International DBI Conference.

The deserving educator that demonstrates innovative practices and professional leadership will be nominated by his/her peers and selected by a committee of Perkins International and Deafblind International leadership.

The recipient will be given a stipend of no less than $1,000.00 to cover the costs associated with Conference attendance. These may include, but is not limited to Conference registration and/or travel and accommodation expenses.

The selected educator winner of The Michael T. Collins Young Leadership Award will be announced at the DBI Conference and recognized with a Framed Certificate.


The National Practitioners Working Group on Communication was established in January 2007, inspired by similar networks set up across Europe, to focus on understanding communication development. The work of this group was recognised by Sense on 1st of October 2009 when Asun Snow and Mary Foster received the Sense Award on Innovative Practice on behalf of the group.

The group comprises of practitioners from different services within Sense. Many are in the role of shaping and developing practice. The National group meets regularly to share ideas and practice. Smaller teams, based on geographical areas, are facilitated by group members to cascade knowledge and understanding about recent developments in communication practice and to be the catalyst in setting up local projects.

We focus on meeting the challenges of working more successfully with people who are congenitally deafblind but our practice also affects others with a single sensory loss and additional disabilities and our overarching aim is:

To develop the way we support communication and interaction between congenitally deafblind children and adults and their communication ‘partners’.*

*A communication ‘partner’ can be defined as any person who engages with a congenitally deafblind child or adult and attempts to communicate with them. For example, this could be a parent, brother or sister, Intervenor, carer or a teacher.

Within the national practitioners group, we are promoting the principles of how to be a good communication ‘partner’ to people who have complex communication support needs. We have drawn on practice based research and embraced the idea of supporting a natural conversational approach based on equality.

Key principles include:

• active listening by the partner

• giving TIME

• responding to an individual in a way that matches their own way of communicating

• sharing impressions, emotions, memories, thoughts and ideas in whatever way the person has available to them

• the partner supports this process of drawing out information from the person they are interacting with and trying to find out what their expressions might mean

• valuing different ways of communicating to enable us to learn from each other and introduce each other to our ‘language’. In this way, we aim to reduce the frustration associated with not being understood.

It has been recognised for a long time that video is one of the most useful tools in helping us to understand our ‘conversations’ with people who are congenitally deafblind. We have developed and shared different ways of using video and video analysis, to help us understand what people are telling us and to identify the practical skills we need, as good communication partners, to support them. Some practitioners work with families and children to bring innovative practice at the most crucial times for the development of communication skills for children.

We are currently working on projects to:

- Create more opportunities for children and families to find out about current practice.

- Undertake research to collect examples of exemplary practice of enriching people’s lives.

- Increase the use of video analysis across Sense, nationally, to develop the practical skills of those who support people who are congenitally deafblind and/or have complex communication support needs.
On behalf of the Group: Mary Foster, Asuncion Snow, Steven Rose, Graham Nolan

Award ceremony 2009: Bucharest June 25

The 17-strong jury assessed more than 1,000 applications from eight countries

The only award of its kind in the region, the ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration gives recognition to and promotes organisations and projects that aim to create a stable and just society including disadvantaged and marginalised groups. This year’s call received more than 1,300 applications from eight countries in the region. Non-profit organisations, public administrative bodies, civil-society and private initiatives, religious communities and media organisations were eligible to apply. The projects work towards social change and creating a society with equal chances and opportunities for all. Only 20 projects were shortlisted.

Sense International Romania was the winner of 2 awards!

They were recognized for excellence in “Education for deafblind and multi-sensory impaired children” and also received a practitioner award.

The award ceremony provides the organisations with a platform that allows them to gain increased recognition of their often difficult work and with a forum for establishing contacts and networking with potential partners and sponsors. The winners of the first ten prizes will receive special support in the form of a film about their projects. These films will be made available to the local and international media and may also be used for other purposes by the organizations.

“I believe we deserve this award and I appreciate all the other winning organisations for recognising the uniqueness of our project, working with a special category of beneficiaries – deafblind people. Until 10 years ago, it was thought that this special category of children could not be educated, but through an intensive programme we have managed to ensure that authorities integrate these children into Romanian schools. We have a special mission and we will continue to fight for supporting them.


International deafblind charity wins $100,000 award

Sense International India, has won a $100,000 award from the STARS Foundation. The award will assist the deafblind charity in its work throughout India. The charity was chosen for an Education Award because of its partnership approach. It set up South Asia’s first teacher training and mentoring course in deafblindness.

The Ahmedabad based charity already reaches 27,000 deafblind people in India and works with 37 partners in 19 states. The award will mean it can continue its programmes with some of the most vulnerable children in India. Its goal is to reach 70,000 deafblind people by 2017.

Akhil Paul, Director of Sense International (India) said “For more than ten years Sense International (India) has been empowering deafblind people in India. To be one of just six organisations in the world to receive this award is a real honour and demonstrates our track record for transforming deafblind people’s lives. We are deeply grateful to The STARS Foundation for the recognition but most of all it will help us to reach thousands more people and continue our campaigning work in the region.”

Muna Wehbe, Chief Executive of the STARS Foundation said: “Sense International (India) delivers truly unique services to children who without support would be isolated from mainstream society. Through its work with partners, the organisation responds to real needs, with tangible and effective programmes being provided to some of the most vulnerable children in the country.”

For more information go to:


DB Ireland – 2nd National Training Event

DB Ireland held its second national training event for professionals working in the field of deafblindness on Saturdays 21st November in Dublin.

Over 70 people braved atrocious weather to attend a free one-day course entitled “A matter of Communication – exploring a range of communication issues experienced by Deafblind children and adults”

The course focused on an overview of communication for deafblind people, functional vision and hearing assessments, challenging behaviour, video analysis and development of communication in deafblind children.

Experts in deafblindness from the UK and Republic of Ireland delivered the course and feedback from participants – which included a number of deaf and deafblind participants was very positive.

The success of the past 2 events means that DB Ireland will be looking to make this event a regular annual feature of its activities.

Services in Republic of Ireland for deafblind people and their families and support for professionals all remain very inadequate. In the next year DB Ireland will be working to extend the range of its activities to address the numerous gaps in professional training, public awareness and support to deafblind people. Watch this space for details.
Ges Roulstone


Deafblind Ireland


More families in poverty – Maltese delegation in Brussels

Report from
Utility tariffs are one of the issues raised by the Maltese delegation participating in the “Eight Meeting of People Experiencing Poverty”. This gives people experiencing poverty a chance to speak up and voice their concerns with national and European authorities.

Irene Schembri, Chairperson of European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Malta said that it is very worrying that water and electricity bills remained high even after oil prices went down. She insisted this is pushing more and more families into the poverty trap.

Irene Schembri was also participating in the conference to speak on behalf of her son William, (we know him as Carl), a deafblind youth.

“My son is one of the many Maltese disabled persons who have no voice, in some cases even literally, to express the bleakness in their future” she explained. In Malta, government provides accommodation services to just 38 disabled persons. Many parents have given up trying to apply for this service as it is so limited. Even worse, it offers no financial assistance to parents and relatives who have to give up paid employment to take care of disabled relatives. She explained that her husband has to keep up with three jobs to provide for all the expenses of the family, and for the additional costs required to provide for their disabled son”.


Dear Sirs,

We are Association of Deafblind Children and Youth with Multiple Disabilities of Moldova “VITA”. More detailed information about us you can find on our site This letter is, first of all, a message of greetings and the first step on the way of our acquaintance and, we hope, of our fruitful cooperation to enable better quality of life and education for deafblind and blind children with multiple disabilities.

Warmest regards,

Valentina Lebedeva, President

Hristo Botev str., MD 2043, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova

Cell phone: +373 69120015, Fax: +373 22 221535

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