The 18th Deafblind International World Conference

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Deafblind UK’s Ambassador, Dr Peter Simcock, reports on his time at the 18th Deafblind International World Conference in Ottawa, Canada…

With over 500 delegates from across the world, the theme of ‘Global Connections’ was particularly apt for the 18th Deafblind International World Conference, which took place in Canada’s beautiful capital city, Ottawa.  The conference began with a welcome reception at the Museum of History, a time for those attending to reconnect with old friends, to meet colleagues in person for the first time and to form new connections.  Throughout the week, delegates then had the opportunity to hear presentations on a variety of topics, delivered by deafblind people, practitioners, and researchers from a range of disciplines.  Topics included assistive technologies, psychological interventions to improve deafblind people’s mental health, parenthood and dual sensory loss, cognitive assessment of congenitally deafblind people, rehabilitation services for acquired deafblind adults, and the needs of those with age-related deafblindness in long term care.  Prof. Walter Wittich (Université de Montreal)  delivered an excellent plenary session on the development of an International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) Core Set for Deafblindness, and Dr Annmaree Watharow (University of Sydney), who is presenting at the Deafblind UK Conference in October this year, entertained, engaged, and moved attendees with her plenary presentation entitled ‘Bringing Experience to Life, Research and Education’.

I was delighted to present findings from the Birmingham City University Pilot Project Funded study ‘When Level 3 is not enough: English Local Authority Decision Making in Relation to Required Qualification Levels for Specialist Deafblind Assessment’.  The study, undertaken by Birmingham City University Department of Social Work and Deafblind UK, explored the way in which English legal provisions related to social care assessment of deafblind adults are being implemented by local authorities in the West Midlands.  I also had the pleasure of working with Deafblind UK National Lead for Research, Training and Assessment, Liz Duncan, to co-deliver a presentation on the development and delivery of Birmingham City University’s Certificate and Diploma in Professional Studies (Deafblind Studies) courses.  Originally created by a consortium of charities, including Deafblind UK, Sense, Deafblind Scotland and Sense Scotland, these courses help educate the social care workforce to better support deafblind people.  Birmingham City University continues to work closely with the charities in the delivery of these programmes, and it was wonderful to hear of interest in the courses from delegates outside of the UK, following the presentation, reflecting their unique and innovative nature.

Though conference presentations were engaging, inspirational, informative, and challenging, it was the opportunities to connect with friends and colleagues in person again, over lunch or whilst enjoying a coffee and maple syrup cookie, that were the highlight for me.  These connections and conversations, relationships and collegiality, reminded me of the oft quoted words of Helen Keller: ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’.

Dr Peter Simcock, Senior Lecturer, Birmingham City University and Deafblind UK Ambassador


Deafblind UK’s Learning and Research Lead, Liz Duncan reports on what the conference means for Deafblind UK’s international relationships

“It’s a long way to go for a conference” I kept saying. But it was so worth it.

What a great conference. Such a positive, friendly, welcoming atmosphere and a programme which truly had something for everyone.

I had the privilege of joining my colleague, Dr Peter Simcock in his workshop about the new incarnation of the Deafblind Studies Course. I have been involved with the course since its earliest days, way back in the 1990’s, so to see so much interest in the course from across the world was a big smile moment.

The International Tactile Transitions project is close to my heart. I’ve been involved since 2017, and for the whole team, from Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and UK to be able to present our findings so far to a packed room (standing room only) was a highlight. We have always believed the project was something unique and the feedback was beyond anything we could have hoped for. We all feel energized and excited about phase 2, which will launch early in 2024.

I reconnected with colleagues from all over the world who have worked alongside me for years, and shared what we do here at Deafblind UK. People were genuinely surprised at the breadth of what we offer when they heard how small we are! I was proud to say that I was from Deafblind UK.

Our little team, of our Director, Rod Cullen, our Ambassador, Dr Peter Simcock, and I used every chance we got to network, raise the profile of Deafblind UK and seize the opportunities that came our way. We have made links with organisations, networks and individuals that we hope will result in learning, research and sharing for years to come.

Of course, there was time for fun stuff too – it inevitably included work, but somehow chatting about intense research or international development and definitions of deafblindness whilst having a pizza in the sunshine didn’t feel like work!

The next world DbI conference is in Zurich, four years from now. Deafblind UK will be there…

Liz Duncan, Lead, Learning, Research and Assessment, Deafblind UK 

Deafblind UK to present international research at the Deafblind International 18th World Conference

Deafblind UK is set to be a key contributor to the Deafblind International (DbI) 18th World Conference in Ottowa later…

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