Dear Friends and colleagues,
Since my last report we have had a wonderful European DbI conference. Over 500 delegates from 30+ countries attended the fantastic venue in Aalborg. DbI holds its business meetings to coincide with these type of events, so we had our Management Committee, Board meeting and AGM in the two days preceding the conference.
We recognised the work of people who are leaving ‘our field’ through retirement or simply moving on, but so often individuals stay with us continuing their DbI work and interests irrespective of their national organisation interests. Huge thanks to each and everyone of you.
Delegates at the conference ranged from individuals from Malawi and Ethiopia really doing remarkable work alone and in often difficult circumstances to 14+ people from Russia. Other countries attending included Netherlands, Catalonia, America, Canada, Croatia, Latin America, Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, Austria, Argentina, Norway, Sweden and so many more. Apologies if you are not mentioned.
There were a number of pre-conference events including the Nordic, Usher and Youth networks. After the conference the Outdoor Network had a wonderful week bringing staff and deafblind people together ‘experiencing the great outdoors’.
Around 30 delegates attended the Usher network preconference, with everyone reporting how helpful it had been; sadly with the running theme throughout was ‘the lack of funding’. There was also a very successful CHARGE pre-conference with well-known speakers including David Brown.
One of the most important aspects of the conference was the theme of inclusion. Most of the major sessions had people with deafblindness chairing or presenting.
It was great to welcome the new Adaptive Physical Activity network who also contributed hugely to a range of wonderful volunteers who did a fantastic job over the conference week.
DbI itself has three key priorities, diversity, technology and knowledge through our conferences and networks. The connections we have made in some of the African nations remind of us how important it is to focus on diversity. It is so important because we miss the ‘richness’ other countries bring to our work and of course those countries with more developed deafblind programmes have a responsibility to support and share practice.
The University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has published the first ever ‘Baseline Survey Report on the State of Deafblindness in Ethiopia’. Aside from useful statistics on prevalence, for the first time the report describes age, gender and condition of a small number of people with deafblindness in the country.
I think we are increasingly getting better at knowledge and sharing practice but obviously we can always improve and of course the ‘application’ of knowledge is key. Where I think the conference and indeed all of us feel we struggle still seems to be in technology. There are some amazing developments but often they are driven by one or two key people and stop at the point where a personalised solution has been found.
I visited the Russian Deaf-Blind Support Foundation Connection in June. We are all pleased that Dmitry’s team supported the publication of the History of Education of Deafblindness in Russia. I am also privileged to be a Trustee of Connection and look forward to developing our work together.
The ManCom is delighted to note the continuing development of the America’s conference planned for April 2018 where DbI hope to join the event with our next Management Committee meeting.
As ever our huge thanks must go to Stan CDBA for the wonderful work on this DbI Review; to Able Australia and Gary for the massive amount of Secretariat work and of course to Frank and Kentalis who always go ‘above and beyond’. Our deafblind community is important and thanks to everyone for your continued support; so much appreciated.
With best wishes,
Gill Morbey, Immediate Past President