Tactile Communication Network

Network ReportLandscape of Touch

Bernadette van den Tillaart reports:

Members of the Tactile Communication Network are preparing for a Pre-Conference preceding the XV International Conference in Sao Paulo, Brasil. At the Tactile Communications Network session during the DbI European Conference in Senigallia, Italy in 2009, attendees had a preview of the movie “Landscape of Touch”, along with guided simulation exercises, followed by a lively discussion. The many participants at the end of the meeting were asked if we would be willing to organize a future multi-day event to share what we have developed over the last several years.

This Pre-Conference in Brazil is the result of this discussion. During this event in Sao Paulo, September 25-26, we hope to reach out to the international community in the deafblind field. We appreciate the helpful and friendly support from the organizers of the DbI International Conference in Brazil to assist us with hosting this pre-conference. We are also grateful for the generosity of those Brazilian organizations that offered to cover the costs and registration fees for this event. Interested participants that would like to attend can do this for free.

The overall theme of this pre-conference is “Touch as Central to Learning, Communication and Access for Persons with Deafblindness” . The event will focus on enhancing awareness of touch in seeing-hearing people so that they can become skillful and adequate partners for persons who are deafblind. The sessions will include presentations on theoretical frameworks, practical ideas and applications in professional practice regarding tactile communication.

All persons communicate for the purposes of understanding each other, establishing relationships, obtaining information, working and living together and just enjoying the opportunity to communicate with one another. One of the main consequences of deafblindness is an enhanced ability to use the tactile sense. It is often not possible to communicate effectively with a person who is deafblind using only typical auditory and visually modalities. Communication often needs to be supported by the tactile mode in order for it to be meaningful and truly reciprocal for the person with deafblindness and their communication partner.

Hearing and sighted persons are often not very aware of their tactile sense. To become competent partners of people who are deafblind, they need to understand what it means to rely on their sense of touch, as people who are deafblind must do. To experience the complexity and richness of the tactile world, they need to develop skills for themselves in using tactile communication.

Therefore, among the topics of the preconference are the tactile sense, tactile awareness and experience, tactile comfort and culture, tactile exploration, establishment and continuation of meaningful tactile contact and communication, tactile traces and narrative, and tactile access to language and environment.

The participants will view the movie ‘Landscape of Touch’, participate in exercises, presentations and discussions and get access to staff training suggestions and further resources.

Needless to say that we look forward exchanging images, knowledge, ideas and stories with the participants! You are invited to attend this pre-conference. For more information refer to the XV DbI Conference website or the DbI website. For pre-conference registration contact the Brazil organizing committee by email.

We look forward seeing you!

Paul Hart


Over the last half year, we have been working on an application for funding to produce a DVD. We are very grateful to Sense Scotland, Perkins School for the Blind/ Hilton-Perkins Program and Andebu Dovblindesenter, for their positive answer and their contribution! The DVD is designed to inspire families and professionals in their efforts to meet the deafblind person in the tactile world. The DVD will be presented as a training tool as well.

In October 2007, during an intense working week in Glasgow, filmmaker Andy Crossan and manager of IT Gareth Alexander joined us for the technical aspect of our work. In January 2008 we will have our next meeting in Boston.