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March 26, 2004

Deaf Talkabout: Conference seeks 'way forward'

From: Belfast Telegraph, UK - Mar 26, 2004

By Bob McCullough

NEXT Wednesday, March 31, up to 300 people are expected at the RNIDs "Making an Impact" conference in the Ramada Hotel at Shaw's Bridge (10am to 4.30pm).

NI Director Brian Symington told me a few tickets are still available so, if you would like to attend, apply to Jacqui McKerracher at Wilton House. Telephone or text 90 239619, fax 90 312032. Deaf people with tickets have free admittance but the cost for professionals is £50.

The conference debate will be on 'The way forward for deaf and hard of hearing people in Northern Ireland' and it will give decision-makers in government and the voluntary sector an opportunity to listen to your views.

The panel taking questions will include John Low, Chief Executive of the RNID in London; Patricia Lewsley, the newly elected Chair of the SDLP; John Carberry, NI Training Officer; Bronagh Byrne, a young deaf graduate, and Brian himself.

The workshops include talks on Education and Employment by Liz Andrews; Disability and Discrimination with a deaf lawyer from the Netherlands; Rehabilitation with Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and Mary Mitchell; and information about a new project on Mental Health with Dr Margaret Du Feu, a deaf psychiatrist who lost her hearing at 23 years of age after graduating from Cambridge.

This is an exciting time for deaf and hard of hearing in the province and as well as their now well-established interpreting service, the RNID have successfully developed a range of facilities, including new digital hearing aids and the forthcoming screening for new-born babies. Your comments will be welcomed.

Many of us are avidly looking forward to Dr Du Feu's workshop and to hear how she hopes to deal with the mental health problem among deaf and hard of hearing people here.

It is a highly specialised area in which confidentiality and trust have high priority.

This has been a thorny problem in past years because of the difficulty of finding a psychiatrist able to talk with deaf people without the help of an interpreter.

England has two centres specialising in this work and in the past, Northern Ireland patients needing treatment had to travel there by boat or plane, with Margaret and other specialists only visiting the province when required.

It will be interesting to see if we can have a permanent centre of our own.

• Big changes are also taking place in the BDA organisation as its staff increases and it prepares to move to new offices in Belfast. If you are interested in finding out more come to the open meeting in Wilton House at 7pm tonight.

BDA Chair, Doug Alker, is travelling from London to explain some of the changes and officiate as the new Northern Ireland Deaf Association is formally set up. All deaf people are very welcome.

© 2004 Independent News and Media (NI) a division of Independent News & media (UK) Ltd