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APH Outreach Attends Southeastern Deafblind Collaborative Conference

A ballroom filled with round tables. People are seated and looking forward at a presentation on a set of large screens.

As APH’s Outreach Specialist for the Southeast, I attended and participated in the first Connections: Learning from Each Other Conference. The conference was organized by the Southeastern Deafblind Collaborative, which is a partnership of many of the Deafblind State discretionary projects.  The event was held in Huntsville, Alabama at the Westin Hotel bringing together 150 participants and was a culmination of many months of planning, emerging from the need to connect after more than 2 years of isolation due to the pandemic. The conference not only brought together professionals in the field of Deafblindness, but also included parents, families, and children from the deafblind community.

Jeff in a purple APH shirt speaks from behind a podium. An ASL interpreter stands next to him.

The Preconference on June 9th, 2022 brought a day of learning and fun with Gwyn McCormack, from Positive Eye United Kingdom. In the morning session, participants learned from Gwyn about how to take a holistic, practical approach to everyday experiences to bring literacy to life beyond typical story books for young students with complex learning needs. The afternoon session covered the story of Gwyn’s journey in creating her interactive model of the “Story Time Show” and how its success pushed her to continue the journey and development of the Sparkly Stories Library.

The official conference began that same evening with a diverse family panel sharing the real stories of the challenges they’ve faced in the world, having children with various forms of Deafblindness. Having the opportunity to come together, there was a true sense of sharing and belonging to a group that will likely form lifelong bonds.

A panel of 8 people sit at the front of a room. A sign language interpreter stands behind them.

The next two days were packed with fantastic information and sharing on topics ranging from auditory and visual functioning, educational programming, physical motor development’s impact on learning, to sessions on interpreting and interveners and immerging communication techniques from the deafblind community. The event closed with an expert panel of the presenters with open Q&A.  Lively and emotionally charged conversations occurred about presentation topics, struggles with services, IEPs, and best practices.

As the APH representative, I brought a range of products such as the Tactile Connections Kit, STACS Kit to some of our high-tech solutions, such as the Mantis Q40, Chameleon 20 and Juno portable magnifier. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to have conversations with families and professionals, many of whom were not familiar with APH and our mission to serve all individuals identified with vision loss, including those with complex needs including Deafblindness.

A tabe full of APH products. A pink banner in the background reads "Build a future that welcomes everyone." An APH logo is shown on a table runner.


Interested in connecting with an APH team member at upcoming conferences? Find out where we’ll be this summer.


Jeff Schwartz is APH’s Outreach Specialist for the Southeast Region.

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