“Meet and Greet” Notes, 30 June 2018
David Wilson, Chairperson Deafblind Association NZ Charitable Trust, welcomed members of the deafblind community, interpreters, whānau, the full Board and Executive Officer. We had a roll call. Very importantly Dave also thanked Jeanette for her kai capability and keeping us so well nourished! Dave explained that this was an informal opportunity to bring forward questions, to share concerns, and identify priorities.
Present from the deafblind community were:
- 2 identifying as deafblind in the region
- 2 identifying as deafblind Board Members
- 1 identifying as deafblind Executive Officer
- 4 interpreters
- 1 whānau
- 3 Board Members
- 1 patron!
It was noted that some people had also attended the Helen Keller Day celebrations that week so may not have wanted to come to two functions, that transport may be an issue, and that coming to Christchurch is difficult for people around the country. The Board will be addressing these issues.
Given the disclosures in an environment built on trust at the time, names and residential locations would not be minuted in this report. People shared relationships already formed in terms of who had met before and where. Time was given to this so people could be very clear about names, whether they had met before, and what organisations they represent. Initially there was some confusion, but we soon relaxed into shared stories and conversation all could learn from.
Dave asked about the Deafblind Camp last year. Feedback was offered:
- Great being able to interact in our preferred communication style
- Great opportunity to connect with other deafblind
- Great to have meals together and chat, too, because we shared interpreting skills with whoever was around
- Great to have support person for the plane trip
- Some activities okay but others a bit long or didn’t really like them, but mostly around being able to choose how long we wanted to participate
- One person did not attend because they were not confident support would be available, appropriate, and affordable
- Too many cold meals like salad in winter and would have preferred soup, and another prefers Italian food – we talked about what we like and sometimes don’t have a choice over
- Staff were great!
Dave noticed how animated one person became when talking about the Deafblind Camp. Another was silent as they had concerns and did not attend because they were not sure about appropriate support in advance far enough to make a decision.
What we want more of in our lives that could possibly, but not necessarily, be incorporated into the Deafblind Camp:
- Computer skills
- Communication skills
- First Aid
- Café culture
- Anywhere new
- Indoor swimming
In discussion around what we want in our lives, it became apparent the deafblind hadn’t connected on a one-to-one with Blind Foundation staff in respect of Deafblind Services as often as they would want, and in one instance it had been 18 months to two years. The question was asked, Who is out there for us and what are the deficits? Further, it was expressed that the staff lacked training re doing a Needs Assessment. This led to an expression that residential care staff not only lacked training but it went far beyond that.
During disclosure of experiences of residential abuse that, it would be fair to say, shocked many and commanded full focus, we were advised that Ruth Dyson, our patron, had entered the room.
The details were graphic. Further, no professional help, including counselling, had been offered following incidents – whether counselling was wanted or not, a choice wasn’t offered. Discussion then moved to Standards and Monitoring Service. They go into residential facilities but what story do they see? Who is going to believe the person who has been abused? Are appropriate communication styles used in a physically and emotionally safe environment? Who is going to help? The Board agreed to put this into the annual Work Plan.
Feelings of isolation surfaced, and the desire to meet more people, especially other deafblind persons, to share experiences with. Geographically, deafblind communities tend to be small, and the opportunities to meet others from around the country are limited. It was suggested that Zoom Cloud meetings could be set up, supported by Deafblind Association NZ, to enable people to connect and identify with people in other areas. The support of Deafblind Coordinators from the Blind Foundation will also be sought.
When the cake arrived with candles to celebrate David Wilson’s birthday (it’s one with a zero at the end), there were opportunities to mix and mingle by everyone present, and interpreters facilitated this.