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Social Haptic Training – 28 to 29 June

During Deafblind Awareness Week Senses Foundation hosted workshops in Social Haptic Communication presented by Dennis Witcombe of Able Australia.

Social Haptic Communication is a system that was devised by Dr Riitta Lahtinen and her husband Russ Palmer in Finland.  Russ Palmer has Usher Syndrome which has resulted in deafblindness.  Between them Riitta and Russ worked on a system of communication whereby he could receive information and interaction through touch to provide him with a sense of his environment and what was going on around him.

Social Haptic Communication can be broadly defined as the interaction of two or more people in a social context passing messages (or haptices) to provide information about emotion, facial expression, to map out the environment or a room layout and describing other visual or auditory information such as art or music that can be missed when a person has limited or no vision and hearing.

The presenter, Dennis Witcombe, who is both a freelance interpreter, and an in-house interpreter for Able Australia, was
the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship in 2010 to study advanced communication in the Deafblind community. Dennis travelled to Finland spending time with Riitta and Russ being trained in Social Haptics and was funded by Senses to share his expertise with staff and external agencies in Perth.

The workshops were fascinating and lively exploring the possibilities of using social haptics as an additional tool to communicate with people who have a combination of vision and hearing impairments or deafness.

Participants during practical exercises.  Did Karen give George (left image) enough information for him to identify the image on the screen?

Participants engaged in practical exercises

With plenty of practical exercises to think about where the communication system may benefit people in a range of situations, participants were positive and enthusiastic to learn more.

Watch this space!

Further information on Social Haptic Communication can be found on the Finnish Deafblind Associations’s website.