mySense 2015

mySense logomySense (formerly Growing Stronger Together and Members' Day) is the annual conference that brings our members together to share their experiences, socialise with one another and gain new information. In 2015, this event took place on 6-7 November at Conference Aston in Birmingham.

You can follow #mySense2015 updates live from the event on Twitter:

The programme consisted of a variety of workshops, information stalls, social time and a Leisure Club which enabled parents and carers to participate in the conference whilst deafblind people and siblings enjoyed a fun and active day.

mySense 2015

Young man and woman at a mySense event

The theme for 2015 year was Friendship – our friendships are amongst the most valuable relationships we have. They bring joy and happiness, reduce stress, improve confidence, provide support at times of crisis, and are an essential part of a person's wellbeing.

Sense has found that people with deafblindness can experience difficulties in making and maintaining friendships and this can impact their lives in a profound way.

The Programme

There was a hugely varied and creative programme for the event.  Whether you wanted to get active, learn and discuss, or help Sense shape future plans – there was something for everyone.

Participants were able to attend two out of three workshop sessions.  Here is an overview of the programme and workshops in 2015.

Day Programme

Registration and coffee

Welcome - Housekeeping / communication check,  Gill Morbey, CEO

Opening plenary / Sense an update and friendship, Gill Morbey, CEO

Chair Yoga for all taster session (1) Richard Kravetz

Social prescribing - a Sense run project which overcomes friendship barriers.
Nicola Venus-Balgobin, Project Manager, Older People with Dual Sensory Loss Programme

Coffee break

12 noon
Workshop session 1 (5 sessions, 1 hour long)

Lunch and exhibitions

Workshop session 2 (5 sessions, 1 hour long)

Workshop session 3 (5 sessions, 1 hour long)

Coffee break

Closing plenary / Summary of day and next steps, Richard Kramer, Deputy CEO

End of day

Session 1

  • Introducing the Accessible Information Standard: your new rights in health and social care, Sarah White
  • Virtual friendships – a social media guide, Joff McGill
  • Chair yoga for all - taster session, Richard Kravetz
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and other benefit changes: be prepared (1), Svetlana Kotova
  • A worldwide family network, Lilias Liston

Session 2

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and other benefit changes: be prepared (2), Svetlana Kotova
  • Gathering of Sense Groups, Josie Bell
  • Employment, Katherine Watson, Seashell Trust
  • Dance and Movement taster session (1), Becca Thomas and Becky Pringle
  • Play Inquiry, A'Ishah Waheed 

Session 3

  • PLAY. A practical session around play for parents (and early interactions), Anne Cheesbrough
  • Sense an update - our strategy, Richard Kramer and Kris Murali
  • Next Generation Text Relay Service – Using smartphones, tablets and computers to make your telephones calls more accessible, Donna Corrigan, Steven Morris, Janet Caldwell, and Joff McGill
  • The Care Act - your rights, Sue Brown
  • Dance and Movement taster session (2), Becca Thomas and Becky Pringle

A woman with a young girl playing a piano

Workshops Detail

Introducing the Accessible Information Standard: your new rights in health and social care

Sarah White, Sense Policy Officer
In July 2015 it was announced that the Accessible Information Standard had been approved.  The Standard sets out how health and social care providers must identify, record and meet the information and communication needs of those who use their services.  This workshop will give an overview of the Standard and outline your new rights to information in accessible formats and communication support.   

Next Generation Text Relay Service – Using smartphones, tablets and computers to make your telephones calls more accessible
Donna Corrigan, Steven Morris, Janet Caldwell, and Joff McGill
The next generation text relay service from BT allows people to use a variety of devices to make telephone calls via a relay assistant. Learn how the system works and what the options are and then we'll give it a try in this session using an android smartphone that you will get to take home!

Chair Yoga For All taster session
Richard Kravetz, Special Needs Yoga Teacher & Therapist, Special Yoga Teacher Training & Chair Yoga Instructor
Exploring how Chair yoga can be used therapeutically and effectively for all individuals, whatever their ability. This will include offering practical solutions to how movements and postures can be adjusted and used to make them accessible to students who may be impaired by physical or sensory restrictions. This a practical session involving stretches, breath and movement and examining how these can be adapted to be within the compass of everyone. Yoga For All involves simplifying and slowing down known yoga postures and reinforcing through repetition and clear language to enable all abilities to participate, irrespective of any label or condition.

The Care Act – Your rights
Sue Brown, Head of Public Policy, Sense
From 1 April your rights to support from social services are covered by the Care Act. This brings in new rights for carers, a new transition assessment, new rights to advocacy and clarifies how assessments should be carried out, including the role of interpreters. The approach should be more personalised and give you more choice and control. Come and find out more about your rights to care and support and how you can make sure your council knows what they should be providing.

Personal Independence Payment and other benefit changes: be prepared
Svetlana Kotova, Policy and Campaigns Advisor, Sense
This session will give an overview of the upcoming benefits changes which will have an impact on deafblind people and their families. In particular it will look in a greater detail at the Personal Independence Payment as from October 2015 it has been rolled out to existing working age DLA claimants. This session will give you information and tools to ensure you are prepared for the future changes to benefits.

Dance and Movement taster session
Becca Thomas and Becky Pringle, Dance Artists
This will be a fun session where participants will dance with sensory props, on their own, and with others. We will start with a gentle warm up and move on to more lively dances when we are all comfortable and ready. A mixture of taught movements and free improvisation. No previous experience necessary. All welcome.

A worldwide family network
Lilias Liston, Sense member
The Deafblind world can be small and at times families can feel isolated. I am a mum with an 18 year old deafblind son. In the summer I was lucky enough to attend a World Deafblind conference and, for perhaps the first time, I realised we are part of a worldwide Deafblind community; I had an overwhelming feeling that this was a place where my family can fit in.

With other families I want to see a worldwide network of families with the initial purpose of exchanging information and ideas and making friends across countries. If you are interested in getting involved come to this session - we need your ideas and help to make this dream happen.

The Sensory Mobile is a trailer unit packed with interactive technology creating a flexible immersive multisensory environment.  Features include interactive touch screen video wall, interactive floor, dynamic ambient lighting, sound system, sensory lighting, vibration, scent and wind.  In its simplest form SensoryMobile creates a comforting oasis of calm for people of all ages. As a dynamic learning environment occupants can travel anywhere in time or place for adventures and experiences that would otherwise be out of reach.

Play Inquiry - Focus Group with Parents
A'Ishah Waheed, Campaigns Assistant in Public Policy Team
Sense is running a public inquiry into the provision of play opportunities. Play is an essential part of every child’s life. Despite this, we know that children with multiple needs often do not get the same opportunities to play as other children. We will be undertaking a focus group for parents to find out more about what works and what needs to change.

Katherine Watson, Job Coach, Seashell Trust
This presentation addresses work experience and supported employment options for deafblind people in ways which enable them to earn equitable wages and other employment benefits, develop new skills and make meaningful choices about their careers. It will explore Seashell Trust’s three stage approach to supported employment, the need for training and support, and ways in which Royal College Manchester’s curriculum develops work skills. The session will also include several case studies of former students who have progressed to employment and the college’s adapted supported internship.

Sense an update – our strategy
Richard Kramer, Deputy Chief Executive, Sense, and Kris Murali, Group Director Finance and Resources, Sense
This session is your chance to talk to those at the top of Sense. What are the organisation’s priorities? Our plans for 2016? And how can you get more involved? This workshop is about answering questions, generating ideas, and having your voice heard.

Groups and Communities – sharing ideas and practice
Josie Bell, Family and Branches Liaison Officer, Sense
This session will provide an opportunity to hear about Sense groups and branches and learn more about what they do and where and how they operate. Come ready to share highlights, challenges, and ideas with a view to encouraging new membership and ways of supporting one another.

Get Online Today
Joff McGill, Head of Information, Advice and Research, Sense
A session for people who are not online but want to be. Be inspired by two people (Molly Watt and Ian Huggett) who use social media and digital technology to stay informed, connect with others and raise awareness. And then get online yourself, or commit to support someone else to get online.

Information stalls

Information stalls is a place where Sense projects and opportunities, other organisations and products will be on show.

60:60 Vision campaign
Liz Ball, Sense Campaigns Involvement Officer, and Catrin Edwards, Policy and Campaigns Officer (Wales)

Imagine you can travel forward in time to 2075.  What do you want the world to be like? Come and find out about our 60:60 Vision campaign to create inclusive, enabling and positive futures. Take part in our fun 60:60 Vision story competition – there's a prize to be won!

A Sense pop-up charity shop
Jane Warden, Shop Manager, Sense
Sense Trading will be selling wares in a colourful and tactile pop-up charity shop. Whether you fancy a spot of shopping or you have a question for the people who run our shops, come and say hello.

Sense in the West Midlands
Krystyna Cieslik, Assessment and Advice Worker, Sense
This stall will present information about everything that is going on within the West Midlands Community Support Services, including Short breaks, outdoor pursuits, sports-based youth groups, garden room activities, arts and wellbeing events, the GOT Group Warwickshire and the new branch that is starting up.

Deafblind Children, law and policy: your questions answered
Svetlana Kotova, Policy and Campaigns Advisor, Sense
Come and find out about the recent policy changes that can have an impact on deafblind children and their families, including The Children and Families Act 2014, which changed the way children with special educational needs are supported.   At this stall you can learn about your rights and how to enforce them.  The stall will also feature Sense's Play campaign and have some fun activities to enable you to contribute to it.

Café 55
Jane Tucker, Volunteer and Café 55 Manager, Sense
Sense run Café 55 is supported by deafblind volunteers, enabling those who work there to gain work experience and contribute to Sense and their local community. All the way from Exeter Café 55 will be selling jams, jellies and other goodies. Stock up in time for Christmas!

Sense Information & Advice: A-one-stop-shop
Carolyn Henning Brodersen, Head of Information and Advice and Anna McGee, Head of Research, Sense
We are here to answer your questions about Sense. Ask us how you can get involved, how Sense can support you and how you can help the charity. Perhaps you have a question about fundraising, campaigning or about our services. Perhaps you have something to offer, or want to talk to us about getting an idea off the ground. We are here to listen and support you to do more.

Straight-talking advice for specialist technology
Chris Fox, ICT Project and Assessment Officer, Sense
Would you like to have your questions answered regarding specialist technology? Chris Fox from Sense's technology team is offering straight-talking, jargon-free technology advice. Whether you need help with your existing technology and software, or are thinking of making that all-important purchase, Chris will be able to help you and your family make the right choices and get the most out of your gadgets. If he can't answer your questions on the day (it's unlikely!), he will work with you after the event to find a solution. 

Sense Active
Ian Carpenter, National Sports Manager, Sense, and Callen Barber, Regional Sports Coordinator, Sense
Find out about a range of different sports and physical activity opportunities taking places across London and the West Midlands. Our National Sport Manager Ian Carpenter and Regional Sports Coordinator for the West Midlands Callan Barber will be able to answer all your questions about activities and where you might be able to take part.

Speaker profiles

Donna Corrigan, Technology Coordinator, Sense
Donna Corrigan is responsible for embedding the use of technology by deafblind people across Sense. This involves monitoring, evaluating and influencing technological developments that offer assistance to deafblind people and their families. Donna is a fully qualified audiologist and hearing aid dispenser who practiced clinically until joining Sense in 2013.

Sarah White, Policy Officer, Sense
Sarah is the Health Policy Officer for Sense and leads on our work with NHS England and the Department of Health.  She has been closely involved with the development of the Accessible Information Standard and is a member of NHS England's advisory group.  Prior to working for Sense, Sarah worked for the NHS as an audiologist.

Richard Kravetz Bsc BWY DIP, Special Needs Yoga Teacher & Therapist, Special Yoga Teacher Training & Chair Yoga Instructor
Richard has been teaching Yoga for over 20 years to adults and children with special needs. He is a certified Yoga for Special People therapist and leader of specialised training courses at Special Yoga Foundation London.

Sue Brown, Head of Public Policy, Sense
Sue Brown has worked in the disability sector for over 15 years and has been Head of Public Policy at Sense for over 11 years. Sue was involved in lobbying and campaigning for changes in the Care Act as it was being developed.

Svetlana Kotova, Policy and Campaigns Advisor, Sense
Svetlana is responsible for Sense's policy work in relation to benefits. She also has experience in advising people about their individual cases and supporting deafblind people to dispute decisions about their benefits.

Becca Thomas and Becky Pringle, Dance Artists
Becca and Becky are trained contemporary dancers with extensive experience in community and inclusive dance. They are part of a team of dancers who have been delivering regular movement sessions with Sense at Birmingham Hippodrome. 

Lilias ListonA woman and young man with a guide dog at a mySense event
Longstanding Sense member and mum to 18-year-old Fearghas. Lilias has an interest in starting a Deafblind International family network – where ideas and information can be shared across countries, and opportunities for friendship created.

Katherine Watson, Job Coach, Seashell Trust
Katherine Watson has worked at Seashell Trust since 2013. Before taking on the role of Job Coach at Royal College Manchester Katherine worked as the college’s Transition Coordinator and has supported over 55 students to transition into adult life. As a job coach, Katherine is responsible for developing employment opportunities for the college students and works closely with local businesses to ensure that these opportunities meet the needs of both students and employers.
Katherine has worked to develop pathways to support young people around future planning, employment and services, and is passionate about promoting employment opportunities for young people with complex needs.



First published: Wednesday 11 November 2015
Updated: Tuesday 20 December 2016