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  • Paulina Malcolm

Life story work practice with Deaf sign language users living with dementia

(and a reminder of the importance of seeking out your community’s existing assets).

Last Thursday, October 3rd, the CRPD had the privilege of hosting Dr. Emma Ferguson-Coleman from the University of Manchester for a colloquium on her work with Deaf sign language users living with dementia. The very personal stories of families in the UK who face multiple barriers to care and support were shared alongside instances of joy and connection made possible through the power of reconnection with old memories. Through exploring what determines personally meaningful memories for a Deaf person living with dementia, Dr. Ferguson-Coleman facilitated the repairing process of existing social bonds within families.


Dr. Ferguson-Coleman has helped shed light on ongoing issues within our wider communities concerning stigma against dementia and stigma against the Deaf community. Understanding how these stigmas intersect and affect different individuals living within various social circles is critical to working towards eliminating obstacles to accessing support.


Each attendee of Dr. Ferguson-Coleman’s presentation entered the room with a different understanding of what it might mean to be a Deaf sign language user living with dementia, but all attendees shared a common goal—to learn from Dr. Ferguson-Coleman and connect with other curious individuals.

An unexpected result of this colloquium was in line with exactly what CRPD colloquiums strive to achieve. Connections within the audience were fostered through discussion—both professional and deeply personal. Health care providers working in the Vancouver area within different capacities, including social workers and recreational therapists, shared current problems being faced in their practice and received support and the promise of collaboration to achieve better care for clients in need. Sometimes it may take the words of someone visiting from many miles away for us to become aware of assets already existing in our local communities. This is a reminder of the importance of seeking out local community assets and making your own assets accessible to fellow community members.


As our discussion came to a close, the lights in the room—controlled by motion sensors—clicked off. As Dr. Ferguson-Coleman described, someone may flash overhead lights on and off to signal one’s attention within the Deaf community. This capture of attention mirrored the informative and motivating outcomes of Dr. Ferguson-Coleman’s presentation. We welcome her back anytime.

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