We are proud to announce that the 18th International Mobility Conference (IMC18) will be held in Warsaw, Poland from 22 through 26 may 2023. The prestigious IMC18 is being organized by the Chance for the Blind Foundation together with Polish universities and other organizations working on behalf of blind and visually impaired people. In preparation, the Chance for the Blind Foundation has established an Organizing Committee and a Scientific Program Committee. The Organizing Committee will manage conference logistics and accompanying attractions and events, and the Scientific Program Committee will work to ensure that all conference proceedings are of the highest professional quality and practical relevance.
The first International Mobility Conference was held in 1979 in Frankfurt, Germany. Since then, it has gained a reputation as the premiere conference for professionals working for the benefit of blind and partially sighted people. The International Mobility Conference takes place approximately every two to three years and is held in different countries around the world. It is attended by both academic professionals and practitioners in the broadly defined field of rehabilitation of the blind.
The theme of IMC18 is “information, resulting in mobility and ability”. The Chance for the Blind Foundation believes that access to information is crucial to the advancement of blind persons. After all, access to information enables blind and visually impaired people to travel independently to work, go shopping, or watch a play in the theater or a film in the cinema. We realize that the conference theme is very broad; however, we believe that IMC18’s innovative presentations and interdisciplinary character offer a unique opportunity to discuss crosscutting advances in rehabilitation and orientation and mobility for blind and partially sighted children and adults.
We cordially invite you to participate in IMC18 and help break down barriers facing blind and visually impaired people around the world.
History of the IMC Gathering
by Nurit Neustadt-Noy
IMC started by Dennis Cory, an American who moved to Marburg to improve his German speaking skills, there he was introduced to the idea of rehabilitation of people who are blind. He returned to the USA for a degree in O&M. After having competed his education, he returned to Germany with his wife Pamela and along with two colleagues, whom they met in Marburg, founded IRIS in Hamburg. IRIS provided training in O&M, ADL and Low Vision, both for Germany and for European German speaking countries. Dennis, who is known for his love of beer drinking, decided to get together with O&M colleagues from Germany and neighboring counties in Frankfurt at a brewery. Dennis holds the idea that beer should be consumed not further than 400 meters from the brewery it was brewed at and best in term of quality and quantity to drink it right at the brewery. About 70 people attended the beer party drinking and having a good time as they discussed O&M issues. Dennis invited an American colleague to present a key note during the gathering. He named the gathering International Mobility Conference as there were participants from a few European countries. Apparently, it went very well and left everyone with a taste for another such meeting. The meeting generated a proceeding publication. About 2 years later the French O&M Association invited the crowd to Paris for the second IMC. The meeting in Paris attracted more participants and was organized in the format of a “classic” conference mode. Dennis along with many other beer lovers toured the local bars at nights. Two years later the school for the blind in Vienna hosted the IMC which was indeed very formal and was held at the Vienna UN Center with attendance of about 200 participants. A few American presenters were present. This was the first IMC I attended. During the conference I was approached and asked if I would be interested in holding the following IMC in Jerusalem. The conference was held on the beautiful Hebrew University in Jerusalem with the benefits of an academic campus where I was on the faculty. This was the first time there was a real international gathering with participants from 24 countries including Asian, African, European, Australia Japan and a large delegation form USA. We were lucky to receive a nice quantity of wine and beer from a local doner to make everyone happy at the evenings’ events. The next IMC took place in The Netherlands where many participants were from the Benelux. We were introduced for the first time to the Dutch special technique using the long cane crossing streets. The following IMC took place in Spain hosted by ONCE (National Organization of the Blind). Our Spanish colleagues shared with participants their methods and technologies they developed inhouse. At the time ONCE was a wealthy corporate that could afford hosting colleagues from Spanish speaking countries most whom were from Latin America. We had great presentations and night parties. The Gala dinner is to be remembered by all. Most delicious seven course elegant presentation. Then came Melbourne Australia, so different in many ways and great information was shared with majority of participants from Far-East.
The conference which took place in Trondheim, Norway happens to be during the longest daylight season and at the time of the Norwegian Independence Day celebrations. O&M specialists from the Nordic countries were well represented and shared with the participants their style of teaching O&M. There was no night time darkness at all and we went on for 24 hours a day with high adrenaline. Emphasis was put on research as well as on techniques in ice and snowy weather. A two-volume proceeding book was provided to participants. Atlanta, Georgia USA followed with the American size conference which is beyond the European scope. For the first time we had a dialog with Dog Guide trainers along with the traditional teaching of O&M skill and teaching technique. A higher focus was put on O&M research studies. The book of proceeding was ready at registration which was surprising after it took over a year and a half to provide the book of proceeding covering the papers presented in Jerusalem and not much less time for the books edited in Norway. In Atlanta for the first time IMC offered the Suterko-Cory Award. From the USA, IMC moved back to Europe and gathered in England where the conference was hosted in Coventry. It was a chance to visit the English methods of teaching O&M. This event was coordinated with the International Guide Dog Federation conference which took place back-to-back with IMC, offering greater collaboration between the two disciplines. From England IMC went to university in Stellenbosch, South Africa, which provided an opportunity to O&M specialist from the continent to take part in discussions with specialist coming from far and to be exposed to local methods, the unique local long cane and research in O&M instruction. Hong Kong was the next IMC stop with high volume of Chinese participants and again range of ideas introduced. For the first time a great focus was put on accessibility for the benefit of people with visual impairments and the advancement of public environments. From Hong Kong IMC moved back to Germany where IMC first started. This time hosted at Marburg School for the Blind, which addressed working with children and young adults. From there IMC gathered again in the southern hemisphere, this time in Palmerston North, New Zealand. It was a very special occasion to be introduced to the university level teaching done at the local university. The next IMC stop was in Montreal in the beautiful summer season with a lot of street activities after session hours. The presentations and agencies visits were stimulating and inspiring. Dublin was next for IMC with a wonderful opportunity to view the local agencies provide services in O&M and international technologies.
The last IMC meeting was a virtual gathering due to Covid epidemic. It was very different but most of us were already experienced after a year of isolation to communicate and gather via zoom. The local host committee from Gothenburg University, Sweden had to deal with converting the IMC gathering from face to face to zoom method with great presentations and opportunity for social interactions.
IMC 2023 meeting is to take place in Warsaw Poland, hosted by Chance for the Blind organization. No doubt this will be a great opportunity for an exchange of knowledge and experience among the participants. Poland was one of the first European countries the legendary American O&M pioneer Stanley Suterko traveled to hold an O&M seminar. One of the participants of this seminar will be present at IMC18. Jacek Kwapisz and Jadwiga Kuczyńska-Kwapisz are regarded as the pioneers of O&M in Poland. We are all looking forward to soon meet longtime friends, make new networks, learn about educational practices of O&M in Poland, and the newest technologies in O&M from around the world and have a good time.
From the IMC Handbook:
IMC1 – Frankfurt, Germany (1979)
IMC2 – Paris, France (1981)
IMC3 – Vienna, Austria (1983)
IMC4 – Jerusalem, Israel (1986)
IMC5 – Veldhoven, The Netherlands (1989)
IMC6 – Madrid, Spain (1991)
IMC7 – Melbourne, Australia (1994)
IMC8 – Trondheim, Norway (1996)
IMC9 – Atlanta, Georgia, USA (1998)
IMC10 – Coventry, England (2000)
IMC11 – Stellenbosch, South Africa (2003)
IMC12 – Hong Kong, China (2006)
IMC13 – Marburg, Germany (2009)
IMC14 – Palmerston North, New Zealand (2012)
IMC15 – Montreal, Canada (2015)
IMC16 – Dublin, Ireland (2017)
IMC17 – virtual conference from Gothenburg, Sweden (2021)