RIDBC prize winners in innovation

Melissa McCarthyMelissa McCarthy has been awarded joint first prize in the 2011 Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize competition

Melissa McCarthy, from the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) has been awarded joint first prize in the 2011 Telstra-TJA Christopher Newell Prize competition.

The competition is judged on the entrant’s ability to demonstrate the tangible benefits that innovative use of broadband or other telecommunications technology can deliver in assisting individuals with disabilities.

Melissa’s article explained how RIDBC Teleschool uses new developments in technology to provide families in rural and regional areas of Australia with greater access to specialist support for their child’s hearing or vision impairment.

“The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children is constantly striving to find innovative ways of supporting children with sensory disability and RIDBC Teleschool is just one example of that innovation,” said Ms McCarthy.

“I’m so honoured to receive this award. It is such an achievement to have Telstra recognise RIDBC’s innovative application of technology.”

Rural families, like the Millers from Maude in NSW, are no longer restricted by the barriers of distance or isolation and can use telecommunications technology to access regular, intensive support in their own home.

Living in a small town with only 30 residents, 780 km southwest of Sydney, has not prevented the Millers from receiving critical early intervention for their son Kristian who is profoundly deaf.

“RIDBC installed special videoconferencing equipment in the family’s home and Kristian and his parents received regular lessons with a specialist RIDBC Teacher/Consultant based in Sydney,” said Ms McCarthy.

“As a result of the family’s hard work and with the aid of specialist teaching and cochlear implants, Kristian, now three years old, has age-appropriate language skills. The RIDBC Teleschool sessions will continue so he is prepared for school,” she added.

Kristian’s mother, Kathryn, is proud of her son’s achievements and says RIDBC Teleschool is not just for children; it is for parents and families, who need support as well.

“Just because we choose to live in rural Australia does not mean we have to be isolated,” said Kathryn. “With videoconferencing right here in the comfort of our own home, we can rest knowing that we have all the help we need to ensure Kristian is making progress and is on the right track.”

The Awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday, 10 May 2011, in Melbourne in conjunction with the Telstra Disability Forum being held on that day.

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children provides vital support to over 970 children with significant hearing and/or vision impairment and their families across Australia. As well, RIDBC provides vision and hearing screening to around 2000 babies and children each year.