February 8, 2018Byline: David EisenbergMembers, friends and leaders of the deafblind community will come together in the United States this spring, all with the shared goal of defining a cross-continental roadmap to inclusivity. The first-ever Network of the Americas Conference, hosted by Perkins School for the Blind and Deafblind International (DbI), will take place from April 15-18 in Hyannis, Massachusetts. There, attendees hailing from North, South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, will have the opportunity to network and take in speeches delivered by a diverse lineup of experts on important issues facing people who are deafblind. Here are five things you should know about this highly anticipated event: Perkins hasn’t hosted a conference of this magnitude on U.S. soil in more than two decades. It was 1997 when Perkins last hosted a national conference in its home country. This time, the event will be even bigger, bringing people together from across the Western Hemisphere. “It’s something the field has been clamoring for,” said Marianne Riggio, director of the Educational Leadership Program at Perkins International. “It’s a chance to step back from what you do every day, how you think every day and refocus on the big picture.” It will explore the theme of lifelong learning through partnerships. Because there’s no singular definition of “partnership,” this idea will mean different things throughout the summit. Speakers will explore partnerships within families and examine how partnerships can shape inclusion in society for people who are deafblind. Ultimately, they’ll discuss how to measure success through partnerships. The theme fit, added Riggio, because, “We don’t do anything by ourselves.” The event coincides with, and supports, a broader global movement. Though the Network of the Americas banner was established as a vehicle for this conference in particular, this isn’t a standalone event. Co-host DbI hosts many opportunities around the world, including a world conference every four years. The next world conference is scheduled for 2019, followed by another regional conference in 2021. That means attendee voices and ideas expressed this April are likely to become part of the ongoing global conversation around issues facing people who are blind and deafblind. True to its name, the conference will travel. Four years from now, when the second Network of the Americas conference is scheduled to take place, attendees will find themselves in new territory. Whether they wind up somewhere in Latin America, on the Gulf of Mexico, in a Canadian province or elsewhere remains to be seen. Those who make the trip to Massachusetts this April will have the unique opportunity to contribute to the conversation surrounding the future of the event itself. And finally, it’s not too late to secure a spot. The Network of the Americas Conference is an exciting opportunity to join leaders of the deafblind community in their efforts to create a more inclusive world. Remaining spots for attendees are filling up quickly, however. Get involved today: Registration is open now through March 15.