Enjoying the Views from Vancouver

The 2008 International Seating Symposium Combines Education with Networking Opportunities (& Geography Lessons) from Around the World

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — You know you’re at the International Seating Symposium (ISS) when the person you’re sitting next to in the morning plenary session is from Iceland, and the speaker, Sue McCabe, OT, starts off by showing a map of Australia and pointing out her home of Perth (as McCabe explained, Perth is on the west coast of Australia, like Vancouver…but warmer and flatter).

You also know you’re at ISS when you’re treated to educational sessions on topics as different and fascinating as sleep disorders in people with disabilities (McCabe, The Centre for Cerebral Palsy), The Impact of Early Powered Mobility on Young Children’s Play & Psychosocial Skills (Jan Furumasu, PT/ATP, Rancho Los Amigos, Downey, Calif.), and Does Postural Support Influence Ability to Perform Attention Tasks in Children with Cerebral Palsy? (Dr. David Porter, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom).

Such cutting-edge seating & mobility research and the chances to share and discuss it were the norm for this 24th edition of ISS, which is hosted by Interprofessional Continuing Education at the University of British Columbia in even-numbered years (the University of Pittsburgh hosts in the United States in odd-numbered years). This year’s event returned to the Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina, aptly named for its stunning view of mountains and water. According to event organizers, about 750 people attended the symposium, with another 100 attending only the exhibit hall.

Education comes in many forms at ISS. On the show’s main two days — March 6 and 7 — mornings started with symposium participants gathering en masse to hear opening remarks and three plenary sessions. Those were followed by simultaneous paper and/or poster presentations, as well as lengthier instructional sessions; attendees registered for sessions of their choice. A glance at the event syllabus showed the wide scope of topics, from Aging with a Disability: Update on Current Research & Clinical Practices to Craniopagus Conjoined Twins: The Journey. Intensive day-long workshops preceded the symposium start.

On March 6-7, the exhibit hall was open to introduce and explain new assistive technology, or in some cases to give attendees a closer look at the technology discussed in educational sessions. One such example was a Friday paper session by Dr. Michael Hahn, who discussed Effects of Dynamic Wheelchair Seating in Children with Cerebral Palsy. The mobility system used in the study — the Kids ROCK Active chair — was on display in The A.R.T. Group’s booth. (Hahn reported that a study of children with cerebral palsy who used the chair’s dynamic seating system, which allows some movement while the child is seated, “showed no negative effects, but rather improvements in each measure,” such as range of motion in hips and knees).

Next year’s ISS returns to the Buena Vista Palace in Orlando, March 12-14 (with pre-conference workshops on March 10-11). Go to www.iss.pitt.edu/ for more information. Those who feel as if this is a long way off, beware: The deadline is May 30 for presentation proposals!

In 2010, ISS arrives in Vancouver right before the Paralympic Winter Games, which will take place in Vancouver, Whistler and Richmond, British Columbia.

This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Mobility Management.

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