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Dr. Bonnie Sawatzky co-hosts seating symposium in NZ

A pōwhiri ceremony opened the conference

ICORDian Dr. Bonita Sawatzky travelled to New Zealand in November to co-host the inaugural Oceania Seating Symposium. The purpose of the conference was to bring state-of-the-art concepts and latest technologies in seating and mobility to professionals (clinicians and researchers), manufacturers, suppliers and users of wheeled mobility, seating and postural management, and associated technologies.

Dr. Sawatzky called the event “an amazing convergence of individuals passionate about issues related to seating and mobility.” The conference was held at the Energy Event Centre in Rotorua on the Tamaki land of the Māori people, and it opened with a Pōwhiri ceremony. This involved a tangata whenua (people of the land) welcoming the manuhiri (visitors) to the area and the conference. Dr. Sawatzky describes the event:

We were led into the conference through the ceremonial doors by the local Māori people, where a local school group did a welcome. We were hosted the entire three days by a Māori elder couple, called a Kaumātua. The gentleman elder had had a spinal cord injury in the 1980s, and thus was very engaged in our meeting. The dinner included a special presentation by a Maori family, which include the traditional Haka. We closed the conference by handing over a ceremonial carving, which was passed on to the Australian organizing committee of the next OSS in 2019.

Dr. Bonita Sawatzky testing a new mobility device at the conference

The three-day event drew more than 300 international academic experts and clinical specialists from eleven countries, but mainly from New Zealand and Australia, and included more than 75 presentations, with excellent keynotes and fourteen poster presentations.

This conference was run in partnership with the International Seating Symposium, which is held in Vancouver every other year at the Westin Bayshore and is considered one of the premier meetings in the world for dedicated clinicians, researchers, manufacturers, and others who work to improve seating and mobility among people with disabilities. Dr. Sawatzky has been involved with the organizing committee of the ISS since 2000 and has witnessed its steady growth. The initial meeting in 1983 had 98 participants and eleven exhibitors, with a real focus on “seating the disabled.” By 2016, it had grown to over 1,100 participants from 27 countries and over 110 exhibitors. The ISS has partner conferences around the world, including the U.S., Ireland, Brazil, and now Oceania.

The next ISS will take place in Vancouver March 6-9, 2018, with the theme of Consumers Informing Practice. The conference is open to clinicians, engineers, researchers, and consumers. The exhibit hall is open on the first day (Tuesday, March 6) and is free for consumers to visit exhibitors and see the latest technologies available.

“You are welcome to register for the conference or just come and see the exhibits!” invites Dr. Sawatzky.

Click here to visit the ISS website.