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Innovative research institute furthers global knowledge of deafblindness

23 September 2019

Friday 27 September marks the official opening of the University of Groningen Institute for Deafblindness (UGIDB), dedicated to research and teaching on both congenital and acquired deafblindness. This new, interdisciplinary Groningen-based institute is the first research institute ever to focus exclusively on deafblindness. And its initiator, Marleen Janssen, is the world’s first full professor of deafblindness. The institute is part of the University Ambulatorium Groningen.

In a laboratory positioned at the heart of the institute, researchers use innovative observation and analysis instruments to explore communication, language and cognition among people with congenital and acquired deafblindness. ‘These innovative instruments allow researchers from different academic disciplines to pool their approaches to the study of communication and language. That’s what makes us unique’, explains Marleen Janssen.‘That and the fact that we can track developments longitudinally across the different domains of life.’

Links between the fields of congenital and acquired deafblindness

The institute plans to bring academics and practitioners together in international research consortia focusing on topics such as teaching and rehabilitation, tactile language, cognitive development, communication and language. ‘Congenital deafblindness and acquired deafblindness are two different fields, but it is our express aim to focus on the links between them’, Janssen points out. Another key objective of the institute is to set up a (inter)national ‘deafblindness identification team’ to research deafblindness diagnostic policy and practice in collaboration with teaching hospitals and care institutions.

Making knowledge more widely available

The UG Institute for Deafblindness plans to organize regular international seminars and to encourage the publication of research outputs, to help broaden the accessibility of knowledge about congenital and acquired deafblindness. The institute will also be responsible for the editorship of the open access Journal of Deafblind Studies on Communication .

Unique Master’s degree programme in Deafblindness

The Groningen-based institute invests not only in research but also in teaching. It is already closely involved in the University of Groningen’s international Master’s track in Communication and Deafblindness that has been running for 13 years. In the future, it hopes to also offer pre-Master’s and post-Master’s programmes to students from across the globe on subjects relating to assessment and intervention. These programmes will be developed in collaboration with other universities and care institutions. In due course, the initiators would also like to set up an international PhD programme.

Official opening to include symposium and demonstrations

A symposium will be held on the morning of Friday 27 September at Hét Kasteel conference centre in Groningen to mark the official opening of the institute . The initiator of the institute, Professor Marleen Janssen, will be one of the speakers. Other speakers will include Kees Aarts (Dean of the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences), Ramses Vulperhorst (Kentalis), Angelique Koelewijn (DB-Connect), Marlene Daelman, Anne Nafstad, Jacques Souriau (Groningen Study Group on Diversity of Communication), Timothy Hartshorne (Professor of Psychology, Central Michigan University), Christa de Geus (coordinator of the CHARGE expertise center, University Medical Center Groningen), Ronald Pennings (Radboud University Medical Center) and Nicole Lo-A-Njoe-Kort (patient expert).

The official opening will take place in the afternoon on the same day, at the University Ambulatory Groningen and will include various demonstrations of innovative observation and analysis instruments that are used when undertaking video observation research on deafblind subjects.


Innovative research institute furthers global knowledge of deafblindness
Photo: Kentalis
Last modified:26 September 2019 10.08 a.m.
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