In November of 1967, a national conference was held in Las Cruces, New Mexico involving representatives from state special education agencies, vocational rehabilitation agencies and state associations of the deaf. The focus of that conference was on building cooperative relationships among special educators, rehabilitation specialists and deaf consumer groups to improve service delivery to people with “hearing impairments”.
More than 200 professionals from throughout the United States attended this national conference. The enthusiasm generated among the participants was so great that the speaker who presented the conference summary encouraged the establishment of regional and state conferences. In 1971 Alabama initiated the first Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Region IV Conference including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In 1972 the University of Tennessee (through an RSA short term training grant) hosted the second conference in Knoxville. The 1973 conference was held in St. Augustine, Florida.
In the mid 1970’s, the University of Tennessee Region IV Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program (RRCEP) provided some financial support for the conference and as a result the focus of the conference turned toward training for professionals. Through RRCEP, the conference became a regional training “Institute.” Nationally known experts in the field of deafness conducted workshops and seminars to provide additional training to educators and rehabilitation specialists who serve persons with “hearing impairments”.
The official corporation is named the Southeast Regional Institute on Deafness, Inc. The purpose of the corporation shall be to hold an annual conference by State Coordinators for the Deaf in the Southeastern United States (“the Institute”), for health professionals, employers, consumers, educators, and other persons interested in issues affecting individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and/or late-deafened; and to further knowledge concerning these issues through publications, studies, and educational programs.