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Making training accessible for all

07/07/2014

As a rule before every training participants fill in forms where they mention their gender, age, contacts and describe their interests. At this stage we can already find out if the participants of your training have special needs. In order to find out you just need to include to the form such questions as “Do you have special nutrition needs?” or “Do you have special needs or wishes?”. By paying attention to such moments you will avoid accidents and will be respected by people for whom it is really important to have an opportunity to order a vegetarian pizza or to have wide aisles in the conference hall.
 
If a participant has special needs
What should you do if a participant wrote in the form that he has motor disabilities? First of all you have to evaluate if your organization is ready to adapt the premises and possibly the method of training in order a person with special needs and all other participants can feel comfortable during the event. If for any reasons (financial, moral) you cannot include a person with special needs to the list of participants you have to honestly tell him about it. If you understand that you are ready to accept a person with disability the next important step is to define what and how you need to change. Firstly, you have to organize work so that the participants with different physical abilities can interact. Secondly, you should take care of the lecture hall’s ergonomics (provide wide aisles, places for wheelchairs and possible to take away carpet strips). And finally it is very important to take care of safety.

  • Sometimes wheelchair-bound participants fall and other people try to catch them and get a trauma – says Sergei Drozdovskiy. – Safety for all the participants is the thing organizers of different events often forget.

If you have a participant with vision or hearing impairment you should take care of the accessibility of information. Acceptance of such participants can influence the methods of presenting the material. It is obvious that it is inappropriate to tell such people “Look at what is written at the board” or “Listen to a record”. Sergei Drozdovskiy mentioned that it is not enough simply to invite a signer. People who were born deaf have another perception of the world that is why you should be ready that a person with hearing impairments can react differently to some tasks than a person without impairments.

  • It is not an unsurmountable barrier but it is a difficulty – warns the coordinator of the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities.

People with peculiarities of mental development have started to take part in trainings lately, - says the expert.

  • It is necessary to understand that a mental disorder is not an illness but a “peculiarity” a person has to live with and we have to admit it.

The biggest problem is that such people sometimes seem to be asocial. For example you may think that a person doesn’t want to communicate although he adequately understands the information.
 
No need to overestimate your abilities
If you decided to make your event accessible to people with special needs you have to understand that it is difficult to please everyone. Expert says that it is important to try to change something.

  • First of all people think about physical accessibility, - says Sergei Drozdovskiy. – Then trainers start to change methodology.

It happens not in one day and not even in a month, but if the organization starts with small thing it is possible it will step-by-step come to more serious forms of accessibility provision.
From the other side at every stage you have to define your possibilities honestly. If you are not ready today to provide access to persons with disabilities to your event you have to honestly tell about it and not to lie to people that, for example, someone was the first one who had sent the application or someone had written the motivation better. It will be honest to say that we can’t invite candidates with disabilities to our events for now.
 
NGOs can help
If you find out that there will be a person with special needs at your event then where you have to go for help? Are there any databases of “friendly” premises or experts? Unfortunately there are no such databases in the open access, but there is another way. In such cases experts recommend to apply to NGOs. For example, if you know that a person with hearing impairments is going to visit your training you should ask for advice from Belarusian society of deaf. If it is a person with vision impairments you should go to Belarusian Association of the Visually Handicapped. If it is going to be a training for young people you should try to cooperate with Belarusian association of assistance to disabled children and young people with disabilities.

  • Usually one of the goals of such organizations is to assist the inclusion of people with special needs to everyday life of the society that is why they should be ready for such appeals, - considers Sergei Drozdovskiy.

 
What kind of difficulties can you face?
If your organization is supported by project activity you should think how to explain your donors why you have to rent exactly this premises or why you are inviting additional specialists to your trainings.
Besides financial expenses you have to be prepared for moral ones. You are likely will have to change programs and the method of presenting educational materials. But, according to specialists, the main problem is the lack of understanding by the society.

  • We can see that our surrounding is very aggressive and it destroys the motivation – says Sergei Drozdovskiy.

According to the specialist sometimes it takes lots of time and physical efforts just to find a place for a seminar.
But if to speak about the tendencies we can see that today people with disabilities more often take part in different events of informal education, 3-4 years ago almost no one knew about inclusion. Today the creation of barrier-free environment in, for example, hotels and business-centers is becoming an important competitive advantage.
The information was presented during the open meeting on topic “How to organize an accessible event?” held in the frames of “Accessibility Week 2014”.
Other recommendations on inclusion you can find in the Manual on inclusion in informal education prepared by the Association of life-long learning and enlightenment in cooperation with the Office for the rights of persons with disabilities. You can download it here.