The members of our association regularly visit various schools to share their stories and raise awareness of teachers and students about life situations and problems that people with disabilities face every day. The most important goal is to promote tolerance, respect and openness towards disabled people and to support integration. Approximately, we visit 40 schools a year and meet over 4000 children during our classes.
Based on our experience, children between the age of 4 and 10 are the most open to people who might be a little different from them. It’s crucial that these children have personal positive experiences with disabled people in order for them to widen their perspective.
These activities should be part of regular school education in order for these children to be able to properly manage potential conflicts arising from accepting disabilities.
The principals and teachers of the schools we usually visit are really welcoming. Apart from one class and their head teacher, usually more teachers participate in our activities and lessons. Usually they express how surprised they have been by the positive attitude and the willingness of disabled people.
- The honest interest of children is always a great experience. Younger children usually actively ask questions, the others find it harder to open up. Apart from sharing our personal stories, we draw their attention to potential accidents, like falling from a tree, jumping into shallow water or traffic accidents. It’s usually shocking for them when they realize that many of us are forced to use a wheelchair due to an accident. It’s also our goal to teach them responsibility towards themselves and other people around them.
- In addition, we share the difficulties of learning, working, doing sports, running a household, raising children, choosing a partner. We also share our experience about the problems of the connection between healthy and injured people.
We usually play situational games. Children may sit in a wheelchair and think about how their life would change if they had to use it for real. This is the point where they spontaneously realize that they wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom, they couldn’t reach he kitchen cabinet or the window handle. They usually ask what happens if there is no elevator. They realize the public buildings or transportation are mostly completely inaccessible.
We also ask them what they think might be the harder thing for us. It’s usually amazing how emotionally receptive these children are at that age. They usually clearly state that it would be a terrible feeling for them not to be seen as equals by other people.
In addition, we draw attention to the fact that they really should pay attention when they want to help anyone sitting in a wheelchair. Every injured person or wheelchair user is different, but we encourage them to offer help.
Children usually ask whether it’s uncomfortable to us to speak about ourselves. Moreover, they start thinking about whether a person can be happy in a wheelchair. These questions are really important, because we can express that happiness does not depend on two legs or four wheels, but it’s carried within by everyone. We always intend to make children understand that despite injuries, accidents or illnesses, life should always have a purpose.
Our Association is of the view that raising awareness and spreading knowledge is crucial, as we would like to cooperate with people. We do not want to enforce our independence against anyone.