Exploring Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Portugal

Posted: 2018-01-31
Written by: EU Network
Category: Europe
Tagged: schools portugal opportunities human condition healthy lifestyle health europe erasmus education disability en-able

Disability is part of the human condition.  Global data shows than more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability, of whom nearly 200 million experience considerable difficulties in functioning. Most extended families have a disabled member, and many non-disabled people take responsibility for supporting and caring for their relatives and friends with disabilities. In the years ahead, disability will be an even greater concern because its prevalence is on the rise.

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Health is also affected by environmental factors, such as safe water and sanitation, nutrition, poverty, working conditions, climate, or access to health care. A person’s environment has a huge impact on the experience and extent of disability. Inaccessible environments create disability by creating barriers to participation and inclusion. Some examples of the negative impact of the environment to person with disabilities:

● a deaf individual without a sign language interpreter;
● a wheelchair user in a building without an accessible bathroom or elevator;
● a blind person using a computer without screen-reading software.

Across the world, people with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

People with disabilities experience barriers in accessing services that many of us have long taken for granted, including health, education, employment, and transport as well as information. To achieve better social inclusion and development prospects we must empower people with disabilities and remove the barriers which prevent them participating in their communities; getting a quality education, finding decent work, and having their voices heard.

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Although people with disabilities have the right to inclusive education according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, there is still a high number of children  and youngsters with disabilities who are educated in specialized schools, separately from other peers, with little prospect of being reintegrated into mainstream education.

Negative attitudes towards disability can result in negative treatment of people with disabilities, for example:

● children bullying other children with disabilities in schools;
● bus drivers failing to support access needs of passengers with disabilities;
● employers discriminating against people with disabilities;
● strangers mocking people with disabilities.

Negative attitudes and behaviours have an adverse effect on children and adults with disabilities, leading to negative consequences such as low self-esteem and reduced participation. People who feel harassed because of their disability sometimes avoid going to places, changing their routines or even moving from their homes.

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Knowledge and attitudes are important environmental factors, affecting all areas of service provision and social life. Raising awareness and challenging negative attitudes are often first steps towards creating more accessible environments for persons with disabilities. Negative imagery and language, stereotypes, and stigma – with deep historic roots – persist for people with disabilities around the world.

In order to explore the opportunities for people with disabilities 33 participants (social sector professionals, young people with disabilities, accompanying persons and youth workers) from 9 different countries – Malta, Portugal, Jordan, the United Kingdom, Algeria, Egypt, Romania, Tunisia and Latvia - tavelled to Portugal to take part at the Erasmus+ KA1 Training Course ‘’(en)Able’’ which was held from 8-15 January 2018 in Porto.

Latvia was represented with four participants: Valerijs Krebss and Alberts Steins students from Jūrmala Vocational School Program “Computer System Technicians”;  Marika Sermule -  Professional Adequacy Departement Senior Expert, Social Integration State Agency and Lauma  Tīsa – European Social Fund Psychologist, Social Integration State Agency.

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The overall aim of the Training Course was social inclusion of young people with disabilities by taking the actions to overcome stereotypes.

Main objectives of the Training Course were:

● Overcoming clichés and prejudices regarding youngsters with disabilities and to show how they can be valuable agents in developing youth work.
● Equipping youth workers with knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will overcome and address positively obstacles and challenges that disability might pose.
● To provide a reliable online tool that can be used as a support whenever a youngster with disabilities has to be integrated in the life of the organization.

Participantion at the Training Course for Latvian participants was an excellent opportunity to improve their personal and professional skills and self expression in foreign language and to gain cultural awareness. It is very important to improve knowledge, skills and attitudes towards better cooperation among people with disabilities from different countries and to gain international experience, to develop personal and professional skills and self-expression in foreign language.

During the training course  using non-formal education methods participants were able to explore a solid background on the rights of persons with disabilities, pay focus on accessible adapted legal language, dynamic and innovative approaches. Participants were able to explore historical development of the rights of the persons with disabilities and  how human rights courts apply them and what are the key challenges. Participants without disabilities had to put themselves  into the shoes of a person with disability in order to develop empathy contributing their attitudes towards disability. By focusing on best practices and suggestions from a wide range of areas, participants were able to explore different social inclusion examples and most of them required only creativity and commitment.

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Across the world, people with disabilities are entrepreneurs and selfemployed workers, farmers and factory workers, doctors and teachers, shop assistants and bus drivers, artists, and computer technicians. Almost all jobs can be performed by someone with a disability, and given the right environment, most people with disabilities can be productive. But as documented by several studies, both in developed and developing countries, working age persons with disabilities experience significantly lower employment rates and much higher unemployment rates than persons without disabilities.

To address labour market imperfections and encourage the employment of people with disabilities, many countries have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. Enforcing antidiscrimination laws is expected to improve access to the formal economy and have wider social benefits. Many countries also have specific measures, for example quotas, aiming to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation and employment services – job training, counselling, job search assistance, and placement – can develop or restore the capabilities of people with disabilities to compete in the labour market and facilitate their inclusion in the labour market.

The environment may be changed to improve health conditions, prevent impairments, and improve outcomes for persons with disabilities. Such changes can be brought about by legislation, policy changes, capacity building, or technological developments leading to, for instance:

1. accessible design of the built environment and transport;
2. signage to benefit people with sensory impairments;
3. more accessible health, rehabilitation, education, and support services;
4. more opportunities for work and employment for persons with disabilities.

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Social inclusion remains an important element of well-being for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Social inclusion is an important goal for persons with disabilities, families, service providers, and policymakers; however, the concept of social inclusion remains unclear, largely due to multiple and conflicting definitions in research and policy.  Many countries need to speed up the social inclusion of persons with disabilities and improve the provision of individualised support services. Institutions and organizations also need to change – in addition to individuals and environments – to avoid excluding people with disabilities.

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Training Course ‘’(en)Able’’ was implemented within the European Union program Erasmus+ KA1 and Latvian partner was Non - Governmental Organization ‘’Donum Animus’’. Erasmus+ KA1 program provides opportunities for individuals to improve their skills, enhance their employability and gain cultural awareness. Beneficiaries are able to spend a period of time in another participating country gaining valuable experience of life, study and work with the aim of increasing the opportunities available to them in the future. Key Action 1 is the largest action in Erasmus+ with focus on increasing mobility and skills.

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