Reality or fantasy? Including physical disabilities in youth work


Seminar "Including physical disabilities in regular youth work. Reality or fantasy?" took place in Estonia on June 20-25, 2012. The seminar brought together people with and without disability with an aim to get to know each other, map the situation, ask questions, identify problems and find possible solutions.

These are the results of the workshops. As we find them big inspiration for future activities and projects, we would like to share them with everybody.

Topics that were on our mind and what we wanted to talk about (good source for inspiration for future projects and activities):

  • To learn new things to coordinate some work with groups
  • What to take into account and what to think about when organising a seminar for handicapped people
  • Why should it be fantasy?
  • Get to know more about people’s worldview when they have a handicap
  • Do all people have to participate – when all can’t, do we have to skip the activity
  • How to get young people out from home
  • How to give info so that also disabled youth knows they can participate
  • Values
  • Co-operation of youth work and social work
  • Education of youth worker
  • I think it is real
  • Youth have to be made sesitive about disability
  • I want to encourage others to be positive
  • Mental disability
  • How much reality it is
  • What is our chance to change
  • Stereotypes, attitudes towards disability
  • Educating „able“ people
  • Knowledge
  • Accessibility
  • Prejudice
  • Attitudes towards disabeld people
  • To change the person’s mentality
  • Integration
  • To get more information about disabeld people to other people
  • To make disabled people’s life easier and more accessible
  • How to help and improve disabled people’s work area
  • How to bring together people without and with physical disability
  • How to  take away the (possible) fears of participants
  • To hear some other experiences to handle heir disability
  • Possibilities of meeting disabled people
  • Real possibilities of involvement in public life today
  • The perception of the disabled in the society
  • the role of handicap in identity

What is inclusion? (it is a big word that has very different meanings in our heads)

  • Accept difference
  • Diversity is enrichment
  • To create an environment accessible for everyone
  • No marginalized and stigmatized people
  • Open space
  • Everybody has the right to participate
  • We want to be normal and take part in everyday life
  • We will be involved in a decision making process
  • Being able to do everyday stuff witout worrying about the disability and constantly being reminded of it.
  • No one is excluded from society on the bases of ones minority
  • Everyone is treated the same
  • Same rights and obligations
  • Not the question about possible or not -> giving options
  • Adapt the environment and activities -> not the person
  • The person with special need is the expert!
  • Its also a feeling of be part of something

What would you like to know/ask from persons with disability? (as in reality many people have never met with disabled people and they often lack experience and also skills how to communicate)

  • Is it appropriate to ask the diagnoses?
  • How to people who become disabled during life, get used to it? Beginning?
  • How much extra equipment do disabled people need? (te invisible disabilities)
  • How much help one should offer?
  • What is the biggest risk for a blind person?
  • How do you choose your products, is there enough marking – braille?
  • What is the reaction of family and friends when one becomes disabled?
  • What is the hardest/ most difficult job you have done?
  • Are you ready to educate your employer to handle disabled people better?
  • What is your main concern when travelling alone?
  • How many people of all the disabled people can handle everything on their own (with no assistance)?
  • How d o blind people buy clothes/food?
  • Is living as a disabled person expensive?
  • How much financial support you get from your government?

Different disabilities and how they influence life (the aim of the activity was to introduce the medical condition and how it influences life and also what kind of special attention is needed. As it comes out sometimes there is no need for really physical special conditions)

Medical diagnose

How influences life

What do you need

Spina bifida
Damaged foop nerves and muscles
Bladder dysfunction
It is harder to do some sports
Cant have a faster lifestyle because of my special need.

To have good hygiene conditions.

AMC – arthrogryposis, multiplex congenita
Joints are wrong position
Cant walk or stand up
No pain

Harder to het a job and money
If there are 1050 steps
Travel by plane with electric wheelchair


Accessibility of student party place and youth centres
You have to pay for two people to theatre or to plane or to festival
That people could see me as professional (not only as disabled) in my working place
Byrocratic life (i have stable condition and does not change every 2 years)
Total blindness
Blind since birth
Eyes are healthy, but no nerves

Can’t see buses, cars, text.

Wishes to drive a car.

Got friends both disabeld and without.

Guided by her mother, non-independent.

Not interested in a god.

Shopping with help.

Needs white stick.

Talking watch/mobile.

Computer with braille and a special program.

Personal assitance at new situtations.

Bad balance

Diabetes I type

Cataract, operated

Decreased eyesight because of diabetes

Born with healthy eyesight

Joint aches and stiffness

Cant walk long distances.

Food shopping alone, clothes with someone (need assistance, cant see pricetags)

Regular medicine, doctors visits.

Get tired quickly.

Guide-dog makes communicating easy.

Illnesses have given a chance to make a difference/organisations.


1st floor ok, otherwise elevator is needed.

No special things at home.

Other people have to say your name first, the talk.

Personal assistance at seminars/activities.

Buffee tables.


Injury in the spine
No feeling in the lower body
I cant move my lower body, starting from waist
My digestion is slow
No balance
I cant:
Ride bike
Take things that are high
Go up the stairs
I need:
Shower chair
Special kind of car
Sometimes personal assistance
Physical therapy
Cerebral palsy
Lack of oxygen at birth
Physical and intellectual disability
No pain
Strong hands
Weak legs
My lifeexperience:
Horse riding
Facebook profile
Listening to audiobooks
Needs assistance in transport
Managing daily life
Being optimistic
Message to the world:
Help means to be allowed to do something and be patient.
I want to work with computer.
Mps – mocopolysaccharidosis, type Y
Skeletal dysplasia
Short stature
Motor dysfunction
Heart defects
Cant walk long distance
Cant be on my fee for a long time
Need to plan in advance:
Cant lift heavy stuff
Cant reach high
Extra effort to prove myself to other people
Being a small person, doesnt make me a child!
My disability doesnt make me stupid!
Lupus :
The body attacks itself
Affect other organs ( lungs, heart, joints)
Daily medication
More planning
More rest
Need for support in everyday life
High UV protection
Choose clothes
Cancelling events
Need for more time
Flexible working hours, school work
Limitations in activities (sports, cleaning)
Listen to your body
More understanding for invisible / hidden disabilities
Tired does not mean lazy,
Accept decisions
Giving information about the diseas


Obstacles of inclusion (so what is blocking inclusion. We did a brainstorm and then voted and this is the result. For us it means, that we need to start with the first obstacles!)

Lack of knowledge


Low expectations


Over protective parents




Architectural barriers (stairs, rooms)


Disabled people are minority – their voice is not heard


Low awareness of teacher


Not visible disability




Getting a job




Special equipment is expensive


Want to be normal


Doctors see only medical side




No resources


Considering people through their disabilities (first disability)


Law is just theory


Low self-esteem


Hard to move alone with the buses


Too much help from assitants, overhelping


The way of thinking of proessionals („do it alone“, „its not possible“


Daily carecentres


Weak social network


Lack of interest


Lack of empathy („too difficult“)


Chronical helpers


Communication problem (deaf) – no „common“ language


Information is too difficult to understand (newspapers...)


The world is not built for the small people


Coginitive problems


Tired all the time


Bright and shiny all the time




1. How to include and prepare young people with no disabilities?

  • Mix different young people in schools, sports, hobbies, after-school activities (as much as possible)
  • Schools should be prepared for it.
  • Start informing at very young age.
  • Fun and interactive materials.
  • Give young people possibility to try a wheelchair, how is being blind and managing.
  • Simulation games
  • Everybody has restrictions (even when they don’t have a diagnoses).
  • Visit schools and groups for people with disabilities and interact
  • Try to see diversity as an enrichment
  • Role models (famour athlets, sengers etc)
  • Give possibility for people with disabilities to take part in
  • Idol competitions (young people are watching tv)
  • Youth workers should be educated
  • Disabled teachers for regular young

2. Make voice of disabled people heard. How?

  • Disabled youngsters involved in planning youth work.
  • Disabled person in every youth parliament (information to special school students)
  • Disabled youngsters sould go and talk in youth centres and schools about their lives (NOT ONLY VOLUNTEER).
  • Hidden disabled youngsters /people could write about their lives (COMPETITION).
  • By including them in regular seminars, that are about youngsters.
  • MEDIA (more disabled people in media)
  • Famous disabled people should stand up more .
  • Political lobbying (act to attempting to influence decisions)
  • Same rights and obligations (e.g. elections)
  • Encourage to stand up and fight for themselves.
  • Organisations should be determined.
  • Louder, but friendly and nice. (to not give up, but try if they fail.)
  • Public events, what show the life with disability.
  • To do accessible elections.
  • In every country there should at least one disabled person in the government.
  • A disabled person in every public sector institution (hospital)
3. From fantasy to reality. Inclusion projects for all youth.
  • Including all side in recreative/free time /information activity.
  • Education of the parents.
  • Training for the organisation.
  • Find money for making the „project“ real.
  • Example: theatre-sports-cooking camp; multifunctional youth centre; information activity; party
  • Be creative!
  • Disabled youngsters as leaders and board members in the project.
  • „Nothing for us without us“.
  • Put the light on the ability!
  • Clean your mind from stereotypes.
  • Instead of yes or no, think about options, possibilities.
  • Think out of box.
  • Have courage.
  • In preparation group -  all sides.
  • Brain storming!
4. Reaching young disabled people
  • Information to and from: doctors, social workers, school
  • School open for all
  • Parents
  • Cooperation between organisations
  • More young people working in organisation
  • Visibility – famous rolemodels; workshop; reality TV; talk shows; movies; posters; campaign
  • Special projects – to activate (personal invitation)
  • Social media – home pages; facebook, radio
  • Face-to-face – youth centres, information, events, festivals, fair
  • Courses – computer skills, for job
  • Accessibility
  • Funding, resources
  • Rehabilitation centre
  • Change of attitude
5. Educating teachers and youth workers.
  • Disabled people go to schools, giving lectures to teachers, try how accessible the school is. Give advice wht to develop.
  • Give real contact: give possibility to meet blind person etc. Ask questions, not only theory.
  • Work with values, tolerance, the way of understanding disable people, diversity.
  • Role of headmaster.
  • Teachers who themselves have disability
  • Courses for teachers about how to teach blind persons (MUST!)
  • Try out how it is to be like this: try wheelchair, try to be blind
  • Develop special teaching methods that teachers could use with disabled students.
  • Interactive events in schools for students and teachers.
  • For future teacher: the topic should be covered in universities (COURSE FOR EVERYONE, MUST!); practical course, experience.
  • Give introduction in sign language.
  • Dialogue between disabled people and youth workers and teachers.
6. Fears, stereotypes, lack of knowledge in society. What to do?
  • Other people need to know disability specific ways to act and manage their own life.
  • There should be a subject about disabilities in the kindergarden, basic/middle education.
  • Finland – red cross friendship activity ( , living library in Roskilde , blindcafe, simulation
  • Media
  • Open the schools for everyone
  • Rise awareness – if you dont know  anything about stereotypes, you cant combat them.
  • Put your fears into words!
7. Low expectations
  • Distinguish between physical and mental disorders.
  • Adjust demand to abilities
  • Including in the decision making.
  • See the potential of everybody (disabled people can do something even better than non-disabled)
  • Talk about expectations
  • Every expectation should be specific for each person.
  • Educate parents (key speaker should be a person with similar needs)
  • Change social model of disability.
  • Change disabled people their attitude towards themselves.
  • Teach people with disabilities that they can be helpwell as well.
  • Disabled people should not accept lower expectations.

The project is financed by program Youth in Action