The International Day for People with Disabilities on the 3rd of December with the theme ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible’ for 2020, is here to remind us that disability is an international matter of concern, which affects the everyday life of all people, the structure of our society as well as policies driven in local, national, European and international level. According to recent facts derived from the WHO World Report on Disability, 15 percent of the world’s population, or more than 1 billion people, are living with a disability. Of this number, it’s estimated that the two-thirds of these people will not seek professional medical help, largely due to stigma, discrimination, and neglect. These numbers call for an immediate response of the society to get informed, act and change the current situation regarding the accessibility, acceptance and integration of people with disabilities in everyday-life concerns.
Many European projects in the last decade emphasize on initiatives and actions related to accessibility and improvement of the services and products offered for people with disabilities in order to improve important aspects of life as well as to raise awareness and educate people with different backgrounds with aspects regarding accessibility. In this scope, OHAS- Opening Heritage and Archaeological Sites for People with Special Needs – Erasmus plus project, incorporating 6 partners (Institute for Regional Development Foundation-PL, CulturePolis-GR, Gruppo Archeologico Perusia-IT, Associazione Botteghe Artigiane del Centro Storico-IT, Pleven Regional Museum of History-BG and Culture Without Barriers Foundation-PL), from 4 countries (Poland, Greece, Italy, and Bulgaria) aims to support people with disabilities by providing them access to as many as possible friendly and equipped spaces of cultural heritage such as archaeological sites, galleries, museums and more; while also focusing on educating people working in cultural institutions who communicate and interact with people with disabilities on how to make their spaces more accessible and friendly to all kind of disabilities.
In order to achieve this ambitious goal, OHAS project, includes 4 intellectual outputs: a) OHAS Research Report, b) OHAS Guidebook, c) OHAS Curriculum and d) OHAS Internet Platform, all fully accessible for people with disabilities. All the material will be available online close and after the end of the project as educational material for cultural heritage sites’ representatives to educate their staff and be more accessible. During the project also 4 transnational meetings are foreseen. Till today the partners have already met in Krakow, where the official start of the project took place as well as in Perugia for the 2nd transnational meeting. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face meetings were transferred online and we all hope to meet and team up again soon!
Figure 1. Kick-off meeting of OHAS project in Krakow, Poland
The second meeting in Perugia was also accompanied by the first Joint Staff Training of the project, where hands-on training for cultural heritage sites’ representatives by each participating country was conducted by a group of specialized trainers, with most of them having also a disability. In this scope, the trainees had the opportunity to realize and sense in a deeper way the needs and expectations of people with disabilities. The training included the familiarization of participants in various forms of disability such as hearing, vision, motor problems as well as in the general context of autistic people through interactive workshops and working groups. We have been given the opportunity to exchange views and good practices with participants from other countries, to discuss and design with a view to improving accessibility to cultural sites.
Figure 2. Partners’ meeting and Joint Staff Training in Perugia, Italy
In the following period a second Joint Staff Training is planned by the project partners in Pleven, Bulgaria in order to increase the number of educated interested parties and raise awareness regarding accessibility in cultural spaces, where even today equal access to everyone is not ensured in a lot of cases.
Stay tuned for our initiatives and actions and do not forget that impairment is not a single phenomenon, if it is combined with barriers then disability occurs and when it is combined with an accessible environment, it brings inclusion. There are many solutions in order for inclusion to be achieved.