The Civil Non-Profit Company “Me Alla Matia”, aiming to familiarize students with diversity, is actualizing the educational program “Des ti Zoi Me Alla Matia” (meaning “see life with different eyes”) in schools.
In this program, people with disabilities coordinate a free dialogue with students. Together, they approach the reality of disability, accessibility, and each person’s uniqueness in an experiential way. Children, as the active citizens of tomorrow, are awakened and they begin to realize the value of mutual acceptance and solidarity.
The program meets the modern need to create an inclusive society, beginning already from the school years.
In this purely child-centered program, participants are given the opportunity to define the scope of the discussion, express their thoughts, share emotions and experiences, and become co-moderators. The speakers coordinate an audience that forms a miniature of social diversity, highlighting the uniqueness of each person, as well as his/her usefulness.
This interaction and mutual understanding are the key factors leading to the change of attitudes and mentality related to diversity, disability, and social exclusion.
The creation of an inclusive society.
· Familiarization of students with the image of disability
· Diversity management and emphasis on the uniqueness
· Elimination of prejudices, stigma, and exclusion of socially vulnerable groups
· Proper information on accessibility and disability
· Breaking down stereotypes
· Cultivation and development of solidarity and inclusion
· Kindergarten – Special Kindergarten
· Primary School – Special Primary School
· High School – Special High School
· Senior High School – Special Senior High School
· Professional High School
· Laboratory of Special Professional Education (Ε.Ε.Ε.ΕΚ.)
· Special Professional High School & Senior High School (ΕΝ.Ε.Ε.ΓΥ.Λ)
· Social workers
· Parents and Guardians
· Duration of 1 teaching hour
· School environment
· Distance learning or training in person
· Pan-Hellenic range
· Compliance with health protocols
· With permission from the Ministry of Education.
The evaluation of the program results by a questionnaire addressed to the teachers.
The program begins with a briefing from the disabled coordinator, who describes the daily life and the reality of disability in Greece, the accessibility, and the obstacles he/she encounters. Students are then asked to discuss these daily living conditions and how, collectively, we can make a difference. Through conversation, examples, and experiential activities (e.g. demonstration of escort techniques for visually impaired people), students are motivated with the aim of developing solidarity; they are invited to an organized, open dialogue; they openly ask questions and discuss.
The Educational Program “Des ti Zoi Me Alla Matia” was designed by taking into account the age of the participants and, consequently, the diverse needs of approach and information that arise. The main speakers have many years of experience in implementing licensed programs by the Ministry of Education, in all levels of education (from Kindergarten to University), both in General and Special Schools. The team consists, among others, of an educator and a social worker, who scientifically ensure the anthropocentric structure and adjustment of the program.
Consequently, in every step, the matching of the program to a specific audience is ensured. The speakers/facilitators have learned to tune in to an audience that reflects social diversity, emphasizing each other’s uniqueness and usefulness.
The program covers the present need for an inclusive society and serves social integration, right from the early school years.
The interaction aims to change attitudes and beliefs about diversity and disability. The goal is to awaken students and consequently their direct and indirect environment, to create the appropriate conditions for awareness in the general population; all that, aiming ultimately at ensuring and enforcing all human rights on an equal footing.
We intend to understand the difficulties, and thus accept diversity. Furthermore, we aspire to encourage students to become future citizens, able to recognize their rights and obligations, by teaching them how to coexist with those around them, who may at first glance seem to them “different”. Our program is also implemented in special schools so that each school community can get in contact with role models of independent living and be exposed to images of people that vary from those dealt with daily.
The moderators are asked to respond each time according to the participation, in terms of how the audience perceives the knowledge offered to them and how they express themselves verbally, emotionally, and behaviorally. Therefore, this program is not one-dimensional; instead, it reflects each of its audiences by elevating each person´s diversity and tracing it to his/her uniqueness. At the same time, the students participating are given the opportunity to define the field of discussion, express themselves with thoughts, share feelings and experiences, become co-moderators or not participate if they wish.
Given that the program is of a purely child-centered character, the different learning styles determining the uptake of knowledge in each of us emerge from the participants themselves. Finally, by implementing mixed methods (guided discussion, experiential speech, experiential exercises), we cover a wide range of possibilities for access to knowledge.
Principles of Modern Pedagogy
Experiential learning: Disabled speakers share their personal stories and daily lives with students, giving them the opportunity to visualize the difficulties and then discuss the daily conditions in which the disabled are expected to live.
Inclusion: The debate is about how we can collectively make a difference, serving the values of inclusion and social integration. By referring to the daily need to use the Greek Sign Language and subtitles, for example, simple tools of inclusion are already described, giving incentive to students to further develop their thinking and consolidate the international principles of accessibility and Design For All.
Explorative learning and self-action: An open dialogue takes place, based on the students’ own questions. Through this self-oriented dialogue, they discover and extract knowledge from the disabled facilitator.
Child-centered approach: Under supervision, the students take the reins and raise the issues that interest them concerning disability and accessibility. At the same time, the coordinator lays the foundations and redefines the directions, always in alignment with the goals of the program.
Interdisciplinarity: The disability is approached on multiple levels (new technologies, independent living, educational tools), but also through all areas of social life (family, education, work, culture, sports, entertainment).
Strengthening interpersonal relationships: This is promoted through the bond created between students and disabled facilitators, which symbolizes the potential relationship that students can acquire while growing up with any disabled person later in life.