Translation of the original text in Greek: Lampros Chantzis
* “me alla matia” = seeing things with different eyes, from a different perspective
A two-day seminar on familiarization with the concept of disability was implemented by the non-profit organization “Me Alla Matia”, on the initiative and under the coordination of the Deputy Mayor of Social Solidarity and Civil Society of the Municipality of Athens and with the support of the Center for the Fight against Gender-Based Violence and Multiple Discrimination of the Municipality.
The experiential and educational activities were addressed to employees of reception and assistance services for citizens, such as social services, Community Centers, CSCs (Citizens Service Centers), etc. They aimed to develop an inclusive culture for the equal treatment of citizens with disabilities.
People with disabilities and professionals in the field, from the scientific team of the non-profit organization “Me Alla Matia”, focused with a rightful approach and experiential actions on the visual, motor, and auditory impairment, as well as on autism.
The two-day conference opened with a greeting and introduction by the Deputy Mayor of Social Solidarity and Civil Society, Mrs. Katerina Gagaki, and the Head of the Department of Equality Policies and Anti-Discrimination of the Municipality of Athens, Mrs. Georgia Bouri. The two of them undertook the entire organization and coordination of the event, which was successfully implemented, with the participation of more than 100 employees of the Municipality.
The experiential activities took place on two different days so that the interested employees participated in shifts, and the operation of no service and no structure of the Municipality was interrupted.
The presentations were made, according to the schedule, by:
- Vaggelis Avgoulas – Blind lawyer, member of the board of Athens Bar Association, President of the non-profit organization “Me Alla Matia,” member of the social policy committee of Central Union of Municipalities of Greece.
- Giorgos Stathis – Interpreter of Greek Sign Language, President of the Association of Interpreters of Greek Sign Language
- Panagiotis Siaperas – Occupational Therapist, Psychologist, Dean of the School of Health Sciences of the Metropolitan College, Representative of the Greek Association for Asperger’s Syndrome
- Patricia Toska – Pharmacist and person with motor impairment (1st day)
- Konstantinos Kretsis – Electrical Engineer and a person with motor impairment (2nd day)
- Thalia Kiousi – Personal assistant for people with motor impairment
- Juliana Bushi – Philologist, visually impaired person, and handler of the guide dog Youni
The theoretical background of the presentations was particularly rich, including topics such as the following:
- Definitions of key concepts – Accessibility, inclusion, and disability
- Use of politically correct terminology
- The social model of disability
- Everyday life through the eyes of a person with motor impairment and a blind person
Apart from the theoretical part of the two-day conference, particular importance was given to the empirical familiarization part. In this context, the following were carried out:
- Workshop of introduction to the Greek Sign Language
- Demonstration of techniques for accompanying blind people by sighted people
- Experiential demonstration of the use of a guide dog for the blind
The purpose of the exercises was for the participating individuals to approach experientially for a while, a part of the daily life of their disabled fellow citizens. The training was always complemented by videos highlighting the daily living skills of disabled people with different impairments.
Between the individual topics, there was always time for the audience to ask questions to the speakers. However, emphasis was placed on free dialogue throughout the presentations, and an attempt was made in each case to link the content to the subjective experiences of each participant.
The implementation was envisioned by the Deputy Mayor of Social Solidarity and Civil Society, Mrs. Katerina Gagaki, who participated in the experiential exercises herself. Furthermore, the flow and goals of the seminar were presented in detail to the Mayor of Athens, Mr. Costas Bakogiannis.